What Drives My Passion

“…but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.”

― M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

The kitchen has always held a mysterious fascination for me. My fondest memories as a child are the times I helped my mom prepare Sunday dinner.

Some people find their vocation early in life, but I was headstrong and stubborn. I went to college, had enough, and decided I was better off earning a paycheck than going to school. That pattern of obstinance has repeated itself many times in my life.

I’m a professional cook by default; I’d be lying if I told you it has always been my passion – in fact, I spent years trying to do everything but cook. I had to carve and whittle my youth away like a block of wood before finally conceding I was happiest behind the stove.

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I thank my mom for allowing me to find my own path, even though I made many wrong turns and sometimes appeared to lose my way. She never told me what I could or could not do. In her eyes, if I could dream it, then I could achieve it. She never told me to become a professional chef, but I’m sure she heaved a sigh of relief when I announced my intention to go to culinary school.

I’ve always liked to read. I developed the habit in my early teens, when a neighbor lent me her collection of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew detective novels.  They became my secret pass to worlds filled with dashing adventure, hated villains and valiant heroes. I devoured the adventures of The Swiss Family Robinson, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, and The Three Musketeers.  I was shamelessly addicted, I wanted more, and each word and every sentence from the author was the only way to sate my appetite.

I’ve matured in preference: now my shelf is filled with authors such as Wilbur Smith, Stephen King and Anthony Winkler (a personal favorite). Strangely, I’ve developed an aversion to cookbooks, and my collection of them is varied and sparse. One of the few that I treasure is The Art of Eating by M.F.K Fischer: part memoir, part cookbook, seen through the eyes of a woman deeply in love with food.

I’ve never come across another writer able to describe her life and experiences as a gourmet in such a sensuous and provocative way. Fischer’s works date from 1937 to after her death in 1992,  but good prose is timeless. Her writing, crisp and incisive, has been the source of inspiration for Photochefs.com. Often, when I’m writing and words seem to fail, I’ll take her book from the shelf and randomly thumb through the pages, reading whatever first catches my eye.

Looking back, I still feel the same sense of awe and excitement as when I started as a culinary intern. As a cook, I’m always learning and progressing. Each kitchen is unique in the lessons it teaches: technique, cooking style, respect for ingredients are passed from one generation to the next.

I’ve grown to love this conundrum of fire, rubber mats, stainless steel and sweat. I’ve learned from my experience – older, wiser  – that cooking is my way of sharing with my peers.  It’s how I give back and say, “Thank you, this is what I’ve learned and I’m proud to show it to you. ”

I derive my pleasure from feeding the hungry with well-prepared food and well-written words. Through Photochefs.com, I have an outlet for these twin passions.

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