May 3, 1993
This photo with attached article was recently gifted to me by one of my sisters. It came out on this date 28 years ago, May 3, 1993, and I have such mixed feelings about it but they have mellowed with age, just as I have.
At the time I was a Culinary Institute of America graduate, had recently studied at Le Cordon Bleu in both Ottawa and Paris, had worked at a well-known restaurant in New Orleans, and was just accepted with full scholarship to study under Madeleine Kamman at her School for American Chefs in Napa Valley. Less than two weeks after this photo I would be married, and two weeks after that open my own restaurant with a co-chef. The reason I mention this is that I made a good story for a food writer. I was young and driven, and she gushed about me in the article. Almost to the point of embarrassment. I was surprised by how many had seen it. At the time newspapers still had a large circulation. This of course brought many phone calls and accolades from friends and family. But it also caused negativity as well. Mostly from colleagues.
Everyone eventually hears what is said about them, but the one that hurt the most was by an elderly well-known chef who was at the time probably just a few years older than I am now as I type these words. He said things in a public setting that infuriated firstly, but then hurt. I called him and drove to his suburban home and talked with him. His young wife offered me a mushroom omelet for lunch, I declined. Instead presented him with a letter to be published in a local chef’s organization newsletter as a rebuttal.
A few years later I saw him at a formal dinner and simply said hello. Then a year after that I received a phone call from him. He had just read an article which I wrote and was the cover story of a national culinary magazine; the article was on the history of the chef. He was very moved, he told me, and also that wished he would never had said those things. He also told me that it was a very brave thing to contact him in person.
A few years after that he passed away, and in retrospect feel it was he who was brave for contacting me and apologize in his own way. So when I look at this photo of my young self it is bittersweet. I wished I would have gotten to know this chef more personally. Now, because of the last but brief conversation I remember him in a positive way.
Sometimes I also wish that I didn’t spend so many hours (years) in small hot kitchens. But these experiences are part of what make me the person I am today in the same way your experiences have made you who you are.