Being a Food Artist: Embracing the Journey to the Plate

 Warning: food thoughts.

Growing up, everyone thought (suggested) I would be an artist. It’s true, I enjoyed sketching, notably portraits. And I am definitely as visual as they come. It’s how I learn. It’s the best way I express myself. Videos and photos constantly stream through my brain. Now my passion and creativity have transformed  into food. Cooking and baking have become one of the main ways  I express my creativity, my imagination, my hunger, my passion, my tastes, my love, my soul. It’s like a little peak into my head. It is a way for me to open up, to be vulnerable. I am terrified at the market when someone opens up a package on the spot to taste right in front of me. My heart skips, skips a beat as I wait in anticipation of their reaction. Even when I make dinner for my friends, I wait with baited breath and crossed fingers to see if they like it (because they will tell me if they don’t). Will they like it? More than that, this food, these baked goods, are me, it’s really like asking: do they like me? Do you see the terrifying aspect? But the love I have for it, outweighs the fear. Being in a kitchen, like being in the woods feels like home to me. It brings me instant peace and joy. A space, a place for me to breathe. A place for my creativity to just unleash.

I have learned so much the last year  working in kitchens, both my own and at work. Mom and I were talking about her head cook at work, how the young kids don’t get it. They don’t want to do the food prep. They don’t want to work. Even at work I find, they don’t get it. Yes we need to make livings, but shouldn’t your job be about more than a paycheck? Where is the pride? The pride in creating something?

Now I’ll confess my back story helps me here. My parents are hard workers. I grew up with a simple life in the country, next door to my extended family. My brother and I planted, kept, picked and sold our own sweet corn each summer in front of our house. If we wanted something, we went for it. I watched my dad build a business from scratch, starting in our garage, reaching thousands of people eventually. I painted walls, I moved heavy kettlebells. I saw the grit and determination (slight stubbornness) it took for him to go after dreams.  Sacrifices, struggles, joys, triumphs. The waves of life, the waves of business. But still sticking to your own authentic calling. Never giving up.

Beginning my own food business, I knew that I first needed to just START. So I started blogging. I started cooking. I started baking. I started experimenting. I applied to the market. I reapplied. I sat my ass at a roadside stand. I applied for baker jobs. If you are passionate about something, then you must DO it. If you want to be a writer, you must write everyday. If I want to be a cook, I must then cook EVERYDAY. Next then, love what you’re doing. Life and your experiences are about the attitude you bring to them.

To me cooking and baking is about that drive. It’s about the love and soul you put into it. The more I enjoy being in the kitchen, the more at peace I am, the more confident I am, the better my food tastes. Period. There are reasons people love Soul Food. More than that, embrace the journey to the plate.

I am also a BIG time promoter and enthusiast about hiking. Living in Colorado for a short period, I lost, found, and immersed myself in the mountains. I climbed Pikes Peak several times in a few months. Now for those who don’t know, there are several ways to get to the top: hike, drive or train. The first time I climbed it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I got caught in a hail storm, just a mile from the top. I waited under a rock, while I got pounded with hail so cold I couldn’t feel my hands. On the verge of tears, in pain, I had to really get my inspiration on to stay calm and peaceful. And boy was I rewarded. When the hail stopped and I kept going, I turned around to find the most vibrant double rainbow I’d ever seen. Not to mention being that high up, you could see the entire thing. This time I actually cried, but more for joy and gratitude. Fast forward when I reach the top and a train brings a butt-load of people ushering through the gift shop, grabbing t-shirts, quickly taking pictures, and lighting up their cigarettes or grabbing food, as they waited to go back down the mountain.

How thankful I was for the journey up the mountain. Same thing with cooking. To me it is the journey to the plate, not merely the destination of a completed plate. Pride in your food is built (created) in the journey. It’s in the food preparation. In the vegetable slicing. The meat pulling. The egg cracking. The whisking. You have to have each step to get the final result. Enjoy the process. Plus in the moments, creativity can hit. Sparks of imagination run rampant.

Artistry (I’m finally tying into the beginning). Often their can be more going into a plateWylie Dufresne's Egg's Benedict than just food. There is genius and thought. There are varying textures. A combination of colors. A layering of flavors. Look at some of the things they do with molecular gastronomy. Just check out some of the things Wylie Dufresne has done.

And so to close, I have learned to embrace. To show pride in my food, you’re putting it in your body. To infuse it with my joy and passion. Embrace the journey. Create. Express yourself. Let your passion bring out your inner artist.

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