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I didn't go to Culinary School. I didn't move to Paris when I was seventeen to be the understudy of one of the great classical French chefs, and I sure's hell haven't worked in restaurant kitchens for much of my life. I might not have known it at the time, but I was destined to spend my life around food and restaurants, and it just so happens that my background in creative writing and my masters in marketing differentiate me from the average chef. There are better cooks, and there are better writers, but in finding my niche and opening myself up to the world through food and writing, I learned that what I have created, is a life that people can relate to, and what better way to relate to people than through stories and food, two of the most universal experiences we, as humans, appreciate.
Even though I didn't pursue a formal education in the culinary arts, I did, however, at a young age know what I wanted to do with my life. Growing up, my siblings and I would make each other various meals that we could order from our own "menus" in our childhood home. We would scribble items with their attached prices in barely legible English and pretend we were, well, a restaurant. These menus often consisted of Grilled Cheeses with Campbell's Tomato Soup, Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Buttered Toast and Bacon, or Cinnamon Rolls – the Pillsbury kind that are locked in cylindrical,vault-like canisters until the label is peeled back enough to release the dough. My short finger nails were never long enough to adequately open those dumb things.
Fast forward two or three years to when I traveled to Orlando with my family for the Spring Break of my 5th grade year - that is when I knew I wanted to be a restaurant owner. I was more focused on the incredible, at the time all corporate restaurant giants (the kind I have come to despise now) , than I was the magical wonders of Walt Disney World and Mickey Mouse. I remember saying to myself on that trip, "I want to own one of these."
Like so many, I went through college and then even grad school and had a pretty good gig in advertising consulting, until I realized that sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day in an environment where I wasn't appreciated, was not for me.
I took a leap of faith. I moved, to Virginia, where I worked for my cousin who owned several restaurants, part time, as a menu consultant, and then a year later opened up my first restaurant, at the age of 29. I plan to open more, as well as publish cookbooks as I continue pursuing my passion, discovering the evolution that it has and will continue to take as I learn more about myself and the passionate world of life in the kitchen. In the pursuit of discovering who I really was, and what I wanted in life I have learned more about myself than ever imaginable. I learned that the people who love me, love me for who I am, and though my father envisioned the white-picket fence life for me, where I would work hard, take over his company, join his country club, and send my kids to the same private school in Atlanta I attended, perhaps in discovering what I was truly interested in and passionate about in the world, I could create my own “picket fenced” life. That is what I have done. It has been challenging, and at times down right stressful witho uncertainty and doubt for how things would pan out, but through it all, I have learned that belief in one’s self and dedication to a sense of purpose provides us with happiness in ways that money, and fame, and glory will never be able to achieve. Through this perseverance and this dedication, we discover more about ourselves than ever imaginable. Has it been easy? No. Has it been worth it? You bet.