My journey as a chef started very young, watching my Nonna as she would prepare family meals. We would gather for a Sunday dinner of pasta and red sauce, meats, salad and dessert. With copious amounts of homemade red wine that would turn the tip of my mother’s nose red. The kids were allowed to partake in cocktail hour as well, with a drop of wine to colour 7up pink. My Nonna would sit at the head of the kitchen table which was covered in lace, topped with plastic sheeting. We would eat, drink and laugh our way through heavenly mouthfuls. Through my bright infant eyes, food became synonymous with love.
It is no wonder, looking back on those wonderful memories, the connection between food and joy was made.
I was sold, I wanted to have a kitchen life, I wanted to hold on to that feeling of happiness and satisfaction forever. Little did I know what kitchen life had in store for me, how many times, as if donning the tallest Louboutin’s, I would trip, stumble and land on my face. Little did I know how fast I could brush it off and soldier on, for the most part only mildly bruised, never broken and always grasping on to the notion that food equals love.
After attending the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and much traveling, I began my journey in high end cuisine working at some of the top restaurants in the city.
My ears would ring with the sounds of sizzling frying pans, plates being thrown around and chefs dictating the next order. I would burn the tips of my fingers constantly while testing the doneness of meats and fish, darting from the scorching grills to the plates waiting for their final garnishes. I could stand still in the middle of a service, watching the cooks dressed in white and black, moving like trained dancers to the music of the kitchen. The symphony being conducted by the wild-eyed chef, pacing and shouting his own opera, I would fall in love with the kitchen every night.
I have since left the fast paced kitchen life and have begun teaching all ages how to properly prepare creative meals at home. The two-to-twelve year old cute-as-a-button children that I have the pleasure of teaching have proved to be just as challenging as my previous experiences, yet in a wonderfully different way. The lack of coordination often sends bits of icing and broccoli flying through the air, while cups of flour miss the bowl and explode in a cloud of dust that sends the kids into fits of laughter.
The adult students who come to my theoretical classes, regale me with tales of their culinary misadventures as I explain why water must be boiling BEFORE the pasta goes in. This group of wonderful students who come to my classes on a weekly basis have become a sort of dysfunctional family, whom I care for deeply. I stand in front of the class and answer questions about what to do with parmesan peels and sage stems as they eagerly await the food that is being prepared for them to taste. This is my greatest achievement. I have managed to share with them the passion I feel for the career that luckily chose me, so many years ago.
My adventures with food have been hard, painful and breathtakingly beautiful. Starting with the joy found sat around a plastic covered table, drinking flat 7up with a drop of moonshine. Followed with frantic self – discovery, life changing moments, epic failures and great accomplishments. I wouldn’t trade it with anyone in the world.
Amongst these pages I am confident that there will be a recipe that speaks to you and sparks a need for that same sense of warmth. You might wobble. You might forget the oven resulting in carbonized croutons, you might undercook the chicken, and you might just succeed. Start a new tradition or continue an old one with the recipes here, cook with your kids, friends, lovers and parents. Cook to live, live to cook.