Monday, April 28, 2014

Autobiography of a food freak finale: What lies ahead.

celebrating my 40th birthday

I have to say that despite the ultimate selfishness of the title, I've enjoyed writing these posts (Editor: of course you would, who doesn't enjoy talking about themselves!). It's reminded me of where this love of food started and how it has become honed over the years. It's also highlighted what an interesting ride it's been so far - lots of crazy-town, life-changing moments, but nothing to ever regret - I think. The life wheels are still turning so who knows how this will turn out (he says non-cryptically).

When I was in my late 20s to early 30s, it was becoming clear how my personal life was going to play out. I had come out (finally, an excuse to wear the "Hooray I'm gay" pin). I was starting a relationship with an amazing man. Yet, career-wise I wasn't anywhere close to food - other than eating it. I call those career years of my 30s as 'the wilderness years'.

I was working for not-for-profits, government, a health consulting firm, just all over the map, but all the jobs were in communications. Despite the irritants of my career choices, they did collectively become a great training ground in regards to my writing and communications skills. Ah, hindsight, but all I truly take back from that time period was just being extremely unhappy with my work life. My partner would watch me come home from wherever I was working, listen to me moan about whatever it was that was bugging me that day about the office and finally one day said " Steve, you have to do something about this, you can't go on this way." My answer at the time was to shrug it off and say how easy it is to want to make a change, but tougher to actually do. But was it? Is it really that hard? If you're so unhappy, why in hell would you want to stay on that path? I honestly didn't have an answer for that at the time, but I do now: it's fear.

After my partner died (I talk about that here) it just about shook my entire world to the core, and I am still working hard to recover from the aftershocks of losing him. But his death woke me the hell up. It made me realize just how short life is, and how the path of unhappiness is so easy to stay on because, well, it's easier to moan than it is to do something about it, isn't it.

Making changes to your life is frightening, no matter what self help quotes or books tell you. Talking is easier than doing, always has been, always will be. Life altering changes are not to be taken lightly or on a whim. Serious time and thought need to be considered, and even then you don't know what the hell you're doing or if you're doing the so-called "right thing". You spend a good portion of your life building something only to uproot it and start all over again. Except this time, instead of being a scared child, you're a scared adult. As simplistic as this next statement will sound, it's the truth: that's life.

With that simple statement in mind (and despite the feelings of fear becoming an annoying yet constant companion), I ended up doing exactly that - knocking over the very shaky house of cards life I had built, and performing a career reboot at 38.

I didn't want to break ties with everything I had learned from my past years of being in communication roles, but I knew I had to make some serious changes to get back into the food business. This time, however, I would be looking at entering it from an office perspective. No more backbreaking, stand on my feet for 14 hours days like I used to do (and loved). My thoughts about that decision? Dammit I'm old and I had paid my dues in regards to that world! It was time to look at it from a purely white collar perspective.

I applied to the two year culinary management program at George Brown culinary school, and I was the oldest student in my class of 100 students - an odd but not unpleasant experience. For some strange reason I was seen as an expert, which made me laugh but was kind of humbling too. I guess to an 18 year old, 38 does have a bit of 'experience' attached to it.

Culinary school proved to be a lot of work for that so called 38 year old "expert", but then again it wasn't. I know it has been repeatedly said when you're passionate (and speaking of repetitive, that word never gets tiring does it? Ok maybe it does but I'm proving a point here!) about something, it's never seen as "work" and that was true when I was in school. I cannot believe I'm saying that about school but it's true! Culinary school is not what you'd expect it to be. It's not about making you a star in the culinary world. That's something you do on your own dime. You go to culinary school to learn the basics of the kitchen, particularly the importance of technique and efficiency - period. It should also build on the confidence you already have to be able to work in a kitchen. C'mon, if you didn't have the confidence to work in a kitchen, why in hell would you be in culinary school?

After I graduated, I worked for a year as a Chefs assistant at Calphalon Culinary school. That was without a doubt one of the best jobs I ever had, but sadly the school closed last year. After the year was over, I hit the road, travelled the world (hence a blog was born!) and ate like a pig for a year. Once I returned from my travels, I enrolled at Ryerson University to complete my public relations certification. I worked extremely hard for an additional year to really build the credentials I thought I needed to get back into the food business, but all it's done of late is filled me with questions. What have all those experiences actually given me? What do I have to do to find that fulfilling career? I am still trying to figure that out. When you forge your own career path and you have no idea where you're going or where it will take you, either it will make you a pessimist or optimist. Right now I think I'm straddling the fence of those two emotions.

So we've come full circle to the point of the post heading - what lies ahead for this perpetually hungry, over-educated food freak? The answer(s) for now? No clue. And I'll just have keep searching and see.

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