The Rise Of (Not) Chef

Culinary art has become the heartbeat of my household, mainly because of the rise of Chef, who is far more than my business partner. Ours is a complex but rewarding friendship and her tale has greatly influenced mine.

I’m single (divorced, actually) and will choose Chipotle Mexican Grill over cooking for myself (and others) 364 out of 365 days every year (to my knowledge, this isn’t a reason why I’m divorced, but I could be wrong). This isn’t to say that I don’t prefer fresh, healthy food; I do and will always choose it as long as I don’t have to prepare it.

In October 2009, my world (and subsequently, Chef’s world) was rocked when my mother, who had fought Systemic Lupus Erythematosus for 34 years, died, somewhat suddenly. Within a 24-hour period, I said goodbye to my mother over the phone while she slipped into a coma; received word that she had died; traveled across the country to put her to rest; and began a new and rather unwanted chapter in my life.

Chef was with me through this entire ordeal, and because of her selfless love, kindness, and strength, she was promoted from best friend to sister. I’m an only child who has always been thankful to not have “real siblings” so this new rank for Chef wasn’t bestowed flippantly.

Although the passing of my mother was something I anticipated for most of my life, its effect on me wasn’t something I prepared for entirely. Not surprising, however, was my immediate launch into taking stock of what’s important to me and how I spend my time and resources. Same went for Chef.

Chef’s a fighter. (Seriously, she’s a real fighter. She was a martial arts prodigy of sorts as a young adult.) As a result of life circumstances, however, Chef’s two past attempts to attend college (once for a career in medicine, once for a career in business) gave way to a demanding work schedule and even more demanding ex-husband, frosted with a bit of wanderlust. By the time I met Chef, she’d accomplished a lot in a little bit of time but she didn’t feel personally complete.

Not having a Bachelor’s degree was a sore spot for her and something she was determined to accomplish. In 2009, the question wasn’t “Should she?” but “How should she?” Chef has always had a myriad of interests (her nickname is Onion because, like most truly interesting people, she has lots of layers), but one thing that has remained consistent throughout her life is her enjoyment of and talent for cooking. The girl can cook and has worked in kitchens since she was 15. Voila! Culinary school was the answer.

Fast forward two years. Chef has completed her Associates degree and culinary school, and she will receive her Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Management this December. But why wait to complete school to go after that glorified executive chef position? Bullshit. She already grabbed that last summer. Next step: law school. Girl’s got plans.

Actually, we’ve got plans, and it’s been the drafting of those plans that flipped the switch on this two-year chapter from crappy to happy. We’ve co-owned our event planning company since 2004 but with the introduction of Chef’s formal food training, there’ve been new opportunities for us to seize with our business, and individually, which is weird for me, the Not Chef, the one is isn’t “into food.”

Take this blog, for instance. This is me taking on a life goal: to spin a good yarn that might interest someone in a small town in South Dakota. I’ve witnessed what Chef calls “having cajones” when it comes to taking risks to live life fully, and I’m inspired by her example (and a bit jealous of all the attention and accolades she receives). Chef set her eyes on a goal and has accomplished it by pushing beyond the challenges. This isn’t to be confused with being fearless; there’s fear present, she claims, but it’s the harnessing of that fear that makes her so impressive.

I thank Chef for reminding me of something that my mother, who I emulate and miss deeply, taught me: when life throws you punches, put on your boxing gloves.


 

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