I came to New York City straight from college, eager to become someone new. A career in fashion consulting seemed so glitzy then. Everyday, I pored over clothes, makeup, parties. I thought once I perfected each element, I would finally have the glamorous life I so desperately wanted. A year later, my life was perfect – at least, according to Facebook. I was on track to a promotion and raise at work, I owned expensive clothes I couldn’t afford, and I had just been accepted early-decision as one of the youngest candidates to Columbia Business School.
I may have feigned smug satisfaction, but inside I was miserable.
On my 21st birthday I decided it was now or never. Now that I had my admissions letter as a safety net, I decided the next year would be mine! I had always wanted to learn more about culinary arts – I spent all my free time n the kitchen anyway – and I figured culinary school could serve as a “creative sabbatical” before a life of corporate politicking. I threw caution to the winds; I breezed through my school tour and put my entire savings down as a deposit. I was young, brash, and deliriously confident I’d be returning to a well-salaried role post-MBA.
I definitely did not anticipate culinary school completely changing my life.
School…was an adjustment. Most of my classmates were older career-switchers with backgrounds far different from mine. My struggle to relate to them, however, paled in comparison to my difficulty working with them. I was historically a terrible team player and an avid micro-manager. Yet instead of ostracizing me, my classmates accepted my shortcomings and supported me regardless. When I broke a bottle of oil or burned our mandonlined apples, my classmates hurried over to help without hesitation. It eventually dawned on me…my classmates cared about me.
This type of friendship was completely foreign to me. I began to appreciate characteristics of my classmates I never even noticed (or considered) before. Cliché words like generosity, loyalty, and open-mindedness took on new meaning. And just as I began to realize what qualities were actually important in others, I began to see new possibilities for my own future. There was another option besides the narrow definition of success I’d followed for years. Perhaps it was not as well-defined or as well regarded by “society”, but this transitional time helped me realize that personal happiness does not come from external approval – but from internal courage.
I left Columbia after one semester to start my journey in food. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and the trials are far from over. I’ve spent time exploring different facets of industry, utilizing both my culinary and business skillsets. At Le Pain Quotidien, I was involved with the entire menu development process, from R&D to launch, across multiple countries. From there, I started my own LLC – a culinary consulting practice. In 2 short years I’ve brought in 10+ clients, many of them repeats, and am now at a point where most new clients are referrals and my work can comfortably sustain my lifestyle. My yearning for culinary creativity prompted me to start my own supperclub, I Forgot It’s Wednesday. After 70+ supperclubs and 3 pop-up restaurants, what started as a creative outlet has grown into a definitive part of my personal narrative – a special something I gift and receive from the universe. Every week is now exciting.
Culinary school changed my perspective on what success and happiness mean, and it opened my mind to possibilities I never dreamed possible. But I still have so much to learn. My sincerest wish is to grow next year, and every year after, as earnestly as I have the last four.