When we are growing up .. do we really know what we want to do? Back then as women we really didn’t have a lot of choices. I really like fooling around with hairstyles and took an interest in how my girlfriends wore their hair.
I would quiz them on how they got a certain look .. you need to remember here, when I was little, my nana rolled my hair in brown paper strips! Now THAT is really dating me, but I did see the advent of those hateful wire brush rollers, a step up from the pin curls. (I did not see Bruno Mars coming out with rollers in his hair though… ha ha )
Cutting hair with a bare razor blade was next.. and I must have done a half decent job because my friends lined up for haircuts. This led to a career in hairstyling, which I loved. I eventually owned four salons. Now I sometimes wonder, how the heck did I end up becoming so passionate about catering?
It all started by chance and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A failed busines .. an economy gone sour on 20% interest rates and a backyard barbeque built to cook whole hogs. It was a means to an end for us, to switch gears and do something totally different.
Was I a chef or anyone in my family into cooking? Not a chance.. my nana cooked a steak until it was cardboard and my mom couldn’t cook at all. My dad was a half decent cook and his cabbage rolls and perogies were delicious.. but, I still cannot make a decent perogy (it’s all in the dough).
My mom was Irish and my dad Ukrainian, so I had a nana and a Baba. Baba was a wonderful cook and Lord knows she tried to teach me.. I lived with her for awhile but I was hopeless in the kitchen. I remember once spilling a whole pot of applesauce onto everything, including my winter coat, oh my how she despaired of me.
My Baba did everything from scratch, even saving her own seeds for the garden year after year. How I wished now that I would have paid attention to her and learned what she had to teach me.. ah well hindsight, right? She also tried to teach me Ukrainian, but all I ever retained was oy.. and I think that is universal.. lol.
My catering career started where the hairstylist career ended. To say I knew nothing about catering would be appropriate, sad and true. Whatever possessed me to turn my full attention to making a career out of cooking for people? Like who in their right mind really starts out to do that (without any culinary experience)?
Yes I know people go to culinary schools.. that thought never occurred to me.. ever! I know I loved eating but cooking was definitely not my forte’. Most of us had to learn to cook I guess, marriage and a family required the wife to cook for her family. This is not the case anymore, visit any supermarket and you can get whatever you want.. already cooked.
Barbecuing whole hogs did not take a rocket scientist to figure out. Cooking them all the way through to the bone without burning it on the outside and raw in the inside was a little trickier. Well.. building the huge barbeque also required some skill and finesse. I was fortunate the ex could build anything and fix anything. We just needed to learn how to cook.
Something strange started happening when we started feeding the masses.. it started to feel good. The more we expanded the menu, the better it got.. then we fine tuned the recipes and added our own twist. Later on attending a catering conference and learning all about presentation.. omg.. that did it!
I finally had a creative outlet .. I was fond of telling people I went from doing hair to dressing whole hogs! That started my obsession.. I needed to create a wow factor with our meal presentations. I wanted our clients to get excited that they hired us and.. and.. I wanted them to REMEMBER us!
This past week-end had me volunteering to cater an event for my kids catering company. We finally sold it to them after working it for 25 years. Somehow I just can’t completely let go.. this love of encouraging people to be excited about food and enjoying the whole experience of delicious food well presented.
The event was a fundraiser for a camp for kids, a firefly is a prominent feature for this camp. I spent many, many hours trying to figure out a gourmet camp menu. To say I was inspired is tame.. I was more than inspired with what I came up with . We were able to pull it off with help from the camp kids, we don’t usually do small plated meals.. well actually we never do plated meals.
How do you know what you love? I guess sometimes maybe you just don’t. You just do it, get involved with it and get excited by it, then it takes over your life.. just sayin..