It’s been two months since I was given the opportunity to start a completely different career. This is an opportunity I am forever grateful.
November 8, 2021 ended a long thirty-seven year career in foodservice. I traded my black coat, my red and black pinned striped apron and my not so shiny black clogs for a large office with split screens and a very comfy chair. I traded working every other weekend and holidays for every weekend off and every holiday too. I transferred to another department within the hospital. I went from cooking for our patients and staff to credentialing for our providers. I couldn’t be in a more different but exciting world.
The day I punched out on a time clock for the last time was more significant than just ending the day. I ended my career. That weekend I didn’t want to cook. I didn’t want to eat out. I just didn’t want to interact with food. Like a rush from a broken dam, the question began to flood my mind. Did I do the right thing? Is this how I want to end my career in the kitchen? I had so many accomplishments. I grew from a mouthy 17 year old to a prominent business owner and pastry instructor in a college program I created. Working kitchens was easy for me. Did I really want to give that up? Absolutely. I was ready for a change. I was very concerned with the direction foodservice was headed in. The lack of employees and covered shifts meant working longer hours. The lack of morals and responsibility that kitchens now faced only meant longer days. It was definitely time to move on.
About a year and half ago, my friend Gail asked if I could come over to her house and help with a catering job she had. I loved cooking with Gail so that was an easy “Yes”. When I got there she had another friend, Deb, over that I recognized but didn’t know. It was fun. We talked food, cooked food, ate some food and had some great laughs. I didn’t know it at the time but this woman would later on become the very person that would open up a whole new door to start a completely different career just two years later. You never know in life who you’re going to meet when it comes to food as the common denominator. As time went on, I became friends with this woman and we always enjoyed talking about food. I loved seeing her at the hospital because it was a few minutes to escape and have a conversation that I knew would be a good one every time.
So fast forward to this year late summer. As COVID19 continued to do its thing and disrupt anything in it’s path, the state of Maine put a mandatory vaccine into effect. Not everyone was compliant and that meant opening doors for people to move up in the company. One of the positions was in the department I now work. I talked to Deb about it and she thought I would be a good candidate. Being a food person, she compared what her office did to that of being a chef. Attention to detail, being able to handle a stressful situation, organization skills and working in a changed environment and being able to pick up where you left off were just a few. I decided to make the career change. It meant hanging up that black coat. In exchange I would experience opportunities I haven’t for years like weekends off, holidays off, a good salary and wearing real clothes. It wasn’t a hard decision.
I love what I do. I love what I did. Cooking for a hospital staff is an honor. You have the opportunity to create good food for the very people who every day are saving lives. They only have 10 maybe 15 minutes to eat something quickly and they give us that time to serve them something comforting. That’s an honor. I never took that lightly. Every day I put the same love into every dish I made hoping they would receive that. If you feed someone good food, it feeds their soul. And when you feed a soul, you know the comfort that delivers. That means that person can go back and make better decisions for themselves and the patient. And when you can make better decisions for the patient, the healing begins. Food is love and every meal you have that canvas to create the best. That’s what I miss the most. But in my new position I help with the providers and if I do my job correctly and with the same passion, the patients will benefit.
This is why I stopped cooking at home. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just didn’t want to do it.One day my friend told me about a show she had watched called “Somebody Feed Phil”. She said it’s a very good show about a man that travels and eats great food. I didn’t want to cook let alone watch someone else do it. But she always had great recommendations about books and shows so I knew at some point I would try an episode. It’s New Years day in Maine. It’s cold and raining and I don’t have the energy to go out. So I sit on the couch with my two cats, Chaos and Bear on each side and put “Somebody Feed Phil” on. He’s in Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. This man loves food! I went from sitting on the couch to sitting on the edge of the couch. I’m watching this beautiful country and the people in it. I’m watching this man so excited about his food that he looks like a 5 year old with his first slice of pizza! It was awesome. He loved his food and he shared it! He won my heart. I was so excited. I decided at that moment I would recreate the black bean dish he was eating. This show sparked the very flame I blew out just two months prior. I made a grocery list and headed to the store. I bought the ingredients and headed home to make myself a lunch even Phil would be proud to share. I sautéed the onions and celery until they sizzled and the celery danced around the pan to the sweet symphony of the sizzle. I added the garlic and spices. My house smelled like a restaurant. I poured the black beans and their velvety goodness into the pan and stirred. I added some chopped kale and squeezed two beautiful limes. The limes turned out to be the stars of the dish.I finished it off with fresh cilantro. On the side I baked some crispy tofu and a sweet potato. One the show there’s some type of fruit that accompanies every dish. I’m not a fan of fruit or anything sweet but they’re on to something. I peeled a tangerine and placed it on the dish and then added some edamame to the sweet potato for color. I poured this beautiful black bean sauce over brown rice. Where’s Phil?? Where’s Richard? They should be here. they should be tasting this dish and Phil should be doing that sweet victory dance he does when he enjoys what he just experienced for the first time. Phil is such an inspiration with his show.
I decided to make one dish from each show. It’s my tribute to this incredible show. I’m especially excited because the second episode I watched was Phil in San Fransisco. His two guests chefs were my absolute favorites: Alice Waters and Thomas Keller. Can this show get any better! I’m not sure what I’m making from that show but it will something from our farmers market as a nod to Alice Waters. Thomas Keller is also a wonderful inspiration so I’ll have to choose wisely what I make from him.
Another thing I like about Phil’s show is his interaction with his wife and father. I loved the jokes. There’s a lot of love in the family and it shows.
I can’t thank Deb enough for recommending this show. It’s exactly what I needed. Food is love. It’s so apparent in these episodes. Phil is so happy and giving. That’s what the celebration of food is all about. It’s about learning new cultures and how they enjoy food. It’s learning about their ingredients and what’s abundant to them and how they utilize that. It’s about community, sharing and the love of food. It’s hoping that someday we embrace each other and our cultures as a whole and bring peace to the world one plate at a time. It can be done. Just watch one episode of “Somebody Feed Phil” and tell me how motivated you are to share a meal. That is the power in food.