Pardon this somewhat random post, I guess I must be feeling nostalgic today and unsure of what my schedule is going to be looking like for the next few weeks. I guess I felt like this post ought to come from the heart as I’m going to be undergoing some major changes here within in the next 24 hours (literally) or so. It is really crazy to think that within the next day or two, I will be a fill fledge mom… Something I haven’t quite wrapped my head around yet and I’m sure it’s going to take a long time to not spin my head around looking for my own mom when I am addressed by that same title. It’s amazing how drastically our lives can change in a matter of a minute. One minute I will be Marlee and the next… I will forever be somebody’s mom. It’s a concept I haven’t grasped yet.
Though I don’t want to primarily speak on my inadequacies of becoming a mom or my inability to see myself as a mom. I want to focus on my journey that started 11 years ago until this point. There has been so much growth in that time and I am so thankful for the things I have learned and the experiences that have helped mold me into who I am today. I don’t want you all to think I’m going to drone on about every single job I had; too many mixed emotions with each place I guess.
When I think back when I was in high school, I would never have guessed that I’d be where I am today. I wanted to own my own dinner theater; I was a bit of a theatre nerd back then but never did I think I would really go to culinary school. Many people don’t know this about me but I originally went to college to study theatre with an acting emphasis, I only worked in the food business because it’s what I knew and it was an easy job to get… plus I had a hard time seeing myself work behind a desk. I needed mental and physical stimulation to be engaged in my job. Through a rude awakening, I decided I ought to study in the hospitality industry because that seemed like more stable work and I already had some experience under my belt as far as restaurants were concerned. But then I wasn’t happy with that either… once I had to take a class on Housekeeping ya’ll and I literally had to learn about the differences in thread counts as pertaining to sheets. That’s when I knew that this wasn’t quite the right fit.
And then, I don’t know, it just dawned on me I guess that I needed to go to culinary school because I was awesome at cooking and I loved working in the kitchens of restaurants (I’m kind of socially standoffish anyway so I had more interaction with parsley than actual people and that suited me just fine). Culinary school was such a blast! I won’t get into the financial aspect of things (mixed emotions remember) but it really was a great time! I met some chefs that really helped boost my confidence in my cooking and ability to be a leader and I went to Austria! On a cooking competition! Those two things, right there, made it all worthwhile.
Because I was in culinary school, doors opened to me for employment that I think would have remained shut otherwise. My first kitchen job while in culinary school was at a place called Caffe Boa; it was over in the Eastern part of Mesa and was a cute little bistro place. I was mainly a prep cook there which was fine and dandy with me while I learned how a real restaurant ran. My sous chef there was amazing. Each quarter of school, he would ask me to bring in my syllabi from my classes to see what I was learning and then each week, he would design a special that had something to do with what I was learning that week in class. He refused to acknowledge me if I ever called him Chef but this guy was talented! I loved working with him and more importantly, that he saw my education as valuable and that he could help my learning by having me engage with certain aspects of cooking each week. He truly cared about what I was learning at school and was helping me learn how to apply classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios. I loved that job and I miss it til this day still!
I also got to meet my mentor who I just adore with my whole being! This guy, also, helped open up the culinary world to me here in Phoenix. People can say that I rode coat tails or whatnot (haters gonna hate right) but this chef also took my education to heart and saw that there was a difference that could be made with me! His name is Payton Curry and is definitely not shy when it comes to the social media scene! But because he’s been such an influential Chef here in “the valley,” I’ve had the pleasure of being able to do some cool events with him. I’ve cooked multiple dinners with him, hung out with him at the farmers markets many countless Saturday mornings, picked his brain over menu ideas and career moves; it wasn’t uncommon for us to start talking at 2am because of work schedules many mornings. The past 5 years have brought us many career changing choices to make but I still value his advice and insight into what “Marlee needs to do next to reach her goal” more than most people. This guy believed in me more than I believed in myself most of the time and I am so grateful for that!
Flash forward to today, I’m now working (or was until 2 months ago) under a fantastic chef and sous chefs! At a previous job of mine, I would always hear the name Kevin Binkley (yes, as in THE Binkley’s in Cave Creek and yes, THE Kevin Binkley who has been up for numerous James Beard awards) come up and I knew he was a big deal from how people talked about him and how chefs revered his name. Never in a million years did I think I’d ever work for him (mainly because I never thought I’d be able to work up at Binkley’s) until I was given the opportunity to work at one of his casual restaurants here in Scottsdale. I knew that even though I wasn’t working directly under Kevin, the Chef of the place I was working at HAD and had the same standards that Kevin did. So I off handedly learned from Kevin, (through the grapevine as it were). As is natural in many kitchens, turn over happens and within 6 months or so, I found myself with a set of keys and code to the place… No pressure right?! This place has given me the same satisfaction with my job as did Caffe Boa did 5 years ago. I was learning new things and now, because of my experience, I was now teaching others who were just starting off on their journey. Talk about a humbling experience. This job has definitely provided its’ many challenges but it has been super fulfilling in other ways as well.
When I look to the future and what might it hold in store for me, my eyes are wide with excitement because truly, the world is my oyster. Because of my exposure to this culinary world in Phoenix, I feel so treasured to have someone I can share these exciting finds with and who gets just as excited as I do about them. My hubby, my better half, loves when I find a new place to check out or when I bring purple cauliflower home or when I replicate a dish that we enjoyed at a restaurant we love. Last summer we were blessed to go to Hawaii for a week (a much deserved vacation) and as we were sharing our experiences and pictures with family, his parents noticed that whenever we go on a vacation or on a weekend getaway, we always talk about the food, one or two activities that we did, but we remember every meal that we had while away, which is the complete opposite for them. I am so glad to have someone who loves food and the beauty of food as much as I do! He truly is the best companion for me.
Leading up to our final days as just the two of us, we’ve definitely found ways to celebrate with none other than food and I love him for that! It is so fitting for us to celebrate in that way (and I figured that I’m pregnant so why not go out in the last two weeks with a bang!). As I have reflected on this new food blog adventure and trying to figure myself out here with it, I am getting more and more excited to share my food adventures with another special person in my life and that is our little baby… Let me tell you guys, this little one is going to be the coolest kid ever! I really want to teach him about good food. I want him to be the weird kid because he loves vegetables and hates McDonalds. Probably one of the proudest days of my life will be when he doesn’t want to eat off of the kids menu at restaurants and wants to eat big people food because he’s grown up eating that anyway! I will know I have done my job right at that point. I am humbled and yet excited to know that the one that will benefit most from my culinary experience is my baby… he’s going to be my little ninja, my little sous chef and food taster… my company at the farmers markets and my number one student. How eye opening and wonderful is that!
I have been very anxious about this blog, as some of you remember me confessing in the #MyWorthChallenge, but it’s a huge unknown that I’ve undertaken and I hope that it pays off. I’d be able to stay home with our baby and teach him the way I would like and I’d be able to make sure that all of the things I hold dear and important are taught. There are many times I could have given up, many times where I could have thrown in the towel and said “this is too unknown and unfamiliar… I just won’t even bother” and then I came across this
And I knew that I need to keep pressing forward! Blogging, motherhood, continuing to cook… it’s all new, it’s all scary. But it’s going to be wonderful, according to some trusted sources. Today I spent my last day as a non-mom walking around an art and food festival in Tempe and I couldn’t think of a better way to bid the old Marlee farewell and warmly welcome the new Mama Marlee than eating some delicious food and working my last shift before being induced. I like to go out with a bang, what can I say!
Let’s try something bold and exciting and scary this coming week! I will be! And I’ll be back hopefully in a week to continue to give you advice on all of your cooking and kitchen queries. Don’t hesitate to email me things you’d like for me to discuss or any killer recipes I might have for pancakes or chicken or what have you. Next time we talk, I’ll have a little ninja to help me on our food adventures! Happy eating everyone!