Second Career Day One...Or...This Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life - Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist Blog at - 223779

Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist

Second Career Day One...Or...This is the first day of the rest of your life 
Feb. 20, 2011 3:08 pm 
Updated: May 27, 2011 8:48 am
My Story:
Last September, I got divorced...twice in one month.  I was divorced from my husband of 18+ years as well as "divorced" from my job of 22+ years.  The job and I parted ways on September 10th and my divorce was final on September 17th.  Oh...and just in case that wasn't enough, I listed my house for sale on September 8th.  Needless to say, 2010 was a "transition" year for me. 

But this is not one of those blogs where people will have to endure reading about the daily trials and tribulations of my life.  This first (very long) entry will set the stage, give you an account of how I got here and then I actually intend to blog about food, cooking, wine, recipes, kitchen experiences, culinary school etc etc.  If you've read my AllRecipes profile, you know that I grow up cooking and that I still love cooking today.  I read cookbooks for fun, tear out  recipes from any magazine I can get my hands on and am not afraid to experiment in the kitchen even though failures do occur.     

Over the last several years I have been wondering "what am I going to do when I grow up?"  I loved my job and the people who worked for me (some for a decade or more).  I loved my husband and most of the parts of our life together.  I loved my house by the lake and its view of the mountains.  I traveled extensively during the week for work.  I was often up at 3 am Monday morning to catch a 6 am flight out of Seattle/Tacoma airport and was lucky to get back home before dinner time each Friday night.  But what did I do for "relaxation" on the weekends?  I cooked. 

So when life threw lemons at me, I decided to make homemade limoncello...literally.  For the first 6 months I was "not working" (that sounds so much better than "I got fired/laid off/shafted by my long term employer") , I cooked like a mad woman nearly every day.  I perfected recipes I had been working on for years (Gnocchi with Vodka Sauce).  I tried new things (Brioche).  I made a list of the things I still wanted to try (Popovers) and those that I had been beaten by in the past (Bernaise).  I worked my way thru the list (and continue to do so today).  Every time I talked to my Mom she asked how the search for work was going.  That got old really quickly so I tried to avoid the question by telling her that I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and until I figured that out, looking for work seemed "inappropriate". 

My intent all along has been to get to a point where I can open my own eatery.  I used to call it my "deli/cafe thingy" because my intent was for it not ever really to be a place that had a steady menu.  I wanted to make a few salads, a few dishes, a few soups, some breads and desserts, offer a few sandwiches and let the customers choose their favorites for a meal to eat now or to take home.  A very "french" approach to an eatery, but no french food!

I have gone thru a few stages of figuring out how to make this dream come true in the last several months.  Its kind of like those stages that people talk about when you find out you have a terminal illness.  My old life was dead and I needed to accept it and make a new life. 

My plan in stage one:  Buy a cafe in the town where I grew up and turn it into my dream eatery.  The problem with this plan, is...I don't want to live in that town.  I left when I was 17 and there was a reason for that.  Its not where I wanted to be. 

My plan in stage two:  Get in an RV and travel the USA.  There are bound to be diners, cafes, etc where the owners are looking for someone bright and talented to buy into their business and continue their legacy.  Turns out there are a few of these opportunities available and I was intent on seeking them out.  So intent, in fact, that I actually bought a used, low mileage RV last fall and intended to "hit the road" as soon as the sale on my house closed.  Turns out that even though I researched, thought out, carefully considered every angle of RV living, the actual act of living in that incredibly tiny space (have you seen the size of those kitchens?) did not appeal to me at all.  Side note - if you are looking for a great deal on a used, low low mileage RV, please contact me.

My stage three:  Kind of a combo of stages 1 and 2.  Find a location that suits me and build or buy a business in a tourist town where I can feel at home and become a part of the community.  The problem with this plan is...starting up a business from scratch is expensive and 90% of these businesses fail in the first 2 years.  I didn't want to put my entire life savings into something and lose it and getting a loan to start a business when your credentials are "everyone says I am a great cook" is not very realistic in this economy. 

My stage four:  Retreat to Hawaii for 24 days in the middle of one of the rainiest, windiest, nastiest winters the Seattle area has ever seen.  Use up all those frequent flyer miles you accumulated over the years, spend all those premium hotel points on free nights at gorgeous resorts.  Sit on a beach, get a fabulous tan, spend very little money and think about what you really can do to start working on "the dream". 

On the flight over to Hawaii, I sat next to a lovely woman who engaged me in conversation for most of the 6 hour journey.  As a professional traveler for 22 years, I usually just put on my noise reduction headphones and pretend that I am deaf if anyone tries to talk to me.  I am always armed with my iPad, a couple of spare magazines and a notepad.  I look very very busy on a plane so as to discourage talking seatmates. plan failed miserably as she was clearly more determined to talk than I was to ignore.  During our conversation, she said that she had attended a 6 week cooking school in Lyon, France.  It sounded like fun and I looked into it when I was dreaming on the beach one day.  When I was browsing around the net on my iPad all those days, I found all sorts of schools in the US and abroad.  There are long term and short term programs for home cooks, professional chefs and chef wannabes.  Could I really spend $41,000 and go to Italy to learn to cook in Tuscany for 6 months?  I still have family and financial obligations.  But the idea of culinary school was stuck in my head and I began to earnestly search for realistic options. 

My stage five:  Reality.  My house sale is closing soon.  I need a place to live and I need to start living the "rest of my life".  I have an interview at a culinary arts school in Las Vegas a week from tomorrow.  Yes..I know...Sin City...I can't hardly believe it myself.  Its not like I need to interview to get in (they pretty much take anyone who can pay the tuition), but I want to spend some time there and make sure its the right place for me to "learn" how to cook.  I figure the externship options at all those great food places in Vegas is probably worth the price of admission.   

Stay tuned for that adventure as I plan to blog about my culinary adventures at school as well as those at home. 




On the plate for today:

Brioche - already rising in the bowl.  Its going to make awesome french toast tomorrow morning...if it lives that long. 

Pulled Pork Enchiladas - had some homemade corn tortillas in the freezer.  Already assembled and in the fridge waiting to be heated up for dinner. 
Feb. 20, 2011 4:02 pm
Having been through almost exactly the same thing in 2001, I can empathize. It really will sort itself out; because you're giving it such serious thought, you WILL be successful!!! And one place for that successful new restaurant is Olympia, where I moved after my year of horror - we need you here! I sooo miss the Bay Area food options, mainly food based on fresh and in-season ingredients. Come on down!
Feb. 20, 2011 4:32 pm
This is good Cuz. Have you linked it to FB? You should. I look forward to more.
Mary C 
Feb. 20, 2011 8:09 pm
Fabulous, Jan! Congrats...exciting stuff. I look forward to reading about your kitchen exploits - I remember those potato donuts - Tizy made them, Too! Love - Mary
Feb. 21, 2011 7:43 pm
@Suz - Thank you so much for the invite! As soon as I am "trained", I may consider Olympia. I LOVE the PacNW and am going to miss it terribly while I am schooling in Vegas. From Bay Area to Oly is a big change.
Feb. 21, 2011 7:45 pm
@MaryC and @PWCameron - My first fans! LOL Should have known that we'd find the "Malley Girls" on a food website! Our mothers trained us well.
Feb. 21, 2011 8:37 pm
It sounds like you're getting everything worked out really well! Culinary school, how exciting :oD
Feb. 22, 2011 6:57 am
Culinary School - well just - DUH! I don't know why that wasn't the first thing that came to all of our minds when it became time for you to start anew. You will be WILDLY successful, of course. There is no question. It goes without saying that I am incredibly proud to know you and will be first in line for a table when the eatery opens - wherever it is. I will stay late on the first night, help with washing up dishes, and then we will pop champagne corks until the wee hours. I can already feel the bubbles on my tongue...
Feb. 23, 2011 6:58 am
You will do fantastically in culinary school! Follow your dream and keep embracing the challenges! You are on your way to an amazing new adventure. Looking forward to reading your new blogs! =)
Mar. 3, 2011 5:53 am
(soft gentle smiles)..I`m going through much of the same here in Michigan. Seems there might be a common bond among people who love cooking.:) I am sure your plan will be the right one because you have one.:) unlike me who is searching for answers without any clues, working on reinventing my life right in the middle when not long ago all the answers were so clear. God Bless you, I know you will do just fine take care.
Mar. 12, 2011 6:31 pm
@Jenny and @SkyEyes - Thank you both for your kind words and encouragement. @Jenny - You will find your way. I went thru months and months of uncertainty and quite a few "plans" before I came up with this one. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take that first step. You might fall, but you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take the next step. Eventually, the steps get easier and the falling down gets less frequent. Best to you.
May 27, 2011 8:48 am
Congrats Jan !!! You and I are on the same journey..And my wife is IT (Infomatics Director at Stanford Univ Hospitals and Clinics) so that is shared as well..Like to converse some on phone or emails.. Very proud of you..Thanks, Dave
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Cookin Up A Storm

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Fergus Falls, Minnesota, USA
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About Me
I am a mid-life career changer who has enjoyed cooking (and eating) good food all her life. My Mom went to work when I was in the 5th grade and most days when I got home from school, she'd have left instructions for me to get dinner started. Cooking never felt like a "chore" back then and it certainly rarely feels like one now. During my 20 plus year career in IT, I traveled all over the US for work. And for fun, I traveled internationally. I have a fairly broad knowledge of food, but when cooking, I tend to stick to comfort foods and pretty much anything Italian. I have a big collection of Asian or eastern foods in my arsenal and I absolutely love their flavors. I am a professional chef who runs her own personal chef service.
My favorite things to cook
Comfort foods, soups, chilies, baked goods, candies at christmas, anything Italian, pizzas, homemade dressing for big salads when good veggies are at their peak, potstickers. Anything I can bake that's bad for you like doughnuts, coconut cakes with whipped cream frosting or fresh artisan breads slathered with butter. When I cook for clients, I am forced to move out of my comfort zone and I love trying new things. I especially love coming up with streamlined ways to make seemingly complicated food easy and accessible for everyone.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Mom's Potato Doughnuts - she's frying them as she was going into labor with my younger brother and then wasn't home to monitor how many I was eating over the next several days. I rarely stray from the Thanksgiving basics I grew up with. I do switch up the veggie dishes each year, but the basics remain pretty constant. My own tradition (not one I grew up with) is making Turkey Wild Rice soup from the leftovers. No better way to extend the taste of the holiday for me. Making Chili on a cold winter weekend, in honor of my Dad who made a batch nearly every weekend in winter as I was growing up. I don't use his recipe (too much Chili Powder and Dark Kidney Beans for my taste), but I do think of him when I make it.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering Gnocchi - so light and puffy, they are like clouds. A killer Vodka Sauce - never ever have I tasted one better. It took me a lot of tries to get it right. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes - from the book of the same name. Fresh bread...anytime. I always keep a few batches (Wheat, White, Semolina) in the fridge. Heat up the oven, shape the loaves, bake...yum. Homemade Caramels at Christmas time. I make both Vanilla and Chocolate Caramels and they are to die for. I give the Vanilla ones away as fast as possible, as I cannot stop myself from eating them.
My cooking tragedies
So many to list, such little space to write in.
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