Becoming a Professional Cook

I haven’t spoken on this subject quite yet. Mainly because becoming a cook is a lot of work. It’s a lot of time and effort. Becoming a cook is physically demanding. However, I am so excited to sit down and write about this subject today. It is true. After years of wandering around this Earth trying to find my place in life, I have become a professional cook.

As a person with Borderline Personality Disorder it’s tough to settle on one goal. We are prone to changing our goals, our hair color, our clothes. I think this stems from not having a firm personality and a tendency to split on not just people, but situations as well. But, here I am, thirty years old and finding that one thing that I’m consistently passionate about and turning it into my dream job.

How did this all start?


Ami Lee and her First Black Chef Jacket

Let’s back up to the beginning of this year. My birthday was January 20th and this was a big year for me. I was scared to death of becoming a 30 year old woman. I was working in a miserable office with terribly negative people. I had made a decision that I was “too old” and “old enough to know better” when it came to negativity and drama. I applied for several jobs for months upon months. I had interviews and even second interviews and nothing panned out.

Unfortunately, everything came to a head in April. After three days straight of panic attacks and calling into work because I couldn’t handle the thought of dealing with that place another day, I sent a text message to my manager saying that I wasn’t coming back and blocked her. Several phone calls later I blocked the work number as well. I sent my keys back with a friend that worked there and I washed my hands of the whole place.

This, of course, lead my husband to panic. Bless the poor man, I don’t know how he puts up with me sometimes. I even annoy the hell out of myself sometimes. How he chooses to love me on a daily basis continually inspires me to try to be a better person.

I tried to do an MLM based business to keep us a float but that was a terrible fail due to my crippling anxiety and feeling like I was annoying everyone around me. I needed a job and I needed a job quick. I had seen signs that the grocery store around the corner was hiring and my Mother-In-Law mentioned that there was a baking position open. I decided to apply. Even if it was part-time, it was money in our pockets and would be better than nothing. Oh, how I look back now not realizing how big of an impact this would be.

I ended up getting the job and floated between learning to bake and the deli. As the weeks progressed I ended up getting less and less baking days to help out in the deli due to the dwindling amount of staff on that side of the department. I didn’t mind until I stopped getting bakery days. Thankfully, the full-time baker and one of the managers still let me hop over and help on occasion so I could still learn what I could.

I knew if I was patient I could work my way up for more hours. I have really great managers and one of them told me something that still sticks in my mind. “You’re not going to get more hours because you want them. You’re going to get them because you deserve them.” He was right. I was chosen to be the new deli opener when the previous one left. I took pride in the department and tried my best to excel even though it wasn’t my cup of tea.

So many things began to change though. My amazing manager over the deli/bakery moved to another store. I was sad, but happy for her and she was just like a ball of sunshine and I felt like I was a better person for knowing her. The turnover rate began to climb after she left and we were left short handed and stressed out. This led to drama and I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Then, our beloved full-time cook decided to leave. Rightfully so, I realize now.

Entrees from the Hot Bar

I was offered to take over his position. I went from 25ish hours a week to a full 40 in a week. Our new deli/bakery manager was an absolute hoot to work with. I had so much fun training with her to be a cook. I was having fun at work for the first time. Our other, and my most consistent cheerleader of a manager, helped me bring creativity to the position and so began my cooking.

The first few days I couldn’t believe it. I’m a cook. But, I kept thinking in my mind about Deadpool. Yes, I know…. If you’ve seen the second movie, you might remember at the beginning when Deadpool decides he’ll give the whole X-Men thing a try. They all show up ready to help at the scene and Deadpool is in a bright yellow jersey marked “X-Men in training.” Deadpool begins to explain to somebody that he’s an X-Men now. Negasonic Teenager shouts from behind him “IN TRAINING!!!” Every time I said something about being the cook I was just waiting for someone to shout “IN TRAINING!!!” But I wasn’t. I was the cook. Enabled and empowered by my managers to cook for the masses that come through our store each day.

As time went by I started to get compliments from customers. There were great comments from coworkers that worked in other parts of the store. Where there was once just a bunch of fried food on the hot bar, there was Taco Tuesday and Fish Fridays. I made soups and tortellini and with the help of my managers was able to provide different options to our sweet customers.

I hear things like, “We love what you’re doing. Keep up the good work.” People around town would see me in my work shirt and ask if I was in the deli. I would explain that I was the new cook and they would exclaim about how they had tried something or heard about Taco Tuesday. My heart was so full from feeling like I was actually able to provide unique foods. I was able to be creative with simple, cost effective ingredients.

Today I sit here, on a Wednesday knowing next Monday I move to the next stage in my goals for my career. I didn’t plan on only being a cook for my little small town grocery store for only two months before moving on. I just happened to get an email about a new restaurant opening in the next town over. The ad said it was for a prep cook position, no grease, no alcohol, 5 major holidays off. I looked over reviews and thought, Why not? As many unanswered applications and failed interviews I’ve had in the last two years I really didn’t think anything would come of it.

I received a call the very next day and went to interview. It was nearly four and the sun was sagging through vaulted ceiling height windows. People were cleaning and you could tell that they were still working on the finishing touches of the restaurant. I was greeted by a very sweet lady who conducted my interview and then was asked if I would like to go ahead and move to round 2. An interview with the owner of the franchise. I said yes.

Sat across from me was the owner and after hearing about this restaurant I was fan girling. Fresh food. No microwaves. No fryers. It’s not that I don’t love my current job, but I think that this food, even though it’s not vegan… Is closer aligned to my values of fresh food and food that feeds your body. There was also a beautiful, clean, brand new show kitchen. Gleaming stainless steel everywhere. A far cry from the neglected kitchen I was used to scrubbing furiously. I really didn’t think I had a chance so I mentioned as I left that even if I didn’t get the job I’d happily return to eat because I love what they’re going to be doing.

The Clean Vents Above the Fryer

The next day I received a voicemail from the sweet lady who did my first interview. I gave her a call back on break expecting bad news. I didn’t have enough experience. Blogging and writing recipes doesn’t qualify as education or study. I was fan girling too much and just silly talking about food. It’s just how I get when I get excited about food. But, no. I underestimated myself (as usual). She said, “We’d love to hire you.” I was speechless. I believe my exact words were, “I didn’t think I had a chance in hell.” (Oh yeah… Good old fashioned southern charm y’all.)

Italian Meatball Soup

So yes my friends. The next part of my cooking journey starts on Monday, November the 12th. I am becoming a prep cook. I am excited for this next step because I know that the experiences I learn here will lead me further to line cook, head cook, and possibly one day earning the title of Chef. Tears come to my eyes because I don’t think anyone can realize how truly special this is to me.

To go from dreaming of cooking for people by writing my recipes, to actually being a professional cook. To finding a dream that is truly attainable. I’m going from wandering aimlessly in the world, wondering where I belong and what my passion is… To having a dream and a goal. I always envied my little brother. He is a former Marine. I envied my husband who is in Law Enforcement. I wanted to do something special too. I wanted something I was known for and was respected for. I’ve been searching through the woods of uncertainty for so many years.

My husband often reminds me of Julia Child. Saint Julia who sparked my love of cooking as she has done so many others. She was 52 when she first started the French Chef and lead us into a frenzy of food television. It all started with Julia. It’s never too late he would remind.

Julia Child Quote about Cooking at 32

So this, my friends, is a rather long story. It is by no means the whole story. It’s not been as easy as this post implies. Drama is rampant and negative people are always prowling about trying to bring people down. But, if this year has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I am much stronger than I believe and that I truly am better. Not in an arrogant way, but with the confidence that I fight every day for my dream. I fight to be a better cook and to learn lessons that will take me so much further in life. Even if it’s how to clean the grease off the floor properly, or cleaning the vents above the fryers, equipment maintenance, and first in first out (food inventory management).

Instagram Picture from Thought of the Day

I am so thankful that as one chapter ends, another one begins for me. I am not sure how much I will be able to share about the new place. You can always follow me on instagram @workhardeatkind to see what I’m up to and my thoughts of the day. I can say that 30 has been a great year. As the end of year 30 of my life draws to it’s end, I actually look forward to 31. Even though it’s a terrible odd number. Does anyone else appreciate the eveness of numbers? I guess that just means 32 will be even better. How grateful am I to actually look forward to living after so many years of impatient despair for the constant continuation of life. How grateful am I for this journey to becoming a cook.

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