What a coincidence that the movie, Julie & Julia premiered the same month I started culinary school! I didn’t even know the movie had been made until I was invited to a special screening for it early this month.
The movie’s tag line is so ME right now on so many levels, “Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What it Takes?”. Here’s why… As you know, my passion and big source of happiness is from food and entertaining friends and family. I am an aspiring cookbook writer, executive chef, and Food Network contributor. Butter… butter was not part of my vocabulary until I started culinary school, 5 pounds less ago. And, I have what it takes. I’ve got the chops to prove it… and my chops are tasting even better with the help of the Le Cordon Bleu program.
I can just imagine the many parallels in my life, Julie’s and Julia’s lives. I, too, am looking for joy in my life through cooking. I am hoping that my career in culinary will make me an independent woman- emotionally, mentally, and financially. I really want to feel a sense of fulfillment and empowerment, and I think I can get it through my culinary career. I have felt a glimmer of it already, and I like it. My life has already improved.
For those of you who know me, you know I’ve been on a long journey to find happiness in a career. I’ve had many careers (too many) that I’ve had little to no passion for. I was once an accountant, an accounting/finance recruiter, a real estate agent, an extra in movies and television, and concurrently with culinary school, I’m an executive administrator that handles HR, billing and invoicing, recruiting, insurance- you name it. You wouldn’t believe that in the past year, I became a certified residential care facility for the elderly administrator, and I also almost became an early childhood development teacher. For the past 10 years of my life, I’ve been on a quest to find a career that’s respectable and that would make me a lot of money. I should have added happiness to the equation long ago.
Fortunately, I work for Peyman. He is somewhat flexible with my schedule and with my work location, so for a few months now, I have been working from home. While at work/home, after the presidential election, I would switch the Food Network on almost 24/7, and I’d experiment with recipes. I soon started preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for Peyman everyday. Soon, my life was becoming very food-based and I was gaining happiness from it. While working for Peyman, I decided to pursue a different career in education/child care. After getting CPR certified to become a preschool teacher, I realized that I didn’t want to wipe boogers or change diapers of my little students – I wouldn’t be happy. I realized that I had to pursue a career in something I loved; something dealing with food. Golly, I deal with food everyday, I’ve always enjoyed learning new recipes and making people happy with my creations, so a career in culinary, I thought, would suit me perfectly. That was when I contacted the California School of Culinary Arts – Le Cordon Bleu. It was the best call I made in a long time… I have been pleased with the decision ever since and hope this is the last change in career for me.
As the youngest of six daughters, I’ve always wanted to please my parents the same way my older sisters did, as students and professionals in medicine, law, and business. That’s the reason I went into accounting in the first place. To my parents, it was a respectable profession. Cooking, not so much… so I thought.
In retrospect, I think my dad was trying to give me a hint about what I’d end up doing career-wise. My father passed away in 2001, while I was in college. At my oldest sister’s medical school graduation party, 2 years before his death, he delivered a speech, of course, mentioning his children. He was so proud of us (well most of us, I always thought). I will never forget what he said about me… “And my daughter, Yvonne…the youngest. Yvonne is in her 2nd year at UC Santa Cruz. She has not decided on a career yet, but decided to major in business. She mentioned that she wants to be a business woman, but I’ve always thought she’d make a good chef or a supermodel.” Comments such as those would easily hurt me because I was under the impression that my parents raised us, hoping we’d be doctors, lawyers, or engineers…something great. I always took his comments as insults. I guess I wanted to be like my sisters more than I thought. Looking back, I see some truth in what he had to say – now I see that he WASN’T trying to hurt me with his comments. He was right. My father knew best.
If only I had experienced food the same way I do today, and also if we had the Food Network back then, I’d pursued this career earlier on. Giada De Laurentiis, Batali, Morimoto, and all the other Food Network chefs make the culinary arts very respectable and a bit glamorous. I consider chefs to be great people. It’s an awesome profession.
As I try to recollect whatever my dad would tell me, the more I realized he loved me and supported my happiness. My dad didn’t randomly say I would make a good chef or supermodel. Here is some background. First off, I wasn’t the best math or science student growing up. As a teenager, after school, if I wasn’t at cheerleading practice, at a student body leadership function, or performing in a talent show, I’d be in my parent’s kitchen.
In my very early years of life, I noticed my dad’s incessant complaints of my mom’s food- he’d complain of her lack of seasoning. My mother grew up in a provincial town in the Philippines where fresh fish and seafood was readily available. The food was so fresh that very little salt and pepper was needed to complete a dish- just add a tomato, onions, garlic, and it was done. My father, a city boy, from Pasay City, Philippines, grew up poor, eating flavorful pork, beef, and who-knows-what dishes. Now that I think of it, the food he ate was probably so flavorful to mask the rotting flavor of the meat. On weekends as a youngin’, I’d tag along with my dad to work (he owned a real estate company in San Diego). During these times, my dad would take me out to eat and we’d order the same food. I developed a similar palatte to his because of this.
In high school, I learned my mom’s staple dishes, started whipping up some recipes from the Good Houskeeping Cookbook, and after a while, I took over making dinner or just seasoning my mom’s dishes for her. I considered myself to be my dad’s personal chef. Since I knew I couldn’t please my dad with my grades in math and science, I tried to please my dad’s palatte. I always wanted approval from him, and in cooking I’d get his nod of approval.
Now quickly, why did my dad mention I might be a model? When I was a teenager, my sister, Riva, would send pictures of me to modeling agencies and to model searches, mostly without my knowledge or consent. Mind you, in high school I was thin and 5’6″ tall. For an Asian, 5’6″ is considered tall. She thought I’d make a good model, haha. As a result of Riva’s efforts, my parents received phone calls for interviews at modeling agencies. We went to an interview once but they wanted my parents to pay for modeling lessons like catwalk struts and makeup application. My parents thought all agencies were gimmicks and not legit, especially if there was an initial fee. There was a model search where I was told I was sponsored by either Sprite or Squirt. I was supposedly a “finalist”. In order to attend the finals, I had to leave town during my final exams. My parents were for education, so end of story.
Back to my culinary story, like Julie and Julia of Julie & Julia, I hope my career in the culinary field will be fulfilling and everlasting. As I mentioned, I want to write a few cookbooks, be a chef at a high-end restaurant (like Lucques in Los Angeles), and maybe someday I can be a Food Network chef. I think I’m a few steps closer since I kicked butt in my first class. I think my dad would have been proud. Although he is no longer physically here, I still feel very connected to him, and that his spirit and energy is still very much alive in me. Cheers to you Dad. I will always love you.
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