I was a pretty average, happy-go-lucky California girl who grew up in Walnut Creek, surrounded by family and friends. I flew south to attend Claremont McKenna College and dual-majored in Econ/Accounting and Spanish literature. Upon graduation, I took a job as a public accountant with Deloitte, and I spent a few years counting beans for them. (Well, okay I didn’t exactly count beans, but this one time I did literally count coins for a collector.)
It was a pretty great life…stable job, my first apartment, amazing restaurants, fun friends close by…
…Except for the Food Thing…
For all of my life, I’ve been obsessed with food. I chose Julia Child and Yan Can Cook over Saturday morning cartoons. I picked my mom’s cookbooks and issues of Gourmet over novels and gossip magazines. My idea of a good Friday night was baking cupcakes with my best friends. When I gave the valedictorian speech at my high school graduation, I channeled what I knew and compared life to an artichoke.
Every single happy memory in my life is associated with food in some way. Seriously–after school snacking with my grandma, farmer’s market trips with Mom, fancy dinners with Dad, shopping and lunch dates with my sister, baking with friends, holiday dinners, birthday parties, career milestones, the list goes on…When people ask about the day I married Michael, one of the first things I mention is the wedding menu (family-style Spanish tapas, a pig roast with all the fixings, white & red sangria, Irish coffee bar & pistachio cake.) Because I know you wanted to know, too
I have a weird knack for recalling food details. I can’t seem to remember anything important , but I can tell you exactly what I ate for my birthday three years ago. And if you were there, I can tell you what you ate too. And to me, those are the important things to remember anyway.
Culinary school would’ve been a no-brainer, but it took a few years of working in the corporate world to realize what I didn’t want to spend my life doing.
…So into the Frying Pan I Went…
I became a completely atypical, happy-go-lucky Southern gal! I moved to Kentucky to follow the two loves of my life (Michael and food) and graduated from culinary school in May 2008, trading my high heels for Dansko chef clogs. (I know they’re ugly, but they are just SO comfy.)
Life since I started culinary school has been a whirlwind…
I got my feet wet as the assistant pastry chef at Idle Hour Country Club, cooked on the famous Kentucky Derby train, and served athletes at both the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing and the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver.
I also spent several years working in the kitchen at the Holly Hill Inn, where I worked under the brilliant Ouita Michel, who I am honored to call my close friend and greatest mentor. My time there completely changed the way I cook and view food. I love it there so much that Michael and I were married on their front porch in 2010. I also baked and delivered sweets for Wine+Market and became an investor in Table 310, opened by the same owners. I’ve also been known to cater events and teach cooking classes (recent triumphs include getting an 11 year-old to eat Brussels sprouts!)
…And Wound Up on Your TV!
Despite all the glorious fun I was having working nights, weekends, and holidays, I had a hankering for something different. A few years ago, I entered my first food competition and my eyes were opened to a whole other world of cooking enthusiasts and culinary opportunities. I finished as runner-up in the Sutter Home Build-A-Better Burger contest and then went on to win the $50,000 grand prize at the National Chicken Cooking Contest.
But nothing can compare to the thrill of competing on national television. When I was chosen to compete on the Ultimate Recipe Showdown, I just about lost my mind. The show taped at Food Network’s studios in Chelsea Market, and the first time I walked through those glass doors, past the waterfall at 9th Ave Espresso, and beside all the food shops and vendors, I was hooked. I remember thinking to myself (and simultaneously willing to myself), “wouldn’t it be incredible to walk through here each day to go to work?”
I didn’t win that day (it was a rather memorable loss to a 76 year-old, legally blind, retired plastic surgeon-love ya, Harold!), but I did score a meeting with some of the Food Network programming execs who thought that my enthusiasm for food could be harnessed into something productive down the road…
And now, you can catch me on national TV, hosting “From the Kitchens Of…” and contributing for “Unique Sweets”, both on Cooking Channel! When I’m not traveling for work, you central Kentuckians can watch me on The Kentucky Proud Kitchen on the local Fox affiliate.
“From the Kitchens Of…” tapes at the Food Network’s Studio B in Chelsea Market. Each and every time I walk through it to hop on the elevators to our set, I can’t help but dream about what the next big thing on my plate will be.