The Next Chapter – Austin Healthy Chef

Greetings!

It’s been one year since I embarked on the journey to culinary school, and six months since I graduated and created my new identity – Austin Healthy Chef.

I’ve been working as a personal chef, making healthful and whole foods meals. I’ve also taught some classes privately in homes, for groups privately, and even some classes at my alma mater, The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts. I’ve worked with some terrific chefs in various temporary arrangements, competed in a couple of cooking competitions, and learned a lot of lessons during all of it. It has been one of the most rewarding years of my life. 

Despite making the riskiest financial decision of my life, I’ve managed to get off on a very solid foot. And though the past year has been a financial risk, it was a slam dunk no-brainer for my spirit. I’m far happier, more motivated, and more inspired than ever.

2013 will be another year of growth for me as I take my business from seat-of-the-pants success to engineered prosperity. Marketing will be a key activity for me this year. 

Toward that end, I have created AustinHealthyChef.com, and a Facebook page to match. As part of my effort to promote myself in a focused way, the energy I’ve put into this blog will mostly be directed elsewhere. I will be posting updates about myself, food, and nutrition at these places. Please “like” my Facebook page and subscribe to the WordPress blog at AustinHealthyChef.com

Thanks for your ongoing support!

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Healthy Cooking Class

I conducted a cooking class for some friends last week – my first class ever. I was very excited and had a great time. We cooked a quinoa salad and Thai spring rolls with a peanut sauce and I showed them some steel cut oats, as well. I also brought some raw almond-flax muffins with a lemon-blackberry icing.

This is something I would never have done had I not started culinary school, so it was kind of a milestone in my career journey. I really had a lot of fun and felt fairly comfortable. I wish I could have had my ingredients a bit more prepared, but otherwise it went very well and everyone seemed to learn and enjoy the presentation.

Below: Making spring rolls with lots of greens, herbs, and vegetables. Here I am dipping a rice paper wrapper in hot water to soften it for the rolling process.

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Career Planning Lecture – March 30

The school invited a few local food professionals to come talk to us last Friday and I just love these talks because they give me a chance to hear about what like is like in the “real world” (a world I will quickly become part of). For someone like me, who is looking to change careers totally, this information is really vital. The school leaders chose a good group of people – Sylvia Heisey, owner of Austin raw food restaurant Beets, Kara Kroeger, a nutritionist/personal chef, and Rebecca Saltsman, volunteer director for the Sustainable Food Center in Austin.

Sylvia Heisey

Sylvia, the owner of Beets Cafe, gave us a realistic picture of what it’s like to open a restaurant – draining your savings, cost overruns, time crunches, waiting three years to achieve a monthly break even cash flow, not paying yourself, etc. It truly sounds like it is a labor love for Sylvia, who has a passion for raw food. She also wants to do food HER way, so she’s had to stay focused and committed to her vision. Sylvia take the business side of restaurant operations very seriously, which is probably why she is still in business and will likely achieve whatever goals she establishes. (See my blog post on Beets from December 2011.)

Kara Kroeger

Kara Kroeger, a certified nutritionist and a personal chef, was a real inspiration. At each step in her career journey, she really followed her heart and pursued her goals. And each step seemed to carry her closer to where she is today, which is a busy professional who seems to be truly helping improve the lives of others, which pretty much describes the goals of at least half of the class at The Natural Epicurean. I found myself feeling kind of jealous of Kara, who is my age but who has really followed her own heart her entire life and who is a really self-directed person with boatloads of confidence and knowledge.

Below: Kara Kroeger
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Kara, who like me decided not to pursue a degree in dietetics because of her feelings about the inadequacy of Western medicine, shared a number of helpful suggestions for us that she learned during her journey:

  • Trust that you are in the right place at the right time
  • Listen to your intuition
  • Try as many things as possible
  • People are disenchanted with the healthcare system (I’m not the only one!)
  • If you want to learn something, teach it
  • Collaborate with others in your professional work
  • Connect with as many people as you can
  • Show an interest in people

Rebecca Saltsman

Rebecca Saltsman shared information with us about the mission and programs of the Sustainable Food Center, an Austin non-profit built to (1) develop more local agriculture (2) bring that agriculture to people and (3) show people how to use local, nutritious foods in their cooking. The Sustainable Food Center runs four farmer’s markets in Austin.

Weekend Reflection

It has been an eventful week. Five days of classes, lots of reading about cooking and food, a Thai cooking class, getting to know my classmates more, figuring out the logistics of the classroom, learning the various roles in the cooking labs, and getting my daily routine set. I’ve also had some successes and um, learning experiences in my home kitchen. For example, I tried replicating a braised squash recipe from class and it was a disappointment. The next day, I used The Flavor Bible to assemble a new favorite salad combination (orange, walnut, raisin, and thyme tossed with light greens).

Much of this week, I have reflected on my future. Some of my classmates have very clear intentions upon graduating. Others have not determined their goals yet. My intentions are likewise not yet well defined. I am looking forward to gaining mastery of the cooking methods and developing my creative skills. I want to use my knowledge to help others lead more healthful lives. There is much time to further refine my goals, but the sooner I flesh that out, the better. Time feels short and I find myself reminding myself to remain centered and be patient and focused on my short-term goals. In addition to more reflection time, I wish there was more time in the day to try all of the recipes and techniques I’ve seen in the past week.

One more thing I will have to make more time for: exercise. I’ve eaten some excellent food this week and too much of it. 🙂

 

Career Change: How Did I Get Here?

Today is February 16th, 2012, and tomorow I will begin a natural/vegetarian/healing foods culinary program at The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts, here in Austin, TX. I find myself on the doorstep of leaving my 10-year career in human resources, reflecting on how I arrived at this amazing turning point in my life…

Early Signs

As a child, I loved to watch cooking shows on public TV. The sounds, the physicality, and the vitality were very attractive. Chefs were always very excited about their work and the pleasure it could bring them and their guests.

My mom got me my first cookbook when I was fairly young. It had a plastic set of measuring spoons which I still use today. I had some cooking successes, and many failures.

Below: These spoons have been used in my kitchens for the past 20 years or so.

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The Green Onion on Career Change

I saw a green onion growing in the middle of my backyard and I’m not sure how it got there. It made me think – why is it there? How did it get there? Doesn’t it know that the garden is 7 feet away? We didn’t even plant green onions anyway.

But when I thought more, I realized:

  • The green onion does not ask “do I have a right to use this sunlight and water?”
  • The green onion does not ask “can I take this space to grow in?”
  • The green onion, when it germinates, does not ask if it has the right to become a green onion.
  • The green onion does not fret about being accidentally mowed over or stepped on.

The green onion simply grows where it’s planted or where it’s seed happens to fall. It understands that the universe provides abundance and that it’s only job as a green onion is to accept what’s provided. Why do we question our deepest desires? Why do we get confused and hesitate to follow them? The green onion says:

  • Go for it!
  • Realize there is plenty of room for your desires in this world
  • No matter where you are, you can start moving toward your greatest purpose
  • Take care of yourself first, then you will have the reserves to help others

Then, I cut off part of it, sliced it up, and put it into a salad. And it was delicious.

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Quote of the Day (Seeking Change)

“The well known opera singer Beverly Sills wears a piece of jewelry with the initials IDTA engraved on it. When she is asked about anything she is doing that represents change, such as leaving the opera stage in favor of producing, she shows her detractors the inscription, which translates to “I Did That Already.” For a highly functioning person, having done something already is enough of a reason to move on. … This kind of willingness to tolerate and even welcome change will assure you of having a renewed sense of purpose almost every day of your life.”

From “The Sky’s the Limit” by Wayne Dyer

Decisiveness about Career Change

I’ve struggled with decisiveness in my life. As a Perceiver (Myers-Briggs/Kiersey type), I can see the pros of multiple points of view and am hesistant to commit to any course of action. I can also see cons very easily. And the more important the decision, the more I analyze and struggle. My career choices have been no exception.

A book I read recently that helped me a great deal is called Overcoming Indecisiveness. The biggest nugget I took away from this book is that very few options in a situation are truly bad. And the decision itself is NOT the most important part of the process.

Stop for just a second. Do you see how radical that idea is? The decision itself is NOT the most important part of the process? What path you choose is not the key? This really conflicts with what you might hear on a daily basis. We’re taught to analyze, break it down, get focus groups together, pray, meditate…all of this, and the decision itself is not the most important factor?

As it turns out, according to Rubin, the key element in a decision is how you support the decision. What truly matters is what work you do and what planning you do to make sure that decision becomes the right one.

This is an amazing concept. YOU have the power to make the decision be right by supporting it. The idea is very powering to someone who fears making a wrong move. Don’t worry about the choice – focus on supporting the choice you make and get excited about where it will take you.

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Diet Is Correct

The source of this blog’s title is from an Ayurvedic saying:

When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.

This quote has significance for me for a couple of reasons. Chief among them is that I believe food is by far the main cause of health issues in the US. Diet has a powerful ability to heal, connect, and inspire.

The second reason I find this quote meaningful is because when I asked myself in what direction I wanted to take my new career, focusing on food and wellness was the answer – diet is correct.

Secrets of the Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer

I’ve been reading and meditating on the topic of success and having power over one’s life. As part of this exploration, I listened to the audiobook, Secrets of The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer.

English: This is a photograph I personally too...

Wayne Dyer - Image via Wikipedia

Wayne Dyer is a motivational philosopher who writes and speaks as a way to help people realize the vast power they have in their lives. He seeks to help people achieve peace and abundance.

I am starting to understand and believe in the idea of connections among all beings and things in the universe, and Dyer’s messages really resonate with me, especially at the stage I’m currently in as a career/life changer.

Here are a few bullet takeaways from the audiobook that I found meaningful:

  • We are connected to everything via energy. The way to get something is by first realizing that you are already connected to everything, including all of the things you desire. He refers to this central connection as The Source.
  • Say to yourself – I want to feel good. God wants you to feel good. Dyer equates God with Good, and also with The Source – the creative source of all things.
  • Serving others has been scientifically shown to benefit you just as much as being served. Receiving kindness is no more beneficial than doing kindness.
  • Everything that you want is already part of you.
  • When you are really connected with The Source, everything conspires to bring you where you need to go.
  • When you are feeling disconnected, resistant, and out of sorts – you can just envision yourself being carried by The Source. It brings people and things and opportunity into your life. Just plug into The Source and realize that it will bring what you need. This is not the same thing as saying you can sit back and wait for good things to happen, however.
  • People who are connected the The Source feel that they MUST be anything they can be. If you have the potential, you feel compelled to realize it when you are connected with Source energy.
  • There are no accidents. This is one of the things you believe when connected with the source. Everything that happens is supposed to happen.This sounds fatalistic and if you aren’t fully plugged in, you might think that it means you should passively wait for things to happen. But to me, it is VERY empowering because it means that there are signals about what is coming my way. It means that when I see a signal, I am empowered to push even harder to follow through on that signal because it’s what the universe wants for me.
  • People connected to Source energy never say no to the universe. They always receive things that come to them – good or bad – with gratitude and an attitude of “how can I learn from this”?
  • It’s known in quantum physics that the act of observing quantum particles changes their nature. He hypothesizes that the attitude we bring to the events that happen to us and the circumstances presented before us, actually change them.
  • Max Planck said he’s studied atoms and matter and that there is no matter as such, just energy. This aligns with Dyer’s views.
  • The ego. Because we are connected to everything, the ego is anything that makes you think you’re separate from The Source. When you see yourself as a function of what you own or of how people see you, that is ego. It makes you forget that you are connected to everything.
  • Imagine yourself surrounded by the conditions and results that you intend to create. Happiness, success, whatever you want for yourself – envision that you already have it.
  • Instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your life, focus on what you want to achieve. It’s not the same thing as saying “my life is great and I’m so happy” when it’s not. It IS saying that you can focus on the things you desire. One thing I have been thinking about is “I am looking forward to creating a new career for myself.” Another mantra is “All things lead to my success.”

What do you think? How do Dyer’s thoughts align with your own beliefs and values? Do his ideas excite you as much as they do me?