At the end of 2017 I spent a lot of time reflecting on the year I had and for the first time I set intentions for the year to come. Rather than using the popular "New Year, New Me" platform, I chose a few words that I could use as my guide and my anchor throughout 2018 to grow into a better version of myself. One of those words was "evolve." Nearly a year after setting that intention, I sit here basking in the the glow from the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm simultaneously surprised and not surprised at all to see how this word has manifested in my life throughout the year.
The biggest decision I made to contribute to my evolution in 2018 came after a lot of contemplation. Ever since stumbling upon the Natural Gourmet Institute on Instagram in 2016 I had romanticized the idea of studying there. NGI emphasizes plant-based cuisine, and offers a program founded on the concept of food as medicine, combining culinary technique with health supportive ingredients. In the world of accredited culinary education, NGI is a horse of a different color. One that by all accounts perfectly aligns with my own ethos.
For a long time it was no more than a fantasy to attend the asteemed school. The price seemed prohibitive and the time commitment seemed impossible given my full-time work schedule, and daily commute from South Brooklyn to the South Bronx. But the idea of making the kitchen a central part of my career wouldn't leave me. I periodically revisited their website, reading the words, "life changing program" over and over again. I went to an open house, I met with administrators, I took a public class, and I picked the brain of an alumni and new friend who had completed the program a few years before. It was the insight of the friend that finally sold me. The endorsement of loving her time there so much that she wished she could do it all over again made me start the application process.
Prior to all of this, my time in the kitchen had become my therapy. Whipping up new (and old) recipes got me through a second stint in college, a year long, full-time, unpaid internship to become a Registered Dietitian, difficult work days, stressful commutes, beatdowns by this ruthless city, and a few heartbreaks. Turning on the burners and pulling out the cutting board has never failed to turn my mood around. And it's all made even better when I get to share the experience with others.
In 2016 while I was flailing in a long-distance relationship and trying to reconcile the fact that my beloved pet Jason Cat was dying, I also reached burnout in my job at a nonprofit managing a food and nutrition program for low-income, HIV positive adults. I found myself locking the door to my office, ignoring knocks, and entering a self-preservation zone where I said no to almost everything after what felt like a lifetime of conceding to yes. This also lead me to cut back my hours to be on site just three days a week and allowed me to work for a food start-up called Umi Kitchen, while licking some of my wounds from home.
Umi gave me my first experience of getting paid to menu plan, procure ingredients, prepare the food, and actually make a little profit. It was essentially the Uber of home cooking. Neighbors could use the app to order home cooked dinners from their vetted neighborhood cooks. The start-up only lasted a year, and when they closed up shop I returned to the Bronx full-time, somewhat revived, but still unfulfilled. I spent my commutes home planning dinner in my head, and kept cooking for others, carving out time to do meal prep for friends, but always jonesing for more.
All of my feelings eventually culminated when I attended a Culinary Nutrition Conference at NYU in the summer of 2017. So many presenters and attendees were NGI alumni which rekindled my fantasy of signing up. The cooking demonstrations and all of the food centered presentations inspired me to think a lot more seriously about how I wanted to be spending my days versus how I actually was spending my days. The two weren't in alignment, and I started investigating ways to turn the fantasy into a reality.
Now as I write this, I'm halfway through the part-time program and couldn't be happier with everything I've done and learned so far. Making the decision to attend was ultimately the catalyst to so many other big changes that came along in 2018. Quitting my job of five years for one, but quite a few others as well. As someone who has a history of being relatively resistant to change, I can sit back in awe of myself and the power of that one little word that's guided me through 2018, while I start to create a vision for 2019.
Ending up at the starting line of a new blog seems ubiquitous with the life I'm trying to find some ground in. So, if you've read all the way to this point, in the oversaturated corner of the internet for food writers, entrepreneurs, and other folks skipping out on the traditional 9-5, THANK YOU! I plan to revisit this somewhat regularly as my journey unfolds and I look back, ahead, and around while slicing, and dicing my way through life. You can expect to find a lot of recipes, and insights from my background in nutrition peppered throughout my story.
I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Personal Chef in Brooklyn, New York. I grew up around the dinner table, and believe that food is intricately woven through all of our stories. It holds memories of our home, our childhoods, our beliefs; it comforts us, nourishes us, and creates a centerpiece to gather around.