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What Have I Been Up To?

Updated: Feb 9, 2020

I started this blog in 2012, with the encouragement of my best friend at the time Jason. We went on to do the blog until 2014, when I decided to pursue culinary school at the local college program at East Central College.

When I decided to join the culinary program, I had a plan in mind: I had just graduated with my Photography Degree from Academy of Art University... 5 long, grueling years of that online. I was going to use my photography degree, gain a culinary degree, and work on food photography/styling for websites/books/whatever, such as... my Food Blog! In the pictures below, you'll find that I *DID* in fact take all of the food photos! In fact, I made all of the food featured in the images, too!

Anyway, I thought it'd be smart to actually work in a kitchen so I worked as a dishwasher for nearly 2 years while I attended school! One night I heard that they were going to do what they referred to as a "Knife Fight" where everyone gets together after work and they compete in a chopped-style basket competition... I was fearful, as I had never been part of any sort of competition for fear of failing, but I pushed myself to do it. Just as I pushed myself later to compete in the culinary competitions at school. At any rate, I remember being given *spam* as one of the items, and we were allowed to use 'anything we wanted from the kitchen within reason'. As the dishwasher, they knew I was attending the Culinary Program, but I was fortunate and grateful that they allowed me to play. I made an asian pork tenderloin dish with a fried egg and slaw (my egg was slightly undercooked on top, and I've since mastered making eggs), and a fish stew that everyone loved! My first real attempt at cooking without a recipe, on the fly, timed, and I had a ton of fun really seeing how important it is to time things out right when cooking.

The ECC program was amazing! I learned -so- much. I even refined what I knew just from doing the blog and watching cooking shows. I really pushed myself to discover, create, and experience everything I possibly could while with the culinary program. I pushed myself to join the Culinary competition team and competed three times, getting bronze medals each time after cooking recipes that I had come up with and practiced for weeks. I created the social image for the ECC Culinary Club and eventually became a member of the board that helps shape the program! I volunteered for opportunities in the St Louis area for famous chefs such as Ben Grupe (second image) who is opening his own restaurant in St Louis soon! In the program, we were paired up with a 'mentoree' and ever since, I've been able to work side by side on occasion with Becca. It has been a fabulous thing.

After I graduated, I landed an amazing job opportunity at Farm To You Market in Washington working for the Geiserts, a local farming family that raises 'happy pigs'. I became the Culinary Manager very quickly, and I absolutely loved my job. We sold only local or hand-made products within a 200 mile radius. I got to meet so many people--so many small businesses and their amazing products that I try to continue to support to this day. I crafted menus that paired with local libations made into cocktails I created. I started with a deli and a kitchen that was never used, and turned it into a full-scale restaurant before we unfortunately closed in August of 2018. Though it was only 2 years, I was able to experience SO MUCH through the Geiserts - something they promised me when I interviewed for the deli position to begin with. The sky was the limit, they told me. While there, I supported the ECC Culinary Program with a "Omelet off" with my Chef Mentor from the program, had my recipe published in a local foodie magazine in St Louis, had television and newspaper crews come down on multiple occasions to record my cooking and art. .. The best time of my life. I created foods from fresh market items that I was able to sell retail to the customers. People loved my food! Everything was made from scratch, from my amazing Pastrami-Rub Corned Beef for my Reuben, to the russian dressing I served with it.

After FTYM, I heard tale of the old Elijah McLean's mansion opening up a restaurant and bar again. I met the Head Chef Alex at the Market, and he reached out to me through email to get me on board. Together, we explored the world of Tapas under a fabulous master sommelier-Jolene- with the intention of making food that paired well with what she was serving out of the bar. The food was top notch, and flavor was key. My specialty. I was able to bring in Geisert pork belly for one of the dishes, as well as bacon for a Scallop dish I came up with. I was also able to support the ECC program once again by offering a place in the kitchen for first year students to come work. I became the Chef de Partie of Catering after our menu was complete. We eventually extended into breakfast on Sundays, as well. They closed their kitchen July 2019. Whirlwind experience where plating, flavor, and making things 'beautiful' was extremely important.

These days, I work at a local bar and restaurant that offers 'elevated bar food' as we like to say. The team is amazing, and while I don't get to make everything from scratch like I prefer, I have fun working my shift and that's really all I can ask for.

#whatsfordinner #cookingwithbai #learningtocook #recipeblog #recipes #chef #cheflife #food #freshproduce #beautifulplates #makingfoodlookgood #lovinglife #beingpassionate #theblueduck #farmtoyoumarket #elijahmcleans

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