I was a senior in high school and 17 years old. Family, friends, and teachers were pressuring me to go to college and get a degree. They made it seem glamorous, like regardless of the degree you get you’ll make great money and be successful. Looking back now, I must have been crazy to think the world was that simple. But I did. I thought why not go to Baking and Pastry school? I had loved baking from a young age, was always in the kitchen baking with my Nana and Mom, and I was pretty good at it. I thought, this must be my destiny. It was baking or horse back riding; which I already knew didn’t bring in much money. At 17 years old, those were the only two things I knew I loved.
I began my college journey at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI to pursue a four year degree in Food Service Management, focusing on Baking & Pastry Arts. My first year of college was pretty awesome. I liked it a lot yet felt like something was missing. But I was too naive to admit to myself this wasn’t for me. After my first year came to a closing my passion for the art grew fairly weak. With that acknowledgment, I felt completely defeated and done with school. I dreaded going back my second year.
My mother pushed me to finish my second year and earn my Associates degree – which I did. I hated every second of it, but I did it.
Throughout these two years I worked as a line cook at a country club and did an internship as a baker at a local diner. Working in food service was a love hate relationship to say the very least. I enjoyed cooking, but on my own terms. Having arrogant, demanding, and rude bosses breathing down my back every two seconds rubbed me the wrong way and rendered me sour towards the industry in very little time. By the end of my two year degree, I wanted out. I didn’t know what, where, or how but I knew this wasn’t for me. I decided to set my sails in a new direction and resort back to the only other thing I had ever loved, horse back riding. I set my sails to horse country – I set my sails West.
I had gotten the chance to spend the Summer of 2013 as a Wrangler in the Teton mountains in Moran, Wyoming – just 40 minutes north of Jackson. All my baking colleagues thought I was nuts, moreover my family thought I had really lost it. But me, I was so excited to get out of my small town where nothing ever changed. I wanted to get out there on my own and see the world. Being raised an only child, my family made sure to shelter me; but I never took to the whole sheltering thing. My family called me a rebel – I called myself curious. I was thirsty for more. I was unsure what that more entailed, I just knew somewhere out there there was more.
In those three months, riding in the Wyoming mountains, I really found myself. I met so many wonderful people and had too many amazing experiences to count. I had found a paradise all on my own. It took me 19 years to jump on a plane, by myself, fly across the country to a state where I knew virtually no one, and just figure things out- figure myself out. 19 years to finally stop living for other people and start living for me. In that short summer I learned more life lessons than I had learned in all my years of life combined. It was an unforgettable experience, that will truly be one of the best times of my life.
Coming back home that summer, I found myself feeling sour to the new industry I had set out to pursue – the horse world. Although, the experience was amazing, I could not picture myself picking up horse manure by the truck loads every day for the rest of my life. But living on my own for three months also proved to me, that I was smart and I had a way with people. It taught me to trust myself and my mind that the sky really could be the limit for me. I thought long and hard about what the heck my purpose was. The two things I knew I loved was clearly not meant to be my career – so what next?
I had always thought back to my classes in baking school. Playing with pounds of sugar, butter, cream, eggs, flour, shortening, and food dye everyday, quite frankly disgusted me. Sure, I loved making other people happy by making yummy treats, but I didn’t enjoy making them fat and unhealthy. My favorite class out of my whole two years of baking school was, How Baking Works. It was a class designed to study each major component to all baked goods: sugar, eggs, flour, and fat. We experimented with healthier options for each component and how those changes affected the final product. I loved it. I loved not fitting the mold and making unhealthy items a bit healthier, but still tasty. My teacher taught us about the dangers and health risks of popular ingredients in baked goods, like shortening and food dyes. I couldn’t get enough and wished my other courses had integrated some type of nutritional education into the curriculum, but they didn’t. Just more sugar, more fat, more ick.
When people ask me how the heck I went from pursuing baking and pastry to pursuing nutrition I tell them, I’ve seen the dark side, but I’ve chosen the brighter side. Regardless of the time it took to figure out what career I really wanted to pursue, the journey has been one no one can take from me. Having knowledge, training, expertise, and experience in all facets of food (including the bad stuff) has made me a more well-rounded aspiring chef. The foodie inside of me has always been there, but it’s fully awakened now. Finding passion has always been easy for me. But finding a lifelong passion I can incorporate into a career took some time – as it does for many others. My advice to anyone who feels as if there is more for them out there, there is. But your purpose won’t simply find you, you have to find it. When you find it you will know.