It was a hot summer night in 1992 when I found the first ingredient for my passion.
I was eight and awake much later than I should have been. I crept into the living room and turned the heavy plastic knob on the TV to Channel 12. As the screen flashed on, I was greeted by the image of six headless and obviously deceased chickens, sitting right-side-up in a row on a gigantic cutting board, while classical concertos played in the background.
The camera panned upright to a tall, curly-haired figure standing behind the spectacle. That’s when I saw her for the very first time.
“Hello, my name is Julia Child, and this is ‘The French Chef,’” she said in a deep, hoarse voice.
At first, my young mind couldn’t process what exactly I was seeing. Why was she happily bludgeoning that poor chicken with a large mallet? I was beyond frightened.
And yet, I couldn’t stop watching. I was entranced by the macabre spectacle that was in front of me. There was something beautiful in the way she created dishes, each component meticulously and carefully prepared until it came together like a beautiful symphony.
She was a culinary conductor, and I was along for the ride.
From that moment on, I was hooked. I routinely broke bedtime curfew to watch the queen of culinary debauchery.
I ransacked my local library for any cookbook I could get my hands on, and I’d mow lawns and walk dogs just to scrounge enough money to buy cooking supplies. My free time was spent experimenting with different ingredients and cooking styles, often at the expense of my kitchen’s well-being.
The first meal I ever prepared was chicken marsala with scalloped potatoes and roasted vegetables, and I’ll be the first to admit it was slimy and vaguely recognizable. Each failure only made me grow hungrier, quite literally, as I attempted to perfect my craft through endless attempts and research.
What truly amazes me about cooking is it provides a glimpse inside a cook’s soul and personality. Recipes, cookbooks and Julia Child merely provide a strong foundation for cooks to interpret and improve upon. It’s innovation and creativity that separates a great chef from all of the rest, and it’s what drove me to pursue a career as a food writer.
For as long as I can remember, writing has always been a passion of mine. I always wanted to go to school for journalism but a family tragedy made me rethink my career goals and pursue culinary arts instead, as I was already cooking professionally at the time.
I chose to enter food writing because I feel that too many writers gloss over the ugly and disastrous side of cooking in favor of glamour and success. Everyone loves a success story, but unless you are some kind of prodigy, that success only came from the numerous failures and experimentation before it.
Julia Child was instrumental in my culinary passion because her show centered around her relationship with the food. In an age where cooking programs focus on the chef and their personality, Child placed the dish front and foremost.
It’s this emphasis on the food before all else, with the realization that cooking isn’t always pretty, that captivated me that night in 1992, and it’s what still amazes me every time I go to sit down and write.
Cooking isn’t always glamorous, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.