No one in my family ever saw this coming, even though my entire upbringing prepared me for this moment.
As I continue to pursue an unexpected culinary career, I come closer and closer to understanding, and deeply appreciating, My Father.
The concept of A Delicate Conviction, as both a blog and a way of being, is ever changing and open-ended. My first blog post is a dedication to My Father, a man who showed me what it means to craft a life of love and beauty, but also of strength and sacrifice. My upbringing was most definitely full of conviction, but there was also an openness that defined my relationship with my Father. My Sister and I faced greater consequences for the improper use of cutlery than we did for breaking curfew.
My Father makes beautiful pieces of art work for a living, from woodwork to culinary, his expression are timeless. A Delicate Conviction is a promise from Daughter to Father , to commit to craft and continue creating.
I’m willing to publicly admit that being raised by a professional Chef as a father wasn’t always easy. My Father’s obsession with detail often caused friction for my free-spirited, and often careless, childhood ways. But now, these difficult lessons have become the most important tools I have adapted for my career. Thanks, Pai.
[Portuguese Lesson: Pai (Portuguese) = Father (English)]
The culinary lessons I have inherited from My Father have very little to do with technique; instead, and arguably more importantly, it is the specific way of being he instilled in me that continues to guide me through my every day.
Three Lessons Lived and Learned: Philosophies for Culinary Success
1. Assume Nothing
Even if you know, act like you don’t. No plate is done until Chef says Go.
When I first started out, My Father advised me to assume no knowledge, even if I knew. I can still hear his voice, “let them show you how they want it.” As I moved about in the industry, from coffee shops, to salad bars, to patisseries, and finally, to luxury resorts, I’ve kept this key piece of advice at the forefront. My ignorance is my greatest strength. I am being filled because of the space I create. In the kitchen, and in life, I allow space for every new teacher to pass on their own techniques and ‘whispered words of wisdom’.
In the culinary craft, there are literally endless possibilities and techniques to use- from chopping an onion, to shaping sourdough, to the fine skill of folding egg whites into chocolate- or is it chocolate into whites? Pai.. Are you there? I think it split 🙁
When we hold on to knowledge, or assume positions of certitude, we miss opportunities for growth and stunt creative expressions. So before the start of every day, I make sure to check myself at the door, I grab my sharpie, and I leave my jacket hanging with my ego on the hook.
2. Pay Attention
Fully give yourself, to the task at hand. Cut no corners, make no excuse, skip no shelf.
When I was about 12 years old, My Father asked me to dust the baseboards and shelves in his study, the study more commonly known as The Library. I did so, grudgingly. I loved being in The Library, it felt like time-travel, being surrounded by antique bookshelves, old-school oil lamps and hard-cover classic literature; dusting however, was something my childhood-self never took a liking to.
About an hour after I completed the task, My Father called me back into the study. I found him cloth and pledge in hand. He showed me all the places I missed, I re-dusted, frustrated and baffled at his love for baseboards and his need for perfection. About a decade and half later, I hold this memory in my heart and understand it in a very new light.
Pai, as I lovingly call him and know him, is a man of detail and attention. I am learning, through culinary and through My Father’s character, how to be in tune with all my sense. Infamous for being the messy one in the family, especially with food, I have had to seriously alter my habits working in professional kitchens. Growing up, My Father would often call me out on my carelessness, I brushed him off, dismissing him as a perfectionist.
But now, I get. No, I really get it.
All day long I am on hyper-alert mode. I am listening for the sizzle of my onions on the stovetop, smelling for the sweetness of cookies in the oven, feeling for moisture and the texture in sourdough, and tasting for the balance in vinaigrette. I am noticing and responding to the movements of my Chef as we plate dinner. I am present to the body of my knife as it gently presses against my knuckles while I chop rosemary.
Life in the kitchen has woken up my senses in a way that no other activity has. I’m learning that culinary as an art form is not necessarily about perfection, it’s about passion, it’s about love.
3.Give Everything You’ve Got, Then Give Some More
“Push-Push Mini Put” – Says Sous Chef Ashley, to Exhausted Laura
My Mother gently discouraged My Sister and I from joining the culinary industry. Mom knew what we would be in for. As I write this, My Sister is working a 14hr catering on what’s supposed to be her weekend, and I’m on break from a split shift of 13 hours. It was inevitable Ma, sorry.
#kitchenlife is so commonly used to describe the exhaustion, the ridiculous hours, the body pain, the literal blood, sweat and tears that anyone who loves this craft will endure. Watching My Father pour his soul into his art work inspires me to do the same. My Father and I, we don’t take the easy road. We accept the sacrifice of pursuing our dream.
My Father taught me to own up and show up, to even the smallest and seemingly unimportant tasks, like dusting baseboards. And when it comes to cooking, he puts all of himself into every dish, like any artist, his product is an extension of himself.
– Fernando Pessoa
What has your family taught you? Happy Father’s Day to all our friends and family, from Marmora Inn to yours.