Back Woods to Big City to Back Home
How did I become a food blogger? Well, not by intention. I’m a small-town girl who grew up in a logging town, with a timber-faller-father and a stay-at-home mom (who raised pretty Arabian horses for show, and was my chauffer). I was a ballet dancer and stage performer, a creative, who loved to draw and write poetry, listen to Broadway music and dream of doing fancy things someday. All the while, I was growing up, on a horse ranch out in the country, where the highlight of the year was going to the county fair and hanging out in the horse barns, and ordering churros and chow-mein from the food vendors along the midway.
Dream a Little Dream
Yet, my dreams were still cutting edge. Long before there would be a Starbucks on every corner, or Food Network was ever a thing on TV, I dreamed of owning a little cafe that served custom-blended coffees, fabulous-flavorful teas, mouth-watering deli sandwiches and fresh-baked goods. I was inspired by a little shop, back in the corner of a local strip-mall, called Serendipity, where my mom and I would go browse a wall of flavorful coffee beans and purchase them ground fresh to order (hazelnut was my favorite). It was there that the idea of experiencing and enjoying yummy, and maybe even a bit exotic, flavors was planted.
Then I flew the coop and went away to college. I was off to the big city, to pursue a bachelors degree in science, not exactly the artistic venture I would have assumed. Nevertheless, I got my confidence in that big state capital town; but after the city lights faded and I got tired of being around impatient people and being stuck in traffic, I moved back to my little hometown, which was now bigger than when I left.
Under the Stars
My first job back in town had me doing marketing for a locally owned pharmacy, and I scored tickets to a fundraiser we were sponsoring for our local women’s shelter. Out under the twinkling lights, by the newly constructed Sundial Bridge, it was a lovely evening in October at The Cornucopia ~ Flavors of Fall event, featuring wine tastings and foods prepared by local chefs.
One chef was even kind of famous. I didn’t know him, but I knew of him. My parents were my date, and I remember nudging my mom, saying, “Hey, there’s Chef Cal”. He owned the premier fine-dining restaurant in town; the place where birthdays, first dates, anniversaries and celebrations happened. He was a real chef, with a real chef’s hat, and awards, certifications and accolades to prove it.
And that was my first glimpse of the man I was going to marry two years later.
German Chocolate Diamonds
Several months later, we would slightly cross paths again, at the church where we both happened to attend. It was during a Mother’s Day luncheon that he first saw me; I was singing up on stage, he was catering in the back. Then, it turned out that I worked with his sister-in-law, and she became the bridge for our first official face-to-face introduction.
After nearly a year, and him relentlessly wooing me, it happened. On my 30th birthday, as we sat in a Napa vineyard overlooking the Silverado Trail at sunset, Chef presented me with a petite German Chocolate Cake. Tucked away inside was a little blue and gold box holding a diamond engagement ring. I, of course, said yes, and so began our life together, sharing our love for the art of cuisine, and myself learning that this pursuit of food, and cooking, is much more than just having a kitchen full of cookbooks (and watching Food Network).
To Chef, or Not to Chef, That is the Question
Fast forward to over a decade later, and living the experience of running a couple restaurants together. When it came to the restaurant life, I was always more comfortable in the Back-Office, and sometimes Front-of-the-House, but never really ventured into the (fast-paced, super-scary) commercial kitchen. I had obtained a few skills over the years by observing my husband, and then experimenting here and there at home. But fiddling around the kitchen as a novice was no longer enough for me. I had started learning from Chef how to coordinate the lunch program for our son’s school, and I was now ready to learn more and see Food Service from a chef’s perspective.
Instead of a New Year’s resolution for the 2018 year, I presented my Chef husband with a challenge, asking him to be my tutor/mentor/sage (not the herb). I figured that after over a decade together, our baker’s-dozen year could be a fun journey of cooking. With Chef teaching me his tips, tricks and wisdom in the professional culinary department I could gain a new level of confidence and skill, learning to cook beyond what a written recipe could tell me to do.
And so we dusted off an old blog, sitting in the shadows of the web, and Culinarily Yours officially launched on January 1, 2018, as a way to track my accomplishments. (Just so you know, we’re big fans of the movie Julie and Julia, hence the idea).
Six Years Later
Over these last few years, I have taken my apprenticeship to the next level as his sous chef in catering. I have since completed my six-year tenure as lunch coordinator, shopper, cook and dishwasher for our son’s school. And now, as our Little Chef has moved on to the big world of High School, my dreams return to doing something creative.
In 2023, we come before you, ready to share how food can be more than just fuel. It has been said that in America, we eat to work, but in most other countries, especially like Italy and France, they work to eat. It can be soothing for the soul to come home, head into the kitchen, and start working with even the most basic ingredients and ultimately create food that is enjoyable. By learning just a little more skill and adding a few extra touches, you can boost the flavor of your meals. You can pursue The Good Life in your dining experience. If it can be done in a fine dining restaurant, you too can now do it at home.
Christa DeMercurio | Mrs. Chef