Finding my passion through food

 

Growing up, I never understood why anyone would want to cook for fun. I would watch the food network with my Nanny, and as I watched shows like Iron Chef, I would always think to myself, “why”? Why did all these people want to compete in this food competition? In my house, anything that involved cooking was treated as a chore, and it was always one nobody wanted to do. I always associated cooking as something negative since I would often watch my mom try to make dinner. This usually ended with a lot of profanity and a silent dinner table. We’d be choking down what mom had made us without making it visibly known that none of us was a fan of the cookbook creation my mother tried so hard to make.

Eventually, my mom gave up on trying to make nice meals, and dinner became a constant rotation of spaghetti, tacos, and meatloaf. Those were the three meals we ate, seven days of the week, every week of the year. Needless to say, I hated food for a while. Dinner was my absolute least favorite time of the day since the only three meals my family ate were all ones I disliked. The dinner table was a constant conversation of my parents asking why I barely ate my food and for the thousandth time, I would have to express my dislike for these meals over and over again, every week.

Once I turned sixteen and started searching for my first job, I was determined to not work with food, but I still ended up working as a server in a fine dining restaurant. Shannondell was the first time I had ever been in an environment where people genuinely loved to cook. I quickly grew to admire all the chefs and the raw passion they had for making food. During my three years at Shannondell, I started to hate food a little less, and that was mostly because I was finally able to experience cooking outside of my mom’s kitchen. I started to see cooking and food in a new light instead of viewing it as this horrible chore everyone dreaded. I started to envy the chefs at Shannondell who seemed to love food in a way I just didn’t understand.

Along with never experiencing anyone who enjoyed cooking growing up, I also never saw anyone who sincerely loved their job as much as the chefs at work did. My parents had always encouraged me to try to get into a career that paid well instead of doing something I loved. I was all about being focused purely on making money until I started working at Shannondell. Watching the chefs at my job made me realize that I shouldn’t be doing something I hate with my life just because I might get paid well. The love for food and cooking that they all had inspired me to find what I was truly passionate about. My whole life people had been telling me I better do well in school or else I could end up working in food service my whole life. After my three years of working at Shannondell, I started to think working with food and in customer service wouldn’t be that bad since it slowly became something I loved.

Quitting my server job at Shannondell was bitter sweet. I was happy to be going off to college but sad that I was leaving Shannondell behind me. Working there had given me a better sense of what I wanted out of my life, and what I wanted was to be happy. I never thought that working with food would have such an impact on who I am, but it really helped in shaping my view on what I wanted for my future. Shortly after I started college, I decided that I needed another job soon since my savings account had been slowly dwindling away. I ultimately decided that I had to work with food again. I tried to apply to places like Shannondell in hopes that I could continue to be a server and possibly learn more about the food industry. A kitchen was somewhere I wanted so desperately to be. Watching people cook had been the only time I’d ever experienced people who were truly passionate about what they do. I wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by passionate people.

Qdoba Mexican Eats in the end was one of the only places to offer me a job, and while it wasn’t exactly the job I wanted, I still took it. If someone had told me going into that job that there were people at Qdoba who were just as passionate about food as the chefs at Shannondell had been, I wouldn’t have believed them. Qdoba, being a fast food Mexican restaurant, I went into this job assuming no one there would be as passionate about food. Boy was I wrong. Charlie was my new general manager, and right away, you could tell how much pride he takes in his work at Qdoba. I remember one of the first things Charlie ever said to me and it was something along the lines of how for him dinner was his favorite time of the day, and he was so passionate about giving our customers the best food and experience he could because he genuinely wanted to make their day a little better through our food.

Working at Qdoba gave me more opportunity to actually work with the food. At Shannondell, I just served and admired the way our chefs cooked. At Qdoba, I was being taught how to prep foods for the day and how to actually make some of the foods that we were serving. I quickly fell in love with working with food all over again. For the first six months I worked as a normal line server but was quickly promoted to manager once Charlie saw how serious I had become about providing the best possible service I could to our customers. While training to become a manager, I had to first learn how to cook. I trained under my friend and fellow manager Jermaine. He was the best cook we had at Qdoba and learning how to cook under his instruction was something I’ll always be grateful for. I had spent years admiring the way the chefs at Shannondell were able to prepare food. Now, I was finally getting my chance to learn. While I wasn’t the best cook in the world, I was happy with the skills I had been taught and the way Jermaine was able to guide me. Jermaine had done his best to teach me everything he knew, and suddenly, the chore that I once hated growing up had become one of my favorite things.

If you asked me five years ago what food meant to me, I probably wouldn’t have had much to say about it, but now, food has become one of the most important things in my life. Working in the food industry has not only made me appreciate food and the people who make it, but also helped me find my passion. While I definitely don’t want to be managing a Mexican Eats the rest of my life, I do want to make people as happy as those who come into Qdoba to eat my burritos.

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