I shared this story a few weeks ago in an email to my prospective culinary nutrition students, and it seems it struck a chord with a lot of people. I thought I'd share it here too, so we can all get what we need from it.
As you well know, I teach culinary nutrition. That's why we're all here. What you might not know is that cooking once totally and completely terrified me. I just didn't do it. When I lived at home, my mom did all the cooking, and she did it well. When I moved out for university, I was perfectly happy with cereal or microwaved popcorn for dinner. Fancy, for me, was a jar of pasta sauce on some cooked noodles. Yes, it was that bad - and it's no wonder I ended up with imploding intestines!
When I got sick I knew that if I didn't learn how to cook, I had no hope of resolving my health issues and it wasn't an easy transition for me. I taught myself to cook one ingredient at a time. I would read nutrition text books as if they were novels, cover-to-cover and take that knowledge to my kitchen. The kind of classes my CNE program grads and I now teach were simply not available.
I was on a mission to take on the kitchen power tools and subsequently to share them with others. I just didn't know if I was good enough.
The Turning Point
There was a turning point for me and it happened on live national television. Before I go on, I want to share something about live TV. Most people fear public speaking. This is known and accepted. Mostly, I think the fear is standing in front of a lot of people and then saying/looking/doing/being something stupid. In my experience, there is nothing more terrifying (and exhilarating) than live TV. You don't get to make mistakes. If you say something wrong or stupid, it's there forever to be seen by more people than you can actually fathom. And then it happened to me.
I had been teaching workshops and cooking classes for a few years. I had already signed with my publisher for my first book. I was cast as the resident nutritionist on a new national lifestyle show that was taped before a live studio audience and broadcast live across the country. On one particular episode, my third or fourth I think, I was demonstrating three easy ways to enjoy avocado. One of the ways was making a chocolate avocado pudding.
I was supposed to put the ingredients into the food processor, turn it on and like magic, the power tool would whip it into a creamy pudding on live TV. And of course, because it was time for me to learn a lesson, the food processor would not start. The host and I were twisting it, shaking it, pushing buttons... Nothing. I looked to the floor producer in desperation but there was nothing to be done. We were live and I was sweating.
Then the mind took over. And not in a good way. It began. This was my final swan song in the nutrition world, I would be fired from the show, no one would ever come to my classes again, I'd lose my book contract and I'd be done. And I had no fall back plan.
The joys of it having been on television, recorded for all the world to see, is that I can watch it over, and over, and over again. And so can you. The special bit begins at around the 8:55 mark.
What actually happened?
What happened was that I discovered how important it is to have fun. That not everything is going to go just as we plan, but if we are open to the adventure, can laugh along the way, are able to share our knowledge and experience, and never give up - then we have done our job and then some.
We are not perfect and we will never know everything we think we need to know. My goal for myself and for you is that we all simply enjoy the process, challenging ourselves along the way, understanding that it won't go just as we hope, but that the chances are very good (we're talking a 99% success rate) that you will far exceed any expectations or limitations you set.
Blow the roof off your fears because when "What's the worst that can happen" actually happens, it's never that bad. We survive. And in most cases, we do a lot more than that. We thrive in a huge way.
I didn't know that pouring over nutrition books and recipe experimentations in an attempt to reclaim my health would bring me here.
There's a lot to be learned from sweaty palms and power tools. Sometimes we just have to leap. We need to dive in because there are no other options. We can't do another take as we're flowing through life. And what could be more important than learning how to take care of ourselves, our family, our friends, our clients - and doing it all with a laugh? Nothing.