Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dreams Really Can Come True!

This is the story of a girl.  A girl who grew up sitting on counters watching in awe, then stirring together Egg Salad, then grating Cheese for Chili and dropping live Lobsters into large pots of boiling water.  To her, the first sound of Christmas music on the radio meant only one thing: helping Mom cook Christmas dinner and making "Jesus' Birthday Cake"! Easy Bake Ovens and Playschool Kitchens were her toys of choice, and she preferred Emeril Live over Saved by the Bell any day of the week.
 The girl grew up with parents encouraging her every dream.  "Paint like Picasso, Sing like Celine Dion, Write Novels like Mark Twain!" they told her. She thought she wanted to be a Veterinarian.  Then a Musician. Then a Teacher.  Then a stay-at-home mom.  Then an Interior Designer.  Then a Psychologist. Like most young people, she really didn't know what exactly she wanted to do, she just knew what she liked to do and didn't like to do.  She liked to sing, she liked to dance, she liked to paint, she liked animals, and she LOVED to cook.
In  high school, the girl met a boy. And they fell in love.  She started digging through Mom's well-loved cookbooks and recipe card holders, and began to realize that cooking is more than just something you do for holidays and special occasions.  For him, she made Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp and Grits, Sherried Artichoke Chicken, Taco Rings.
 The girl and the boy went to college.  While she nearly fails out of Interior Design because she doesn't love it, she makes beautiful dishes for them like Chicken Florentine, Filet Mignon with butter-poached Lobster Tail, and Pan-Seared Scallops with Bacon and Leek Grits.  The boy dreams of Law School, Financial Analyst and Loan Officer positions, while the girl questions what she wants to do in life.  She sees an ad for Culinary School, and all her dreams are realized.  She rapidly changes her major to align with her new-found dream of being a Restaurateur/Caterer/Chef- Restaurant and Hospitality Management.  She spends her Christmas and summer vacations training at a James Beard Award-nominated Cafe in bustling downtown Birmingham, where she falls head over heels in love with cooking.  She graduates and wastes no time diving right into Culinary School.  She soars through with flying colors, achiving "President's List" status every quarter and finishing at the top of her class with the highest score on the "Mystery Basket" final exam.

 The girl and the boy need a change of scenery, and move to the up-and-coming city of Huntsville.  The boy gets a dose of reality in the terrible economy and begins to question his career path.  The girl takes the first job offer she gets at a local cafe and catering business.  It's her first real experience with the title of "Chef", and it makes her hungry for more. (No pun intended!) After a long summer of 16 hour days and just when she is really feeling the itch for a change, Huntsville Hospital comes-a-calling, recruiting the girl to be the Catering Director in their Food and Nutrition Department.  She leaps on the opportunity, the "big girl job", and believes that everything she's done has led to this moment.  She has an office, a title, employees working underneath her.  The salary, the benefits, the satisfaction of carrying the Catering Department which handles all of the Board Meetings, Breakfast Meetings, Lunch 'n Learns, Doctors' Lounges, and so on.  But she's not happy.  Because she's not cooking.  She carries a clipboard and crunches numbers in a computer instead of dicing tomatoes and trimming tenderloin.  In the darkest hour of our country's latest depression, she takes a leap of faith and walks away from her cushy corporate job without a backup plan.
 Not a moment too soon, the boy lands a position with a Real Estate Investment company where he is able to work from home.  The boy and girl spend some time soul-searching and try to find something that matches the girl's education, skills, personality, and passion for success.  Alas, there is no job out there for a girl with a Management degree, a Culinary degree, a desirable personality, a killer set of cooking and entertaining skills, and the unchangeable need for a "normal" work schedule and the flexibility to work when you want.  So: they made one.
  The boy and girl spent months planning, talking, organizing, brain-storming, researching, and reading. Self-taught entrepreneurs they became, literally building a business from scratch.  Names were discussed, Business Plans were written, LLP's were formed, Logos and Websites were conceptualized, Bank Accounts were created, Business Licenses were ordered, Inventory was purchased, and Chef Jackets were monogrammed.  The girl hit the streets, proudly wearing the logo on her chest.  She shook hands, she passed out cards, she got to know her city and introduced her business to it.  They took to her like white on rice.
 Within 6 months of starting the business, the boy and the girl were busier beyond their wildest expectations.  Cooking classes several nights a week, various catering gigs on the weekends, delivering dinner to busy families, performing Cooking Demonstrations at local venues and corporations. The girl acted as the "face" of the company- talking with the clients, planning the menus, executing the food, and teaching the classes.  In his spare time, the boy managed all the "behind the scenes" work: keeping the books, paying taxes, managing the finances, quality and spending control, marketing ideas.  They settled into a routine, like a well-oiled machine, running the business like true professionals.  And they were happy.  Incredibly, super-duper, unbelievably happy.
The girl attended the Junior League Spring Market to hopefully meet some people and snag some nifty catering pieces.  There, she met another girl.  A girl who happens to be amazingly skilled in areas that the first girl is not so skilled.  This girl was a Baker and Cake Artist.  Having like-minds, similar interests, and complimenting personalities, the girls became instant friends.  They lunched, got to know each other, and began day-dreaming about one day joining forces to become Huntsville's "go-to" Culinary team.  They stayed in almost constant contact, bouncing ideas off one another about cake designs and catering menus.  They shared links to available bakery/restaurant spaces with each other, always sighing and replying "My, that would be nice!"
 After an insanely busy Holiday Season, one cold winter day, the girls were out to lunch and decided to go do some Christmas shopping at the Interior Marketplace.  They walk in to find a vacant cafe, a vacant commercial kitchen, and a vacant demonstration kitchen in a large gourmet food retail room.  "It has to be too good to be true." they think.  The location is too good.  The people are too nice.  The space is too perfect.  The timing is too "just right".  The whole scenario is just too wonderful to actually be real.
 This time, they don't have to think too long.  The first girl and her boy decide to, again, take a leap of faith- bringing the second girl along with them.  With the help and support of their families, they shake hands with the landlord, negotiate with the previous owner of the equipment, and get to work cleaning and making the place their own.  After weeks of cleaning, painting, customizing, organizing, meeting with various vendors and service providers, the dream has come to life.
 Without further adue, The Chef Next Door is officially located within the beautiful Interior Marketplace in Hampton Cove.  We will be doing all of our catering out of the health-inspected and regulated Catering Kitchen, we will be offering all of our various cooking classes in the gorgeous "demonstration-kitchen", we will host scheduled BYOB Cooking Classes (check our calendar!), and we are thrilled to be able to offer you the use of the beautiful cafe room and storefront room as a venue for any of your catering functions.  We have a brand new website which reflects all these wonderful changes and additions.  Click here!  (Was that enough links for one paragraph??)

We bring with us Heather Petersen of Slice at a Time Cakes.  Not only does she do some of the most breathtaking and delicious Wedding/Special Occasion Cakes I've ever seen, she makes everything else from Gourmet Cakes, Cake "Pops", Cupcakes, Cakelings (mini 2-4 serving cakes), Cookies, Baked goods, and more.  She will be teaching "Cake Decorating" classes as well!  We are taking this new venture one step at a time, but we plan to have more exciting things to come within the next few months.  We are blessed beyond relief and are so excited to be able to reach out more to the amazing community of Huntsville.  To our families, our friends, and our clients:  Thank you.  YOU have made this possible, and have made this girl's dreams come true.


The Chef Next Door

1 comment:

  1. There can only be two people prouder of 'Chef Margaret' and Taylor, and that would be her Mom and Dad. I would have to believe that her Dad would say things like "I never had a doubt for a second" and "a promise is a promise" and "I thank God for His watchful, protective and encouraging eye on you, sweetheart," and "you make me and Mom so incredibly proud." Yes, I guess her Dad and Mom would say things like that. I can only imagine that a parent's greatest reward comes in seeing their children happy and successful at the same time, and knowing that a faith in God makes all things possible, if they keep their priorities straight. And, seeing her under the watchful and protective eye of a fabulous young man like TAYLOR simply is what most dads dream 'ace' taking care of their "baby girl."
    But, I can quit imaging and thinking all that, BECAUSE IT'S ALL TRUE......and I'm the one fortunate enough to be able to call this wonderful young professional woman "My Baby Girl"......I Love you, Sweetheart and I thank God every day for blessing me by having you as MY daughter....and Taylor, I thank God for you, too, "son"........

    Now, you guys go take the world by storm and spread joy and happiness with all the people and families you will be fortunate enough to serve and come in contact with.......Dad