I Cook for Michigan Dining. But That Doesn’t Mean My Artistic Expression Has to Be Stifled.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 4.29.12 PMEveryone’s got dreams, kid. That’s why you’re here studying—you want to feed those dreams so they can grow up big and strong. That seafood crepe with wild rice with a balsamic reduction drizzle that you waited in line wearing slippers to receive? That’s got some of my own high-end dreams delicately wrapped inside.

Mass-producing grilled chicken dishes with exotic yet vaguely offensive names for hungover co-eds is where I am now, but where did my journey begin, you ask? I grew up in a household where we always artfully prepared comically small portions of food in the center of large white plates. I knew when I grew up that I wanted to combine contrasting flavor palettes and playfully drizzle colorful sauces in empty space for kings and diplomats around the world.

So when it was time to go to school, I set my sights on the Culinary Institute of America. Do all the prep work you want, but no amount of diced veggies will ever prepare you for the CIA. You think working 6 hour dining shifts in an industrial kitchen that always smells a little like peroxide is hard? Try learning while you work, and then getting tested on the material. Like a soufflé gone wrong, I folded. The heat was too much, so I got the hell out of that kitchen. I came back home. I looked around for jobs. Then I found this: a steady 9-5 in a giant cafeteria expertly decorated with empty cereal boxes that still let me embrace my passion for introducing a listless student body to ingredients they’ve never heard of.

My dream of a Michelin star is long gone, but as long as I’ve got these two hands and a dirty conveyor belt with which to collect used dishes, my food will always be art. Yeah, there are restrictions I’m still getting used to; most of the ingredients offered to me are coming out of Reagan era deep freeze storage. And you better believe I’ve got an entire stack of 3”x5” comment cards telling me to “stop serving microcuisine-inspired tasting plates” and to “be less dramatic when you garnish the fettuccine with parsley.” I may file a W-2 every April now, but there’ll be a sauvignon blanc paired with beef burgundy before I stop expressing my passions however I can.

You and I both know that greatness comes from vision in the face of adversity. That’s the difference: in a world full of vanilla Snack-Packs, we’re the pumpkin pecan bread pudding. Enjoy your hastily consumed, partially discarded meal, kiddo. This delicate placement of basil garlic hummus is for the both of us.

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