Quarantine Cooking shows and Writing.

How to remain creative while under pressure by life

This week I was looking for some food shows on Netflix and after browsing for about two hours, I decided to watch a food competition about cuisines around the world. One of my favorite things in life is learning about the culture behind each dish, as they usually have some really interesting stories about their family and why they decided to cook. What I don’t like about cooking competitions is the speed at which they have to cook. Of course, it is for a tv show, and they would not be allowed to show the entire process of cooking in real-time, in a real kitchen. Can you imagine a 14-hour straight show? I pass.

On this particular show, each episode is about 1 hour and it usually gives me a lot of anxiety while watching. The fact that the chefs have to plan which ingredients to use, prep, cook, and plate it, to be able to present it to the jury, just makes me want to scream. The jury is composed of master chefs, Food Critics, and a random person, either an actress or musician, to be the comic relief amidst the chaotic and deceiving judgment of the knowledgeable ones. This random guest is usually the nicest. “This is Maria Canedos, she is an actress and she loves food. She will also be judging you by how similar your food is to the ones her mom used to cook when she was 5, in her village”. The issue I find is the chefs supposed to be cooking fine dining food? Home cooked meals are usually comforting and tender, it gives a sense of familiarity, and my mom would never cook anything in one hour. Maybe in 4 or 5, but she would never cook anything fast. She would never let anyone rush her, she would hit them with a plate. My poor dad.

Everyone has a story about how food or a particular dish brings their childhood memories. Either good or bad memories about the food are instilled in the core of their souls. My connection with food was always about togetherness. The act of cooking for someone, until this day, for me, cooking shows how much a person cares about you and the way they relate to you through food. My mom never allowed me to sit on the couch while eating, because, for her, it represents a disrespect with the food and the person who cooked for you. To this day, she still sits at the table every meal. Even if it’s just herself eating. I don’t care about this anymore, in a rebellious way, but if I set up the table for lunch or dinner, I expect you to sit with me until I’m done eating. Get ready, I talk a lot, my food gets cold and it can take hours. I cook, but I also make you listen to my random thoughts.

My mom always worked with food. She was never a chef or went to culinary school, but she was always eager to learn about cooking methods and recipes she could cook for me. I grew up with her words “if you know how to cook, you will never be hungry” what she meant was people stop buying shoes, earrings, and clothes, but they never stop buying food to eat. Not only until my mid 20’s I got eager to learn more about cooking. I guess I was always intimidated by her, and the way she used to take over the kitchen, as she was always very rough when trying to teach me, therefore I was too afraid to try. When I moved away, it was like an awakening.

Working in a fine dining restaurant in Colorado, allowed me to meet some famous chefs, and even though I was only the hostess, I got to try the amazing food creations, listen to the staff talk about it, and what the selling points were. I also figured out that if I wanted to make it in the restaurant industry, I would have to go to Culinary School, even to be a manager. Skipping the Australia part of the story and going straight to Sao Paulo, I got a full scholarship to the Allain Ducasse foundation at Estacio University. It was very intimidating because some of the teachers and students had already been working in the industry for years. I had a huge problem manipulating the knives and making the cuts. Batonnet, Julienne, Brunoise, Ratatouille. I had to drop out because it got too expensive, due to the fact the scholarship dropped to half of what it was the first year. I was working way too much and still couldn’t afford to pay the school, in the end, it was not worth paying them only to get cut by the knives.

After years and years working in the restaurant industry, I realized what I liked to do was tell stories, about these places, about the establishments, and co-workers. I tried to create a blog about food, but I guess if you don’t live in a big city, like New York, LA, or Chicago, it is almost impossible. “Here are the 6 restaurants you must try while visiting Marietta Square, in Georgia.” The thing is there is only 7, what’s the problem with the one not on the list? DM me and I will tell you.

I believe that all this experience in restaurants gave me a lot of thick skin to deal with the writing industry. I have to come up with a story fast, based on the reason the chef doesn’t want to cook with modifications. I have to be very direct when writing, as my food orders could never be confusing, the chef, as the editor, would scream in my ear “What the hell does that mean????” I can take feedback very well, as sometimes you think you did a great job at the table, and they tip you very badly. Like your peers at school, sometimes they don’t know any better. I can also give great feedback, even if the modifications on the dish look delicious, I don’t think a wooden oven Clam Pizza would work. Your story’s great, but can you explain to me why the zombie lives with the werewolves?

Anyway, I love food and cooking, but not so much the service industry. I paid my dues with society, it seems like. The most important part is keeping the dreams and the creativity alive and don’t forget you are not only a working body, or a mom, or a caretaker. You are alive and your dreams and expectations are too!

Stay Safe!

J. Snell

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