The Next "Stage" of My Life


I started primarily to share my ideas and bring my passion for my family and food to life.  I had the urge to further my passion for food and did a little research on culinary classes.  I wasn’t looking for a basic class but more looking for something that would help me expand my pallet, increase my knowledge of food and learn what flavors work well together. 

During my research I asked a women in my yoga class if she was a chef as I thought I over her talking about food and farming one day.  It was a life changing conversation.  After telling me that she was not a chef and learning more about what I was looking for, she asked if I have ever looked into doing a stage.  A stage is an unpaid internship where a chef works in a kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisine.  She has some friends who are chefs. She told me she was going to ask them about stage opportunities in their restaurants and get back to me the following week.

Little did I know, that one of her friends was Arlin Smith, GM and Chef at Hugo’s in Portland, Maine.  For those of you that don’t know, Hugo’s is one of the top restaurants in Portland They are known for their new American cuisine and being an original farm to table restaurant.  I was not only thrilled to have the connection but extremely nervous on what they would expect of me.  But, this experience was meant to further my knowledge in the culinary world from technique to food pairings so I was ready to step in and embrace all that it was.  

After a few conversations, a date was set for my first stage.  I started at noon, and after a tour of the kitchen I was put to work immediately. I did everything from scrub muscles and de-bearding them, to slicing potatoes and brussel sprout to carefully breading a headcheese appetizer, which was new to the menu that night.  Although I was working meticulously, my main focus was to absorb everything I saw, smelled and eventually what I tasted.  It was an amazing experience to witness the dance in the kitchen during service and watch the dishes I help prep be served. 

At the end of the service, around 9:30pm, Mike Wiley, chef and owner came over and said that they would like me to come back… NEXT WEEK.  He explained that not only is this experience a benefit for me but also for his chefs to teach and learn.  I was standing there enjoying my last tasting dish of the night, which was a delectable duck egg on granola and bacon crumble with cremini mushrooms on a crouton, and I told Mike that I was so happy and that I’m the type of person that would hug him right now.  He laughed and embraced my enthusiasm. 

Not only did he ask me to come back but he gave me homework! My first assignment is to read stories and literature in the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, Susie Heller and Michael Ruhlman.  I will be quizzed and must bring ideas when I come back.

Part of the reason why I wanted to share my story is because I feel this is the first step to better myself as a chef and as a teacher.  The knowledge I will gain over the next coming weeks will help me expand and explore different types of recipes I will create. I can’t wait to share my ideas and new family approved recipes in my recipe library.