“I came to an important conclusion. I wanted to be a chef. Or a ballerina, I couldn’t decide.” This is one of the many brilliant lines from Kathleen Flinn’s book, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. It is the story of a thirty-six year old woman, who changes her career, moves to Paris and enrolls at Le Cordon Bleu. As I read Flinn’s narrative, her determination (juggling a new marriage, persevering though a rigorous curriculum and simply, balancing life), consoled me. Sometimes ambition is scary, dreams are daunting and making changes in your life is intimidating. Kathleen Flinn marches through life with her head high and kitchen tools ready.
When I was little I didn’t know I wanted to cook for a living. I had more of the ballerina mindset. Positive that one day I’d be a dancer or 1940’s starlet, I spent the early 90’s wearing nothing but skirts and dresses. An occasional pair of overalls entered the mix, but pink was the color of choice. I was total girl in the antiquated sense of the word. In my seven-year-old brain, Barbie got married at age eighteen and that’s where the game ended.
Clearly, my scope of womanhood evolved with age, as did my aspirations. I finally got a pair of blue jeans, surfaced from the fictitious world of Andy Hardy, and entered into my own. Even by middle school, my focus shifted from the fables of female, fairytale helplessness, to transforming gym class into a duel of girls versus boys. Nothing kindles the feminist sprit like getting glasses, braces and having to shave your armpits. But, even when the braces came off and the contacts went in, my ambitions remained strong. Eventually, like Kathleen Flinn, I focused my goals and took a leap of faith into the world of food.
So, when I read a story like Kathleen Flinn’s, a woman who took the jump and followed her culinary passion, I feel like I’ve discovered a very valuable baseball card. Throughout her tale, she reveals perceptions she’d had of Le Cordon Bleu, as those created by Audrey Hepburn in the movie Sabrina, compared to the reality of the grease and grit of a real kitchen. But soon, you see Flinn falling further in love and becoming fluent in her new environment. Her story has become one of many that I’ve collected….there is, of course, Julia Child, being the Babe Ruth of baseball cards, but there is also Rochelle Huppin (CEO of Chefwear), Alice Waters, and of course, the many female chefs and business owners that I’ve known personally and worked with over the past several years.
It’s a big world and there are many fish to fry (literally), but there is also a lot of storytelling to be done. It is these stories that link us together and make us stronger as one supportive community of food loving ladies.