Chef Stef's Blog
Becoming a Chef – Finding my calling in a second career.
I was a lawyer for a long time. Still am. Even before I was admitted to the bar to practice law, I thought like a lawyer. I asked the “why” in everything. I argued with my parents on everything. I even wrote a contract to get a puppy when I was 10. I agreed to walk and feed the puppy in exchange for my parents letting me adopt one. But what cemented my decision to pursue law at a very young age was my Mom.
My Mom wanted to be an American Citizen. She took the classes. She took the exam. An exam I helped her study for. “Who discovered America?” , “What was the Boston Tea Party?” “Who invented the telephone.” That last one my mother still refuses to say is Alexander Graham Bell, she is squarely in the Marconi camp. Despite that she passed the exam. All that was left was the legal hearing in which she would swear allegiance to the United States of America.
When that day came, we all dressed in our Sunday clothes and headed downtown to the Courthouse. We were packed in a small courtroom with other families. So many different languages circling the room, it was exciting. The Judge took the bench and began to talk about the duties involved with being an American citizen. I remember he thanked everyone for choosing to live their lives here on American soil and wanting to raise their children in America.
The Judge then asked all the children to step to the front of the room. A crowd of children of all ages stepped forward. He then asked us to turn around and face our families. He wanted the soon to be citizens to see the faces of their children when they swore allegiance. He understood their sacrifices and desires were wrapped in our futures. Out of all those children, he bent down toward me and asked if I could read. He then had me sit in his chair. It was one of those large soft leather chairs that envelops you. I had to tell myself not to swivel in it as I imagined it would be a great chair to spin. The Judge asked the room to raise their right hand, and handed me a piece of paper to read into the microphone on his bench. He had me read the Oath of Allegiance. He had to help me with a few of the big words, but I spoke the words that made my Mom an American.
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
I was 9 years old.
Knowing one person could change the lives of so many seemed amazing. I wanted to do that for a living. I wanted to change lives for the better. So I decided to become a Judge, Step one on that road was to become an attorney.
High School, College, Law School all led to me starting my career in law as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. While I loved being in trial on a daily basis, I saw the best and worst of humanity in that job. I saw how a person’s upbringing could scar them for life. I saw good people made victims and while justice was served on their behalf, they were never the same again. I didn’t see any magic. I didn’t see the good I was doing, I only saw the never ending caseload of people hurting people. I wanted out.
Mom offered me a position at the school for 1 year, to help the school open its professional division, the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute (ICASI), while I figured out what I wanted to be now that I was grown up. It was there I found the magic. It was there I found I could change lives.
As a Director for ICASI, I help people take their passion for food and cooking and make it a career. All my legal thinking, the questioning of “why” has helped to me on a daily basis.
I created this blog to share the magic of ICASI with you, and you don’t even have to wear your Sunday clothes.