I’ve Always Loved Food
Luckily for me, I’ve been able to turn this love of food into a career in cooking, and have spent the last twenty-five years sharing this passion with family, friends, students, co-workers, and anyone around me.
The Early Years
I come from a long line of eaters. As soon as my family digs into one meal, we’re thinking about what we’re going to have for the next. It’s been that way since I can remember, and I’m not breaking the chain! It was probably my love of eating that led me to becoming a cook.
When I was little, my Mum, who was and is a great cook, would have me do the jobs she didn’t like doing – mixing the hamburger meat and other gooey things that required your hands getting dirty. It wasn’t until I reached culinary school that I realized how much she had already taught me in the kitchen, from how to properly chop an onion to how to use fresh herbs.
We used to eat all kinds of foods when I was growing up. My Dad was from Trinidad so my Mum learned how to make a lot of West Indian foods, like curries, stewed chicken and rice, and my favorite salt cod fritters. My Mum was from England originally so we also had the traditional British meals, but since she was an enthusiastic and adventurous cook, we also enjoyed many other cuisines that she decided to explore – Indian, Italian, French, etc… I happily ate it all! I was an adventurous eater as a kid, and eating was an event every day. We always sat down for dinner as a family. No exceptions. I still think that’s important.
These days I don’t plan too many meals beyond a day or two away, but I always have a meal on my mind. (I’m thinking about one right now as I write this!)
As my family digs into one meal, we’re thinking about what we’re going to have for the next.
Honing my craft
I began my food career as a baker and caterer for a small independent bistro in Canada called Bistro Delight. This gave me a little taste of the industry, which was all I needed to realize that I truly wanted to pursue a culinary career. So, after graduating from university in Canada with a degree in English and History, I enrolled in culinary school. I figured that cooking was not only a road toward enjoying food myself, but was also something that made people happy and a profession that I could do anywhere in the world.
The New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Vermont was two years of intense learning and I loved it! The hours were sometimes grueling and the work was hard, but it was the launching pad for me to work in France at two Michelin-starred restaurants and to land a job in San Francisco at the well-known Zuni Café.
I was very happy in San Francisco, but soon realized that it was not my dream to have a restaurant of my own. I knew then that food was going to be a part of my career life, but I didn’t know how or in what fashion. That’s when my old culinary school mentor, Chef Michel LeBorgne called and asked me if I wanted a job at the cooking school! Why not? I moved back to Vermont to work at NECI, my old school and became a culinary instructor. I never had predicted that I’d be a cooking teacher but I soon discovered just how much I enjoyed teaching others, especially home cooks. I moved back to San Francisco and did just that – managed and taught at two HomeChef® cooking schools for home cooks. I also became the test kitchen manager for a food product development company in San Francisco – the only time I’ve ever had a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job! Working at the Center for Culinary Development gave me excellent experience in writing and testing recipes, ensuring they were successful and consistent.
That Monday to Friday, nine to five thing ended quickly when I moved to the Philadelphia area to work on QVC® – the largest home-shopping network in the world. With live television, you’re on whatever time of the day or night it is and whatever day of the week it happens to be. Still, it was exciting to be on live television, cooking and showing people how affordably they could equip their kitchens. I continued to work on live television for the next seventeen years.
Blue Jean Chef
Shortly after my arrival at QVC®, I realized that I needed a focus, a goal, maybe even a mission statement. I spent time thinking about what I enjoyed most about my work. I realized that teaching people, de-mystifying cooking techniques, and helping people become happier, more comfortable in the kitchen was the most gratifying thing I’d ever done in my career. Being comfortable, being happy, helping people make good food and consequently make other people happy… All of this stems from a willingness to give comfort to others and a feeling of being comfortable yourself. I knew that I was most comfortable kicking around in my jeans. Hence, I created Blue Jean Chef®, hoping to make people as comfortable in the kitchen as they’d be in their blue jeans.
My degree in English combined with my experience teaching culinary students and home cooks and my time spent writing and testing recipes led me to my cookbooks. I published my first cookbook in 2010 and went on to publish seven more as the Blue Jean Chef – three pressure-cooking cookbooks, two air-frying cookbooks, a sous vide ebook and a one-pot meal cookbook that incorporates both pressure cookers and air fryers. You can also see me in action with these kitchen appliances in over 100 episodes of the Basics video series, plus other recipe videos as well as live cooking classes on Facebook. Both outlets – my cookbooks and videos – allow me to show people just how easy it can be to get a great home-cooked meal on the table. No right way or wrong way, but always an easy way.
Cooking should be fun, relaxing, comfortable – just like your favorite jeans. Sure it’s nice to dress up sometimes, but give me a comfortable pair of jeans any day, and that’s what I’ll pick.