Warning; long and indulgent introduction follows. If that's not your bag please stop reading now!
Hello, I'm male, 45 and I've been a human resource professional (B.Comm, CHRP) for more than twenty years. I began my career as a staffing and recruitment consultant for a large mining company before moving on to org development and eventually to an HR consultant generalist position within a line department of the Government of Saskatchewan.
All my life I have loved cooking and baking. When I was five I envied my next door neighbor Sherry's turquoise blue Easy Bake Oven, mainly because she wouldn't let me touch it, but also because even at that age I was already fascinated with preparing and serving food. By the way I eventually procured my own classic Easy Bake Oven from eBay. Yes I display it with pride, no I have never actually baked with it, though I could!
I was born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia and in my teens lived in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Both my parents are avid cooks. I learned to make yeast bread and pastry from my mother. My father was in the navy and also a very talented cook. His interest is more on the culinary side. He does a lot of grilling and smoking too, and he also makes very good wine. I learned the mother sauces from him as well as how to take something as mundane as beef short ribs and braising them into a dish fit for a king. And he makes the very best pork pies at Christmas, a skill that I picked up from him. They make great holiday housewarming gifts.
By my early teens I was preparing Sachertorte, my own puff pastry and impressing guests with napoleons and vol au vent. I learned to make exquisite crystal clear beef bouillon clarified using leek tops and egg white. In my early twenties I watched Julia Child's "The Way to Cook" six-part video series and for a few years became a virtual disciple. Julia introduced me to Génoise, still my very favourite cake base. She remains one of my all-time greatest inspirations, as she began her culinary journey later in life too.
Additionally my paternal grandmother was a professional baker. She lived in a small prairie town and baked out of her home. She supplied an entire community with yeast breads, cakes, sweets, chocolates, and most of all she created the wedding cakes for hundreds of couples in that community. She is gone now but I will never forget the awe she inspired in me as she took three or four layers of fruitcake, draped them in fondant and turned it all into a stunning creation that towered sometimes four feet high. I think I learned the most from her. I never got tired of visiting her because she put me to work in her kitchen. I marveled how she could make enough pastry for a dozen two crust pies, and do it by hand, and it was always flaky and light as a cloud. I inherited all of her equipment including all her baking, pastry and cake decorating supplies, her books, her treasury of recipes, and most of all her passion for baking and creating beautiful food that delights the eyes, and satisfies both the soul and the stomach.
Thanks to her I can whip up a pretty decent filled layer cake on a moments notice, nicely finished with buttercream flowers and piped borders. I've gained a little proficiency with rolled fondant and using string work, candy and chocolate as decorative elements. My cakes are always a big hit. All the credit for any decorative talent I might have is to my grandmother's patient teaching.
Through my adult life I have rarely gone a week without trying to learn something new, be it a recipe, or a technique or just putting my own twist on an old standard. I have read hundreds of cookbooks and culinary reference guides from the public library. I have explored every cuisine I could from around the world. Obtaining ingredients has been the biggest obstacle in my exploration of some world cuisines. I've taken community college courses in Asian and Indian cuisine as I've had time. I've recently acquired my own sous vide equipment and I'm having a wonderful time exploring techniques and the possibilities of this exciting culinary technology.
I love to entertain, to see the delight my guests have at my table, and to introduce them to something they might not have tried before. My reward as a cook has always been in the satisfaction that I have done my very best for my guests, and served them a meal that is not only nutritionally sound, but one that provides a little bit of joy too. If they're not delighted then I feel I have failed.
Now as I'm facing middle age I have asked myself why I ended up a civil servant instead of a chef. I was pressured into attending university. Although my father was a commissioned officer, my parents are very much blue collar folks and they wanted their only child to go to university, so like a good son I went. My best childhood friend studied cooking at Camosun College in Victoria and today he's an executive chef with a prestigious hotel chain. I envy him because he has a quarter century head start on me.
So hello here I am ready to learn! I'm resigning from my government job at the end of December and moving back to the coast to go to cooking school in Vancouver in 2012/13 and finally realize my dream of being a professional working cook. I may never make the money I have as a human resource professional but I don't care. I've had enough of that life. I yearn to be in a career that satisfies my artistic and creative side, in a career that nourishes my soul and not just my wallet. In my mind I'm already working at an entry level position in the kitchen of a fine restaurant. I don't yearn to be the star (yet), I just want to be in the show. I just want to cook, and delight people with the foods I prepare for them.
I hope that didn't sound too much like a résumé.
I very much look forward to interacting on this board! And one day in the not too distant future I will have earned the right to be part of the professional forums here. Cooking is my life's dream, it is what I was born to do. It is what I must do.