4 Things I Learned about Life from “Chef’s Table” Season 2

I was recently introduced to the Netflix original docu-series “Chef’s Table”. This is normally not the kind of content that I seek out. Though I like food (duh, doesn’t everyone?) I am definitely not a “foodie” and could care less about eating in fancy restaurants.

The season has six episodes with each one profiling one chef and his or her story. The chefs are from all around the world and include backgrounds and locations as diverse as a French chef who owns a restaurant in San Francisco to an Indian chef who runs a restaurant in Bangkok. What initially got me hooked on the show was the amazing cinematography. Each episode has an ethereal look and feel and the classical music soundtrack adds just the right amount of drama. The landscapes that they show are incredible, and so are the stories.

Unexpectedly, I found myself being very inspired and lifted up by these stories. Here were regular people who didn’t come from any wealth or distinguished background, doing something they were passionate about and being wildly successful at it. To me, these are people fully living their lives. Here are 5 things I learned from watching this season of the show:

1. Commitment and passion matter more than your background

Two of the chefs on the show never went to cooking school. One of them, Dominique Crenn, knew she was passionate about cooking and worked her way up through the restaurant ranks, learning and gaining experience as she went. Ana Ros was thrown into the chef role after her husband’s father retired from the family restaurant. Both chefs worked incredibly hard to learn everything they could about cooking and became highly-regarded. If you needed proof, Dominque Crenn is the winner of this year’s San Pellegrino “World’s Best Female Chef Award”.

 

2. Setbacks do not equal failure

I was continually amazed at how these now-successful chefs managed to come out on top despite multiple setbacks in their careers (and personal lives). From Gaggan Anand, whose restaurant opening was delayed 4 months because of political protests in Bangkok, to Ana Ros who, upon starting as chef at her husband’s family restaurant, proceeded to lose most of its long-standing customers. Each time they encountered a hardship, they acknowledged it, dealt with it, and moved on while never giving up and never stopping.

3. Listen to others

All the chefs referenced people in their lives who had helped them get to where they are today. Whether it was family members who supported them or master chefs who trained them, all were grateful for those who helped them along the way. I’d always thought of cooking and being a chef seemed as a very individual, almost loner, profession. Seeing how much they relied on the support and encouragement of those around them shows that you cannot achieve something truly great on your own.

4. Listen to yourself

Though listening to others was important in the all the chef’s lives, listening to their inner voices was key too. Most of Enrique Olvera’s friends and family thought he was crazy for taking what they saw as his hobby of cooking and making it a career, but now he’s got one of the best restaurants in the world.  Ana Ros’s family basically disowned her when she gave up her promising career as a diplomat to become a chef. And nobody thought Brazilian food could be gourmet like Alex Atala did, even Brazilians! If you truly believe you can make something happen, you probably can.

 

So that is my take on Season 2 of Chef’s Table. I definitely plan on watching Season 1, but I’m a bit afraid that it might not measure up to Season 2!

The first step

Hello there!

I’m Jackie and I’m a 20-something lady on a journey to find out exactly what makes me happy, why it makes me happy, and how to do more of it.

Let’s do a quick re-cap: about a year after grad school I started working for state government as an infectious disease epidemiologist. It was my first salaried job (I refuse to call it my first “real job” because the 10 other random jobs that came before that were very real) and my dream job, but it turned out to not be everything I hoped it would be. Though I loved the subject matter of my work, I didn’t feel like I was actually making a difference and felt surrounded by negativity. I constantly felt unfulfilled and no matter how many articles I published or skills I learned, I felt empty and miserable. I dreaded getting up in the morning and would come home too burnt out to do anything enjoyable. I was totally miserable.

So I decided to make a change.

I applied to a bunch of jobs in the field of international health (which is what I had studied in graduate school), determined to try to pursue a career in this uber-competitive field. Seriously, these jobs have the most ridiculous lists of qualifications; if you don’t know English plus 2 obscure regional dialects, are able to use 10 different software programs only available to international development organizations, and have 5+ years of experience in a very specific field, you’re S.O.L. Regardless of my lack of knowledge of obscure regional dialects, I managed to get a job as a Technical Consultant at a well-known, well-established clinic in rural Thailand. I was going to assist and advice staff on implementing health information systems, epidemiology, and monitoring and evaluation systems. I was SO excited to have this opportunity. Never mind that my previous experiences to Southeast Asia had been less-than-ideal, never mind that I knew very little about health information systems, never mind that I’d be starting the job in rainy season, I was going to be making a difference in an amazing place, living abroad, and in my mind, living the dream. In about a month and a half, I  quit my secure, well-paying government job, sold my car, spent $1000+ on obscure vaccines (you do NOT want Japanese encephalitis said the travel clinic lady), left my boyfriend, puppy, and family, and flew 24+ hours to Thailand to start my one year contract.

Just over a month later, I was on a plane home. I knew almost from the start that this would not be my jam, I but I gave it a shot. I attempted to learn as much as I could about the clinic and the work I’d be doing. I watched Excel tutorials at night and enrolled myself in Thai lessons. I traveled to a nearby city on the weekend to take in Thai culture, made friends with fellow ex-pats, and learned to share my room with geckos without screaming “AHHH A GECKO” every single time I saw one. But once I realized the extent of the bureaucracy and level of tedium the job required (5 hour weekly meetings, proofreading spreadsheets, ass-kissing donors), I realized that this was not where I fit in either. In addition to to this, my supervisor quit within my first 2 weeks, leaving me feeling totally and completely alone. I had also been moderately sick since I arrived and was only getting sicker. When I finally went to a hospital after a bad headache, terrible nausea and dizziness, I realized I had lost 12 pounds in a span of 4 weeks. Though some people would jump for joy at that level of rapid weight loss, knowing my body, I became seriously concerned about my health.

So in a quick but very thorough assessment of my situation, I decided that I did not leave my miserable job in the USA just to start another miserable job in another country. Also at the advice of Dr. My Own Damn Self, I decided to come home and regroup. I’d recover from whatever had invaded my digestive system, figure out what I actually wanted to spend my time doing, and reconnect with the world around me.

So that brings me to this blog. A place for me to chronicle my adventures, learning experiences, observations, and general musings about this path that I am totally and completely making up as I go along.

Want to come along for the ride? Well, you’re going to have to drive, cause I did sell my car before moving to Thailand…

Jackie