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Creative writing takes me out of my current state of mind yet keeps me grounded

in the moment. Writing takes a lot of focus and it allows me to recall, imagine
or actually write about what I am feeling at that very moment. Whichever way I g
et there, I come away with a sense of accomplishment and relief.
I have always found the creative writing process a good way to get into the mome
nt while getting away at the same time.
The Reach of a Chef is packed full of firsthand accounts of some of today s most c
elebrated chefs from around the country, and the world. Ruhlman describes each o
f their walks to fame with great detail in a way that helps the reader to empath
ize with the chefs on a personal level, while reflecting on his [Ruhlman] own tr
ansition from writer, to culinarian, to comrade. Special attention is given to A
merica s perception of the American chef, as well as how those chefs will figure o
ut what happens after the successful restaurant(s). The reader will gain some in
sight on the evolution of the modern day chef.
It was a paradigm shift for chefs as to which direction they would take to reac
h the next level of success, which, inadvertently, changed the way the public vi
ewed food, and their perception of chefs in general. America joined the food rev
olution, and famous chefs were their new heroes. Ruhlman discusses the marketin
g of a chef, how they can set themselves up for continued success once they have
reached celebrity status. For some, it starts with a cookbook or two, followed
by a food product line, or signature cookware, or even a television show. They ve b
uilt successful businesses. They want to enjoy the fruits of their labors (212).
Wolfgang Puck, who rose to stardom before Emeril, is probably the first chef to
capitalize on branding himself. Cookbooks, food lines, catering to the rich and
famous, all lead to branding, which is how chefs can market their products based
on their good reputations alone. Chefs smelled opportunity everywhere---the soil
was fertile but what to grow? (213).
I had considered going to culinary school over my many years in the kitchen, but
I always seemed to find a way to talk myself out of it. I learned from the scho
ol of hard knocks, why would I pay big bucks to learn how to do what I already k
now how to do? I started to realize that there was more to being a good chef tha
n being a good line cook. There was so much I had missed along the way. It s easy
to get locked into a particular genre, or even many genres, yet miss out on so m
any other aspects of the culinary world.
Most of the best chefs I have worked under have culinary degrees from the Culin
ary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales, California Culinary Academy, even W
estern Culinary Institute (now a part of Le Cordon Bleu). I, and many old school
line dogs, have made fun of the overzealous-greenhorn-prima donnas who thought th
ey would become a chef upon graduating culinary school. Hello?! A few do, but I
have worked my way up to top kitchen positions from the inside only to take a ba
ck seat to some culinary graduate who could talk the talk but not walk the walk.
More than a few times I ended up filling those slots when the grads didn t measure
More and more employers like to see actual certification or a degree in their ca
ndidates so I decided that it s never too late to go back to school. Cascade Culin
ary Institute has a great reputation and so much is being offered now that wasn t
offered twenty years ago, such as sustainable farming and modernist cuisine. So,
in a round about way, I m ready to talk the talk and walk the walk with still so mu
ch to learn. Chef Marlon, welcome to Cascade Culinary Institute, it is time to f
ill in the blanks.
My First Solo Catering Attempt
Coming from an extensive background of banquets and catering in hotels and resta
urants, I felt pretty confident when my wife informed me that her father had req
uested that I cater his annual Christmas dinner party for his American Legion Po
st. After all, I had been part of preparing and serving large banquets as a live

lihood for many years. The dinner was to be for fifty people; how hard could it
be? I was honored that my new Father in-law would ask me to host such an event,
so I gladly agreed to take the job. There was much to do, starting with a menu p
roposal, including a predetermined budget to work with. We came up with a plan a
nd I began to plan, shop, set up, cook and serve a party for a highly esteemed g
roup of war veterans.
I met my wife while working as a banquet chef at the Oregon Zoo. Laurel and I w
orked very well together and we were confident that we could pull this off seaml
essly. The menu would be a feast of roasted pork loin with garlic mashed potatoe
s, fresh green beans almandine and an apple-brandy crme carmel for dessert. We al
so came up with a vegetarian option and I didn t start to worry until I considered
, after the fact, some things that might matter to the demographic of people I w
as to feed. An older crowd who could potentially be fairly picky when it came to
al dente vegetables. Would the pork melt in their mouths, or would it be too chew
y for a mostly denture wearing bunch. Would the unfamiliar kitchen equipment wor
k as I expected it to as to not throw off my sense of timing? Would there be eno
ugh food? What if my new father in law didn t like my work and I let my wife down?
Well, my experience in such matters paid off as my wife and I pressed through a
successful and well received dinner without a hitch. We even received a round o
f applause and a generous gratuity. I was especially relieved and proud to be in
vited back to do the exact same menu for their next Christmas dinner. That dinne
r will always hold a special place in my heart and continue to be one of my most
memorable food related experiences.