Mise en Place –Memoir of a Girl Chef

Mise en Place-FRENCH, definition: ” a place for everything” a kitchen term used in the set-up and organization of one’s cooking station.

It’s a memoir. It’s kind of funny. It’s kind of sad. It’s very chef-y.

Itching to get out of my dysfunctional family since about the age of six, blind drive became part of my human make- up. Even though I stuttered and withered under the judging stare of others, I got my first job at fourteen to fund my escape. In the kitchen at the Sea Scoop in Kaanapali Village, the blind drive took over. There’s no use doing something unless you’re going to do it well, right? It was 1974. Reggae music had become popular on Maui and I had my first beer that summer. I put ice in it because I didn’t know any better. You see, restaurant workers love to take a fourteen year-old shy chick around to show her the ropes. Suddenly, I felt special. The mold was made.

So despite a prep school education and a more than average intelligence (so I’m told), I spent the next twenty years in kitchens. It’s where I felt comfortable. And I had to be chef, the boss, on top, the big kahuna-ess. No one was going to tell ME what to do. (Note to young self: “Someone will always be there to tell you what to do.”)

The adventures were many, from Portland, Oregon, back to Maui, back to Portland, to New Orleans, back to Maui, to Vancouver, back to Maui, to Australia, back to Maui, back to New Orleans, to Florida. Cooking in restaurants, resort kitchens and International World Expositions.

The characters were many: a mango-eating hippie freelance kitchen helper in Lahaina, a cooking transvestite in New Orleans, Mowtown-singing Pommie (English) cooks in Australia, along with the usual contingent of ex-cons, druggies, chauvinists and culinary champions from the seamier side of life.

I cooked meals for Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, Ray Walston and probably many other famous people at the three world’s fairs whose multiple kitchens I managed. I almost cooked for Bruce Springsteen and that’s a damn chapter in the book.

I won a silver medal, beating out the chef from Dollywood.

That’s all the fun stuff. The not-so-fun-stuff includes: sexual child abuse, drinking, drugs, sex and fractured relationships.

But there is a happy ending. And my grown daughter’s a foodie and can crack an egg one handed. So I did something right!

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