After spending almost ten years as an information systems integrator, I decided upon a new career path towards becoming a pastry chef. To achieve that goal, my wife, Lisa, and I temporarily relocated from Seattle to New York City where I attended culinary school, and then worked with and learned from some of the great pastry chefs in NYC. We moved back to Seattle in the middle of 2008 and I have been working as a pastry cook at Cafe Juanita.
When I was young, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the reply was usually, “A chef!” However, somewhere along the way, computers grabbed my attention and eventually won out over cooking as a career choice. I attended the University of Dayton and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. At first, my work was interesting, challenging, and fulfilling. As a programmer and analyst, I was constantly faced with new problems to solve. Though as I developed my career, I moved into positions that took me further away from the hands-on problem solving and the creative outlet that I had as a programmer/analyst. Eventually, I grew to dislike my work and found it to be unfulfilling. I needed a change.
My culinary career started back in 2002/2003 when I spent eight months as a stagiaire at Mistral restaurant in Seattle. I would work at the restaurant two days a week while still working my full-time job. It was a great experience and I learned a lot from chef William Belickis. While I loved being in the kitchen, I just was not prepared to make the personal sacrifices required for this career: working nights while all my friends work days, the long hours, the low pay, the holidays spent in the kitchen, etc. I was not ready to give up my comfortable and well-paying daytime job and, more importantly at the time, did not want to be away from my partner and friends. So I went back to my unfulfilling career and decided that cooking would just have to stay a hobby for me.
All of that changed when I received a letter in the mail from the United States Army Reserves stating that I was being activated for an 18 to 24 month tour in Iraq. To make a long story short, I narrowly missed being sent to Iraq because of medical issues with my knees. It was a difficult ten month ordeal where I was not sure if I was soon going to be in the deserts of Iraq, or if I was going to be given a medical discharge from the Army. After finally receiving word that I was being honorably discharged from the Army, my fiancee and I decided to both quit our jobs and travel through southeast Asia for eight months. Not only was this a way to celebrate my leaving the Army and not being sent to Iraq, we both had grown tired of our careers and needed a change. This trip abroad allowed us to leave behind our current lives/careers and come up with a new direction for ourselves.
The result of that search for a new direction led us to where we are today. We moved to NYC in the Fall of 2006 so I could attend the Institute of Culinary Education. I graduated May 2007 from both their Pastry and Baking Arts and their Culinary Management programs. I have since spent time at WD-50 (Alex Stupak), Jean-Georges (Johnny Iuzzini), Del Posto (Nicole Kaplan), Gotham Bar & Grill (Deborah Racicot), Gilt (David Carmichael), and Le Bernardin (Michael Laiskonis). I am now the pastry sous chef at Cafe Juanita (Holly Smith) in Kirkland. You can find my blog that focuses on the pastry world at The Last Course Discourse.