This post is somewhat monumental in the albeit short history of our blog. J and I sit here actually writing this TOGETHER after a crazy, packed weekend of family and events rather than through the virtual universe from hundreds of miles away. I graduated this weekend after three long years of graduate studies in public health from GW. Being able to celebrate with my favorite people was the biggest gift! On top of the great people, sunny weather, good food, and the end to a very stressful chapter of life, it was such a treat to get to listen to Jose Andres speak at Commencement. (In case you don’t know, Mr. Andres is the acclaimed chef and restaurateur of successful dining establishments all around the country including some DC favorites like Jaleo, Oyamel, America Eats Tavern and Zaytinya.)
Being in a heavily transitional period of life, I found Jose Andres’ ode to successes and failures to be encouraging. The fact that every commencement address is overtly and unashamedly meant to evoke emotions of empowerment and perseverance is usually extremely off putting and forced to me. Something about his genuity, however, or his work in my particular area of interest really got me. He told a story of when he was young and his father repeatedly gave him the job of attending to the fire during meal preparation. Being, well Jose Andres, he of course wanted to be involved in the actual cutting, mixing and tasting of the meal rather than the seemingly menial task of attending to the fire. But his father was taken aback when young Jose Andres asked him to help prepare the food and wisely told him that if he could control the fire then he would know how to cook.
Jose Andres went on to beautifully explain how our lives are analogous to a recipe, and following too strictly to the prescribed way of doing things or the expectations of our life-dish could suffocate our creativity. I know at least in my life right now it is so easy to compare to the successes of others, try and rush accomplishments or feel as if temporary recognition is going to fill me up. It is a rare occurrence to feel at once both content in my circumstance and also motivated to do so much more with the position, humble as it may be, that I have been given.
Jose Andres began his address by saying “My name is Jose Andres, and I am a cook.” His simple acknowledgement was actually really profound and humble when you think of the layers of failures that took him to get there, the layers of successful restaurants that came through those failures, and the layers of ways he has connected his passion to needs in our country. The word cook for him is more than an occupation, but a platform. I don’t know what my word is yet, but it really makes me wonder. For now I guess I will keep tending to the fire 😉