When life hands you lemons… make lemon bars!

First off, I have to say that I adore the clip art that I found for this post. This 50’s housewife looks like she’s had electroshock therapy– something commonly administered to depressed women of that age. She looks enthusiastically demented.

Anyhoo, I was chatting with my friend today asking her what she had bought during a session of “retail therapy” yesterday. Instead of clothing, she admitted that she had stocked up on all baking accessories as she makes cakes in her spare time. I asked her if this was a side job or something she was thinking of transitioning into full-time and I believe she said it was a fun side gig.

For a subset of people, baking is an awesome pasttime. I personally love baking and found that making banana bread throughout grad school was a great solution for using up old bananas and having a cheap breakfast that I could grab and go for my 45 minute walk to school. On a side note: my body has never looked as good as it did during grad school. Walking for 1.5 hrs a day in the California sun meant an awesome tanned and toned body. Boo.

A few years back, I’ll say when I was in my mid-20s, I noticed a small trend amongst some of my former classmates/coworkers. One coworker went to culinary school in SF and then became a personal chef, I think. She later moved to the midwest with her husband but I believe still works in the culinary field. Another friend, with whom I have gone to school off-and-on from elementary school through college, became a pastry chef. Her road looked like this: graduated early from Cal in the 2000s, got a good job during the internet boom, lost good job following the internet bust, got master’s degree, worked a bit, learned pastry making and became a pastry chef. She is one of those people that I expect will have successfully lived 5 different and distinct lives over the course of her lifetime and I kind of think she is totally awesome.

I should note that friend #2 is Asian and what struck me about her road is that she is uber educated and had been quite successful in her pre-culinary life. I forget the explanation she gave to me about her desire to chuck it all and pursue a culinary career but no doubt her response had something to do with passion, interest, boredom with what she had been doing previously.

A fan of cooking networks and shows, I noticed that this trend (uber educated Asian women deciding to chuck it all and go into the food world) seemed to persist in a way that was not true of other ethnicities. For example, I was watching Bobby Flay’s show– the one where he challenges experts to a cook off– and one challenge was held at a cafe in Boston, Flour Bakery. The bio of the bakery’s owner was intriguing: after graduating from Harvard with a degree in math, Joanne Chang left management consulting to start a cooking career in New York City. The same was true for Judy Joo, one of the judges on the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef. She graduated from Columbia, worked in trading on Wall Street and then decided to pursue her passion and work in the food industry. And this is also the case with the host of a Cooking Network show, Brigitte Nguyen: she left a job in corporate accounting to become a cook.

Now, I’m not saying that I would follow suit. As much as I like baking here and there, I’m pretty sure I would grow to hate it if I pursued it as a career path. I just find it super interesting that most of the Asian chefs/culinary experts that I see on TV all come from this similar life arc: Ivy league background, left lucrative career to cook and “follow passion.” I’m intrigued by the decision to leave it all behind and take the risk. And granted: these are the success stories. There are probably others who have done the same and did not have the popular food establishment or Cooking Channel career that these have.

That’s all I guess. I’m now going to make some brownies. Mainly b/c I am in the mood to eat them.

– DOA

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