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Discovery of Passion: Becoming a Culinary Herbalist

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

The pivotal moment when I discovered my true passion for herbs and the culinary arts happened in the 1990s. I had already started cooking and catering for people, and I realized that I absolutely loved sharing my culinary skills and nourishing others with my creations.

The journey towards my passion deepened when my first boyfriend decided to attend culinary school at Los Angeles Trade Tech. We both had the opportunity to work with an amazing caterer in Palm Springs called Merry Go Round Catering, where we were involved in hosting so many fun parties. I vividly remember those days filled with vibrant parsley and incredible table displays. It was during this time that I realized I too needed to go to culinary school.

At that point, I had just completed my AA degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), with dreams of becoming a buyer for prestigious stores like Bonwit Teller or Neiman Marcus, following in the footsteps of my grandmother, a talented milliner who created hats for Hollywood's elite. She also worked with renowned designers such as Jean Louis and Galanos, and her hats adorned films like "Mary Poppins" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Her artistry was a tremendous inspiration.

However, my true calling emerged in the world of cooking, specifically in baking and pastry. Since childhood, I had been baking birthday cakes, chocolate chip cookies with my best friend every weekend, and Saturday morning pancakes for my sisters. This love for creating delicious treats with my own hands led me to enroll in the culinary program at LA Trade Tech in the early 1990s.

In the summer of 1993, my life took a transformative turn. I attended the Cordon Bleu École de Pâtisserie in Paris for a summer program, and it was an experience that forever changed me. The school and the month I spent abroad with my father, traveling through Italy, France, and the UK, opened my eyes to the immense possibilities and beauty of the culinary world. Returning to California after this transformative journey, I knew I wanted to pursue baking and cooking professionally, and I never looked back.

My career soared as I quickly rose to become the head pastry chef at Restaurant Sylvie at the Beverwil Hotel in Beverly Hills. I was also part of the reopening pastry team at the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. Notably, I went on to open Boxer restaurant with Chef Neal Fraser (of RedBird fame), where we had a fantastic run as we both spread our culinary wings and soared.

However, the real shift in my culinary journey occurred when I met Benjamin Ford, the son of Harrison Ford. Ben introduced me to the profound connection between gardening and cooking. This revelation transformed my life. Together, we volunteered at a Waldorf school in their gardens and were determined to connect a working farm/garden to the restaurant we were envisioning. We hatched a plan to transform my parents' backyard in Toluca Lake, California, into a fully functional restaurant garden. My parents graciously agreed, and we turned our idealistic vision into reality. During this time I had the privilege of helping Ben and Chef Govind Armstrong open Chadwick restaurant in Beverly Hills in the early 2000s. Chadwick was inspired by Alan Chadwick a pioneer in the French intensive biodynamic method of gardening.

I feel immensely blessed to have worked with some of the most talented and passionate chefs in the culinary industry. Many of my colleagues from those days have become pillars in the culinary community.

By 2001, I was ready to take on New York City with hopes of earning a James Beard nomination as a pastry chef. However, fate had other plans. I was living on the Lower East Side, just blocks from Katz's Deli, when the world changed forever on September 11th. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center deeply affected me, as it did for many.

In that moment, everything shifted, and I returned home to California, still recovering from the collective trauma of that day. During this time, I shifted away from cooking and began working in an administrative capacity, supporting others for over 20 years while raising my two sons.

The most recent and significant shift in my journey happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a time of profound reflection and transformation. I realized that everything in my life needed to change, and this realization reignited my passion for cooking and the culinary arts. (You can read my first post for that part of the story.)

This past summer, my love, my muse, and my passion for culinary alchemy all returned with incredible intensity. I found myself back at the stove, feeling more inspired than ever before. I reconnected with my love for gardening, herbs, and cooking, weaving them together once again. It feels like a homecoming, and I'm completely aligned with my mission in this lifetime.


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