The Beginning of the Story
If only life were as simple as a sentence long story... but it's not. The events that got me to the point I am today are extensive, with ALOT of ups and downs. Ultimately I am at a point in my life where I just want to do something that I love and that brings me peace at the end of the day.
I initially was overwhelmed about starting a blog. I thought, well who wants to hear from me? Do I really have anything that important to share? Where do I even start? But then I realized, I was starting it more for me than anyone else. A couple weeks ago, I was sitting thinking about the big undertaking I was about to embark on with venturing into the wine world, and was at the moment, trying to read a book that was given to me by the owners of Notaviva Vineyards. I wasn't getting very far into the book, because my eight month old was adamant on getting it out of my hands. It was then, while I was laughing at my attempt to be productive with him awake, that I thought to myself "It actually may be entertaining to document this process of starting a whole new career path at thirty with two young children..." and so the idea of starting this blog began.
(his little fingers are stronger than you may think at snatching)
(we compromised with him getting the book sleeve and mommy getting the book)
So I guess that my first post should be about the path that lead me to where I am now. My future journey is into the wine world, but that is not where I began. I grew up in a bi-racial family. My mother's family had Sicilian routes and I remember the stories she told me of making fresh pastas with her grandmother, hand-made sausages with her grandfather, and the smell of her tomato sauce simmering on the stove for hours. My father had the black soul food down-pack. His collard greens were a force to be reckoned with, and he often had a crockpot of kneck bones and black eyed peas stewing on the counter. I was standing on a chair helping my parents cook at a very young age, and when I turned 15, able to get a job, I went straight to a kitchen. I don't remember ever wanting to do anything else, but cook growing up.
My fifteen years in the food and beverage industry is vast, and I wont bore you with every detail of my resume. I started out working back of house in kitchens, in love with the rush of a busy dinner service, orders being shouted out, and the chaotic finesse to get a delicious dish on the plate in the right amount of time. Although I would have preferred to just work my way up in the industry, my father insisted that I get a college degree, so I started my culinary education at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte before transferring and graduating from The Art Institute of Charleston in 2010. In hind site, I would have argued with my dad more, because I accrued an absurdly high amount of student loans for a piece of paper, that truly doesn't matter in this industry. It's all about the hands on job experience. I had a handful of line cook jobs in high school and college, leading to an Executive Chef position at the Wescott Golf Club in Summerville, South Carolina at a pretty young age of 21.
It was at that job, that I slowly found my love for the front of house operations in the industry as well. There are inside jokes in the food and beverage world about how the back and front of house are two VERY different beasts and personalities, but I loved cooking, and also enjoyed interaction with guests out front. My chef position eventually led to an overall Food & Beverage Manager position, where I started gaining management experience in serving, bartending, and catered events. I absolutely loved watching the smiles and joy of guests reactions to food and customer service on their special days, and realized that the next step in my career would be in catering.
After getting married and giving birth to my first child in 2015, I wanted more from my career to be able to give her the best life possible, as any mother wants. I decided to shoot higher in my catering management career and moved on to a position at Charleston Southern University with Aramark. This position was one of my favorite jobs, because there was a constant string of events happening day in and day out, where I was always running around and being challenged to stay organized and see every event through to success. The weight of having a family and not being in the best financial state at the time made me realize that another source of income needed to be coming in from somewhere. During my professional career. I participated in The Black Expo's Taste of Black Charleston event for six years. This was an amazing event where local vendors donated their time and cooking expertise to feed guests and raise ticket money for local charities. After receiving five consecutive trophies for "Best Savory Dish" in the friendly competition of the event, I began to start receiving some buzz for my chef skills. In the summer of 2015, I was contacted by a guest from one of the events, looking for a private chef for their family's vacation to Kiawah Island over the summer. It was from that gig, that I realized that I could really make a living off of catering through my own name and brand, instead of working for someone else. I began the steps to create my small catering company, Citrus Catering Co, which did surprisingly well for a small home based startup in a thriving food city with lots of competition.
When my job at the university got wind of my personal side hustle, I was faced with a conflict of interest issue, and was put in the position to choose to resign or shut my whole personal business operation down. I felt defeated, because I had successfully started something of my own that was helping my family and bringing me so much joy and pride in myself, but I also was struggling with the idea of giving up my secure salary in case I hit a rough patch in my personal business endeavors. Ultimately, after advice from friends and family, I decided that I had worked my ass off for years, and deserved to take the risk of venturing on my own and continuing my catering business. I resigned from my position, and decided to find a waitress job on the side for extra income around my catering schedule. I even ended up partnering with a previous coworker and good friend of mine, to help with the labor of the business. (She kept me sane on countless occasions during our business ventures, as catering is not always the easiest job to handle). This path was very beneficial for me for a few years, until my personal life took a drastic turn.
In 2017 I was faced with the fact that I was in a bad marriage, that was extremely unhealthy for me, and I made the hard decision to walk away. I had to swallow my pride, and move back home to Columbia, South Carolina with my parents for a short time, until I could gather the cash to get back to Charleston on my own, and continue my catering career. To my surprise, I did a lot better financially as a single mom catering and serving, and fell into a pretty great routine with my then 3 year old and myself in our own little bubble.
Eventually, after some very stubborn independent-woman avoidance tactics, I went on a first date with my current husband and a whole new chapter begun in me and my daughter's lives. I unexpectedly became pregnant in Fall of 2019, was laid off from my serving job at Taco Boy Summerville in March of 2020 when Covid hit, and was faced with the abrupt decision to pack up and move to North Carolina with my still boyfriend at the time. He had recently gotten out of the Air Force and secured a great construction management position, based in Charlotte. I was in a full blown panic at the time. I had lost my second source of income, all my Spring catering income was being cancelled or post-poned due to the pandemic, I had no idea how I was going to make a living in an industry that was ultimately shut down for the foreseeable future... and to top it off, I was pregnant! I was weary of giving up the catering business I worked hard to start on my own, uprooting my daughter, and taking a leap of faith with the father of the child I was now carrying, due to my failed attempt at love the first go around. But he stepped up, without hesitation, taking steps to plan a new future for our little family to ease my worries of ultimately being unemployed all around. And lucky for me, I did take that jump with him, because here we are in 2021, married, (still dealing with this stupid pandemic) but happy and doing well with our little family in North Carolina.
When we made the decision to move to North Carolina, that is when the wheels started turning in my head on a new career path. I knew that it would be difficult to start up a new catering company during a pandemic in a whole new city. I also didn't have my network of former coworkers and employees, who helped a lot with the actual execution of large catering events in Charleston. So I decided, that maybe it was time for me to venture elsewhere. I had already started developing a strong love of wine, and figured North Carolina would be a great place to start my venture into a wine career because of the vast array of vineyards and wineries in the state.
I have always loved the hustle and bustle of the food industry. The clamoring noises and insensate buzzing of the ticket printer, the crude and harsh personalities of the staff, usually complaining and mocking the guests who are making their job harder, the adrenaline rush of getting your ass handed to you on a high volume night, seeing new culinary dishes come to life, crouching in some random spot to scarf food down during the lull, and the satisfaction through the physical exhaustion when you successfully got through a double shift. But getting older, caring for two young children, wanting to have more free time at home to enjoy my family, I have gotten tired of that life. I have been desiring something more, still in the realm of my customer service wheelhouse, but not as chaotic as the restaurant industry. Thus here we are.... the wine world. And so my blogging adventure begins -- documenting my hopes and dreams for my future career, successes and failures, fears and joys, questions and answers, and of course wine drinking research. This blog will not always be grammatically correct. You will not find all the scientific facts of wine making and all the proper terminology, because I am still in the process of learning. So if you are looking for the die hard wine truths and facts, this is not the blog for you. If you are looking to follow along with a mom, who is a hot mess half the time, but determined to learn and grow and thrive on a new path, then this will be a great read!
Cheers to a new journey, and to those who choose to read along and share in it with me. I appreciate your support!
Day one of starting this blog....
bear with me if this little one slows the process down from time to time!