My grandmother owned a restaurant growing up where I worked with her a lot. When she retired, my mom made me cook every Friday because, in her words, “A woman won’t want a man who can’t cook.” My real love for the kitchen came while working in an Embassy Suites hotel. A family came in after burying their loved one.

Visibly upset, they placed their order, and my staff and I prepared everything in around 20 minutes. Ten minutes later, I walked into the lobby and saw the group smiling, laughing, and having a good time. That blew my mind. The fact that food could change things like that.

I learned the craft under amazing chefs like Chef Lou in Fayetteville, NC, who taught me a lot. My first professional kitchen job was in a high-volume turn-and-burn restaurant that only wanted to flip the seats. I was a 16-year-old kid working with a bunch of old heads with an old-fashioned chef who did not care and had a horrible drinking problem. This man loved to throw things. He had no problem throwing a sauté pan across the line. No problem getting in your face and cussing you out. Honestly, it helped me become the person I am today. I often think about Chef Julio and thank him for forcing me to grow up fast.

In my 15 years in this industry, I’ve learned this is where I belong. I changed careers several times and always ended up back in the kitchen. I feel at home in my kitchen and don’t want to do anything else. There’s never a day that I don’t learn something new.

In this career, you must be disciplined and learn to control your emotions. Don’t let that person on the line get to you. Don’t let that piss-poor manager kill your drive. Keep doing you. Keep pushing through the hard times, and you will get there.

Keep dreaming, don’t second guess if flavors will work. If you think of a recipe, write it down.