In 2009 I was a washed up burned out social worker. I was feeling like my best years were already passed, and I would never again know the glory that I had encountered almost ten years earlier as the highschool dropout, frontman and lead singer of my Ramones style punk rock band, The Assassinaters. I had backed my way into the social work job looking for graveyard shift work where I could focus my attention on writing the next great American screenplay, and inadvertently been drawn into a seven year stint as a “counselor” on a lockdown unit in the juvenile justice system. While the work there was rewarding, and the career track was comfortable, I was run down by all the sadness and dysfunction, and looking for a way out.
During the two or three years prior, I had become an avid gardener, and in the back of my mind I was looking for a way to parlay that interest into some sort of career move. I had a close friend and mentor named Steve Storheim who had education in landscape design and land management, and I thought that the two of us would start some sort of decentralized urban CSA farm / landscape maintenance company, revolutionize the food system, and realize the vision of a Wendell Berry inspired utopia. When the time came that I had to seriously look down the barrel of starting a career as a farmer, I balked. I knew that I wanted to work with beautiful boutique heirloom vegetables, but I was afraid that the life of a farmer would leave me hungry for the adoration and instant feedback that I had developed a taste for as a performer.
One night in my backyard a friend asked if I had ever thought about cooking school. I was a pretty enthusiastic, if unskilled, home cook, but I really hadn't considered it as a professional possibility. A few months later I was the weird old guy in the Intro to Food Prep class at The Salt Lake Community College, and I knew I had found my place. A few months after that my wife got pregnant with our first child and I knew I needed to start earning money before I would be able to finish cooking school. I made a short list of the restaurants in town where I would be excited to work, and set out to convince one of them to hire me. Ten years, a handful of real nice restaurants, many many many many hours, and not a lot of money later; here I am.