Chef Genny’s Blog:
I had the honor of having a newspaper article written about me a couple of years ago when I was the Manager and Pastry Chef at a wonderful patisserie in Louisville. Granted it was just for a local rag, but it was flattering nonetheless. The reporter asked about my assumed classical culinary training and background hoping, I imagine, to hear glamorous stories of my stint at Le Cordon Bleu or the CIA and perhaps of the many stages I have done across the country and beyond…Honestly, I have done NONE of these things and my simple response was “I went to the School of Mom—toughest school there is”. And this is true.
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and one of my earliest childhood memories is standing on a chair to reach counter-height in the kitchen. My mom had a Sunbeam Mixmaster standing mixer that, unlike the now popular and fantastic Kitchen Aids, had stationary beaters and a stainless steel bowl that needed constant pushing to rotate and mix properly. The sound of the “cling…cling…cling” my mom’s wedding ring would make as it hit the bowl was like a sweet melody. Before every baking project, I would run to her jewelry box and slip on every gaudy ring she had, return to standing on my chair and hit the bowl myself “CLING!…CLING!…CLING!” (4 year old girls are not known for being subtle). This was the beginning of my love affair with baking. It was Mom Time. Girl Time. The Sweetest Time.
My mom made baking fun and exciting and encouraged me to do it on my own, buying me Holly Hobby cookbooks and letting me make my own mistakes. By the time I was 10, I learned the importance of tempering eggs, discovered that there is a difference between evaporated and sweetened condensed milk and that, when you don’t rush the cooking of homemade fudge, it turns out like a little cube of Heaven (especially when sucked on after school while watching ‘Land of the Lost’). Never did my mother just pop open a tub of Cool Whip or empty a box of Instant Jell-O into a bowl. Everything was made from scratch and if the recipe looked delicious, we would make it.
In my twenties, I graduated from CU Boulder (with a degree in Psychology, FYI), sent my diploma to my proud mom and decided to do the Oprah Thing by “Following My Passion” to become a professional baker. Having spent a lifetime falling asleep reading cookbooks instead of popular fiction and tearing up when Food Network came on the air, I believed it was my destiny. It also seemed apparent that a formal culinary school would just teach me everything my brain already knew. I needed to get my hands covered in flour and DO IT. And for the past 10 years, I’ve put everything my mom had taught me to the test and have made a career out of mixing, baking, boiling and frosting.
Now that I have my own child, I know how much patience it takes to have them “help” you in the kitchen. It takes 10 times longer to create a dish and just as long (if not longer) to clean it up. Ingredients aren’t cheap and eggs at a terrible risk when little hands grab them. But if my mom hadn’t been so willing, understanding, generous and tolerant, I wouldn’t be where I am today—a woman with a career where I do what I love and love what I do. She introduced me to the classroom, taught me and even paid my tuition. I am a forever-grateful alum from the School of Mom.
~ Genny, Kitchen Manager and Cocoa Coordinator