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I can hardly believe a new year has begun! Another holiday season has been packed into boxes; Christmas cards from cherished friends and family have been read one last time, gifts put away. As I turn into the New Year, I can’t help but be reflective on the year that has slipped away. There were lessons learned, ideas that turned out to be much better in my head than in actual practice. There were white knuckle moments as well as moments of hilarity, joy and touching warmth. But there was one spectacular day in the Fall of 2014 that is etched into my memory (and my heart) as it touched me to the very core of who I am.

Fifteen beautiful teenagers from the Oxnard City Corps met me at the Community Roots Garden in Oxnard as volunteers to harvest vegetables and herbs from the garden they had helped plant in the spring and to create a meal for other volunteers and themselves from what they had harvested. Fifteen very wary teenagers met me with guarded eyes and shy reticence, clearly wondering who this middle-aged lady might be and what she had in store for them. As we gathered our food-stuffs, divided into teams and prepared lunch for the volunteers over an open wood fire in the chilly fall air, the most magical thing happened. Fifteen wary teenagers turned into fifteen excited, enabled,

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In the Moment

I have always wanted to be one of those “in the moment” people. You know the type. Hip. Always knowing just what’s the right thing to wear, the trendiest song, follower of the latest hit TV show. I’ve always hungered to be that girl. Cool, hip, trendy and in the moment. You know what I realized the other day?

That as a culinary professional, my entire existence is about being “in the moment”. My time is spent doing something that I simply adore, that is all about being present, focused and in the moment. As I speak with a client about an upcoming event it is important that I listen carefully to their vision of what their special day is about. To learn about the guest of honor, about those that will be gathering to celebrate a specific life event. I so enjoy learning something about people’s lives in this way. And while you may not think there is any relevance to my developing a menu, it is only through understanding the why, the who and the history of that person or event that I feel I can then design a menu that is representative of what is being celebrated. In other words, I am in the moment.

That understanding of the client is then translated into the language of what food stuffs are currently in season. As residents of Ventura County we are so fortunate to live in one of the richest agricultural growing plains in the U.S. Did you know that we are second only to Holland in annual tulip production? First in the world for Strawberries, with Blueberries beginning to be a major player. Years ago I had the opportunity to get to know one of the agricultural PHD’s that was working on bringing blueberries to our local farmers. It was a fascinating moment, to listen to growers from Canada explain the intricacies of this new crop. It was a snapshot of the beginning of a new trend. Pretty heady stuff.

I am often asked by clients what they should be eating now. What’s the latest food trend, the “in” thing? My first response is generally the same. It goes something like this. “I always suggest that you eat locally grown, organic food stuffs that are currently in season.” So what does that mean? It means that to be able to truly savor the deepest flavors, recipes can only produce the greatest results if the ingredients are at their freshest because they are in season, are grown locally by farmers who grow our food responsibly and inspire you to discover your inner Chef. So visit your local farmers market, or how about Underwood Farms in Somis or McGrath Family Farms in north Camarillo? The treasures you will discover will tell you exactly what you should be eating right now.

All this brings me back to where we started. Turns out that my approach to food has brought to me what I always thought was just out of reach. With a focus on seasonal, locally sourced and organically grown foods I the moment! Wouldn’t you like to be too?

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When I left the corporate workforce in 2010, I made a promise to myself that this next part of my life would be about the pursuit of things that filled me with a sense of purpose. I would invest my whole self in each precious hour of this life chapter wisely, careful not to squander what had been so hard won. The freedom to re-create self authentically, recognizing that being fearless was not the goal. The goal was and is to act fearlessly despite the recognition that the path will not always be free of obstacles, but that it will be the path I have chosen and have dreamt of.

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