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Thursday, September 11, 2014

InspHERational Woman: Rachel Reynolds

Rachel Reynolds
Chef De Partie & Aspiring Restaurant Owner

I had a great time with the talented and gregarious Rachel Reynolds when she came to visit from New England a few weeks ago.  She and her boyfriend, Connor, passed through Tennessee while taking a road trip to taste their way through some of the southern states.  Their mission?  To build more culinary inspiration for a future restaurant.  Catfish for breakfast, bologna made from rabbit meat, and pickled hard boiled eggs made red from beet juice were a few of the many southern delicacies they enjoyed on their trip.  I was so excited they stayed with us for a couple of days so I could learn more about Rachel's story and find out what inspired her to become a chef.  Oh, and did I mention her food tastes amazing??  The photos below just don't do it justice.

Have you always wanted to work in the food industry? 


No, not at all.  I was never a fearful eater, but I did not really grow up cooking.  My mom really loved to cook and she'd always let me pick which recipes I wanted to try out of magazines.  We'd go shopping together and get the ingredients.  I watched but never helped, but I was always very appreciative of the results.  I made cookies and cakes, but I never made dinners.  

When I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian because I love animals.  I also really loved math and science in high school.  Everyone told me I would be a good physician assistant or nurse because I'm a people person, so that was what I focused on.  But the more that I did that, the more I realized that it just wasn't for me.  It took some time, but I finally found my way. 

How did you find your way?

Well, I was going to school and I was studying to become a nurse.  At the time, I was working in a bakery and I loved my job in the bakery.  I loved going to work every day; I looked forward to it.  I realized that I loved it so much and one day I asked myself "how can I do this every day?"  And I realized I needed to go to school so I could go to work.  So that's what I did, and I applied for culinary school the next day.  

Learn from every experience. 

It's fun to learn new things, and the more you work for other people, the more you learn.  Everywhere you work you pick up bits and pieces.  No one job has ever been perfect, but I find different things that I like in every job.  I also incorporate what I've learned in previous jobs to my new jobs. 

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. 

You can't be afraid of making mistakes, you learn from mistakes.  Every time you screw something up and learn from it,  you'll never make that mistake again.  You have to let bad days happen and just end.  And then you move forward.    

In the kitchen, there are always new obstacles.   

There can be a lot of obstacles depending on the day.  Some days it's the challenge of working service.  Every busy night presents its own challenges.  Anytime you make it through a service it's an accomplishment.   

When I worked in the bakery, every day the dough was different.  Depending to the humidity or the temperature you always had to adjust the dough, and feel it, touch it and taste it to make sure that everything was the same so that you could get the same perfect loaf for the customer every day.  And I loved that small challenge.  As crazy as it may sound, it really is a challenge to make a beautiful loaf every day.  You can't follow the same recipe every day.  It's never the same.  If you use the same recipe every day, you get a different loaf of bread every day.  It's all very touch and feel.  

Do what you love.

You have to love what you do and do what you love.  People are always trying to work for the top chefs to have names that look good on their resumes.  A chef that I work for now once told me: "You should never build a resume for anyone else but yourself."  My goal is to build my own restaurant, who am I building a resume for except for myself?  That goes for anyone trying to build their own business.  Build a resume for you.  Learn things that you want to learn because you're the person you need to please in the end.  Do what you want, and do what interests you.

It's about trying to find how you can have your 'best day ever' every day.  It can be an impossible goal, but it can happen if you find joy in the small things.   

For those considering new ventures, here's some advice from Rachel: 

The best thing you can do is sit down by yourself, because no one else can give you the right answer but you.  You have to ask yourself:  "Why am I on the path that I am now?"  "What has influenced me to this point?"  "Which path am I interested in?"  "Where am I going to be the happiest?"  "What really interests me?" 

The path you're on may seem like the easiest way--you're already on that path headed toward a final goal.  But even if a path seems like the easier way, sometimes you have to pick the harder way because that's what's going to make you happier.  You can never discount your own happiness or interests.  You never want to undercut yourself.  Live your life the way you want to live it--even if it's hard.  If you're not happy right now, the only thing that you can do is change it, and the only person who can change it is you.  Never be afraid.  

Rachel, thank you so much for your time and inspiring words of wisdom!

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