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The Road Not Taken

The name for this website was inspired by Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Choices in my own life took me to a place where I was unsure of my next step. I had resigned from a position many folks aspire to. It was “secure” and paid exceptionally well.

So, I quit.

I finished a long-delayed bachelor’s degree, then went on to complete a master’s. I had long known I wanted to focus on writing, but couldn’t quite drum up the faith to take the leap into full-time freelancing.

I encouraged others to become entrepreneurs, but held back myself.

When Paul Potts made his rapid ascent from obscurity and poverty to plenty-of-cash stardom in 2006, I began pondering the two-roads concept earnestly. I began asking others whether they had ever experienced a “Roadturn” in life — one that really did make “all the difference.”

Let’s stop there, for now.

Let’s look at Frost’s poem and then look within. Are you at a fork in the road? Have you been there before? Your story is welcome here.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I …
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(Robert Frost)

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The Difference Between a Chef and a Cook

ATMOSPHERE, presentation, service, location … all add to the pleasure of dining out. When everything BUT the food is superb, though, it’s like hearing a beautiful lady spout obscenity. It just doesn’t gel.

Without magic in the kitchen, the waitstaff may as well go home.

I’ve been thinking about Chefs and how one becomes a Chef. Maybe it’s the plethora of cooking shows on television. I don’t get to watch them, but my work with Vitamix often puts me in the thick of discussions about how to prepare good food. Or maybe it’s that I’ve become as dissatisfied with restaurants as I am with haircuts: I just can’t seem to find a good one anymore.

To get a better grip on the topic, I launched an Interview request on the best new tool for writers to come down the pike in a long time: MyBlogU. To join that interview and maybe help an aspiring Chef along the way, go here: How to Become a Chef.

A professional chef

Chef Raimund Hofmeister. Courtesy of http://www.culinaryconnection.com/

My buddy, Phil Turner, who dispenses wisdom on the Time Money Problem website, said something about the difference between Chefs and Cooks that struck me as crucial. Said Phil:

A Chef is someone who creates original recipes and has a team of specialist assistant chefs working at his direction.

A Cook is someone who works in a kitchen and follows recipes to prepare meals. A cook may have a team, but the main difference is in terms of the level of creativity required of the role.

I love to cook. I’m not all that keen on doing the dishes, but I love to cook. And I seldom follow a recipe. I love to experiment, to use the foods that are fresh and available, and to turn leftovers into a whole new meal. And I have many times thought about opening a restaurant — but I know nothing about running kitchen. Loving to cook doesn’t make one a Chef.

What is are the potential paths for someone who dreams of being a professional Chef to realize the Dream? I’m hoping some of you can help me find out. Join the How to Become a Chef Interview. You will get full attribution for your participation. And — as a big, big bonus — you will find out more about my mentor’s new project: MyBlogU.

Come on, now. The world needs Chefs … and from the meals I’ve caught on the road lately … it needs them NOW!

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Proud to be Made in the USA

In the 1960’s, many products were still made in the USA. I remember, as a kid, looking at toys and quickly discarding anything that said “Made in Japan.” At the time, that phrase was a synonym for shoddy merchandise. The Japanese were smart, though — and industrious. Just a couple of decades later, Japanese electronics were elevated to superstar status.

Then along came China

sweater made in China

United States Sweater … Made in China

While products once competed on the basis of quality, the advent of Walmart-style merchandising alerted consumers to the possibility of deep discounts on everyday items. Volume was in, low prices were in, and quality on the way out. In an attempt to stay competitive, businesses moved en masse to the low-price leader’s breeding ground: China. And the American economy began to sway.

I am no economist, but it sure doesn’t look good

Last week, I was privileged to represent one of the few iconic brands left in the USA: Vitamix. For 77 years now, Vitamix has been manufacturing their best-in-the-world blending machines in the same Ohio town. It is family-owned company, and today’s president is the great-granddaughter of the founder.

In short … Vitamix is an American classic.

Vitamix makes the best blending machines in the world. Inquire at any great restaurant or ask your favorite chef about Vitamix, and you will find that Vitamix machines are indispensable in the working kitchen.

There used to be a ton of USA-made brands the world adored. Not so much anymore. Even Boy Scout uniforms and American flags sport labels saying “Made in China.” It’s a sad situation.

Anybody want a Ninja?

Right across the isle from my Vitamix booth was the Ninja display. Sometimes people would ask me why Vitamix costs several hundred dollars and Ninjas are much cheaper.

“Because they ARE much cheaper,” I would say. “Vitamix is made in the USA, sports a 7-year solid warranty, and does what the Ninja only claims to do.”

Some would see the light and get the Vitamix. Others would go for the cheaper option. Some would get terribly upset at my assertions. How dare I point out that the shiny Ninja package with big letters saying “Professional” is all hype. If a professional chef took a Ninja into a real kitchen, he or she would get laughed out of the building and back to China.

We don’t care anymore

I’m not pointing fingers. I’m as drawn to low prices as anyone else. But I’m sick of it. From agribusiness “food” sponsored by Monsanto to cheap tools that break the first time you use them, I’ve been known to pass up the best product for the cheapest product … many times.

If American consumers would wake up and begin voting with their wallets, things would change. Businesses would get revived, overall health would climb, and we would bolster our sometimes sagging American pride. That’s a really big “If,” though. And it doesn’t seem imminent.

We are suckers. Yes, we are.

Happy 238th birthday, USA

God bless us all.