Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Cocktail Party Response

Upon meeting new acquaintances and exchanging tidbits about our personal and professional lives, one question never fails to be posed with an enthusiastic tone:

"So, how did you decide you wanted to pursue baking as a career?"  Or, sometimes, "Wow, finance to baking is a big change!  How did you make that decision?"

I love when people show an interest in the path I have chosen and how I got there, especially since I so very much love what I do.

But every single time this question is asked of me, I freeze.

My mouth fills with sand.

And I eloquently begin my response with, ""

This is not how I want to make my impression upon people.  I want to adequately convey my passion and my pursuits of that passion.

I just never know where to begin.

I've tried something along the lines of, "Oh, well, I have loved baking my entire life and just decided I wanted to turn it into a career."

But this doesn't really convey everything that went into my decision and my path to changing careers.  And it sounds a bit flaky.

I have also tried something like, "Well, after graduation, I moved to Manhattan, realized I hated my job in finance and enrolled in pastry school!"

Also a bit flaky.

I've realized that I'm not being completely honest in my response.  Like most conversations upon meeting someone new, I'm sugar-coating my words in an effort to appear friendly and happy-go-lucky.

But that's not the reality of the decision.  It's not realistic to assume people make life-altering decisions without suffering a few gloomy days and bruises along the way.

The truth of the matter is that, while I have never regretted my decision, it was mighty difficult to reach.

It is true that I have always loved baking.  My family is filled with amazing cooks and bakers, so I feel that my passion came naturally and was constantly nurtured during my childhood.

It is also true that I moved to Manhattan, less than a week after graduation to pursue my career in finance; to pursue the lucrative life that I just knew awaited me.

And then, do you know what happened?  I hated it.  I hated my job, the city.  I hated being more than an afternoon drive away from my family.  I hated that Mike left me all alone on the weekends in this crowded, unfriendly place.  And I hated that we fought constantly.

I was depressed, lonely, miserable, confused.  I cried every night when I got home from work.  This sitting behind a computer all day and being a middle man - this couldn't be what awaited me in my adult years?  Could it?

This wallowing continued for about six weeks.  Then, I woke up one morning,  and decided enough was enough, "Get it together girl.  It's time to figure some things out."

In the quest of deciding what I would chose to pursue as a career, I looked at a lot of different parts of my life and asked myself a lot of questions. 

What do you read in your free time?  Cookbooks, food blogs, food magazines, restaurant reviews.

Where do you love to go on the weekends?  Bakeries, bistros, Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma, Union Square Farmer's Market

When you wake up in the morning, what do you wish you could do all day?  Bake.

If money wasn't an issue, what do you wish your job could be?  Pastry chef.

When you're 90 and looking back on your life, what will be the one thing you wish you had tried?  Pursing a career in baking.

The answer was blindingly right in front of me.  Still, it took me another six months to research culinary schools, figure out how I would pay for culinary school, draft up multiple budgets to account for the big pay cut I would inevitably take, announce my decision to my family and wholeheartedly convince myself that I wasn't making a huge mistake.

And after making the decision to actually pursue this craziness, I was still facing a year of culinary school and an externship, all while keeping my full-time job in finance.

So, you can see how "Oh, well, I have loved baking my entire life and just decided I wanted to turn it into a career," and "Well, after graduation, I moved to Manhattan, realized I hated my job in finance and enrolled in pastry school!"don't adequately express my path to choosing a career in pasty.

But the entirety of the story is kind of lengthy and, honestly, a bit depressing.

So now, I just need to figure out how to craft a cocktail-party appropriate response that will not make me appear as either a flake or a self-absorbed wind bag.


  1. I go through same thing now that I've switched from finance to web development. My experience at parties has been a little different. I tell them something like "After helping fuel the collapse of the global economy, I was looking for a new challenge. Web development was something I was doing in my spare time and turns out you can do it as a job too." They don't think I'm a flake; they are jealous. I have an awesome job doing what I love. I turned a hobby into a career. They wish they had the balls to do what you and I did.

  2. Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. VeinoteMarch 24, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    Mark, I love you! I'm so glad to hear you are also loving your new hobby-turned-career. Miss you and Beth so much, but I hope you are having an awesome time decorating your new house! XO

  3. You have a great blog! I feel that I had the same experience as you did and turing a passion into a career is what everyone wishes they could do! Congrats and happy baking!

  4. Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. VeinoteMarch 28, 2010 at 4:39 AM

    Hi Annouchka! It's nice to know I'm in good company in going after a dream. By the way, the food on your website is beautiful!!!

  5. Just say "It's in my blood". For that is where the passion, the drive and the love of food comes from.

  6. Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. VeinoteApril 9, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    I will remember that response the next time I get that question :o) XO


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