Gone Fishing

David will graduate from the bachelor’s program at the Culinary Institute of America in February. He’s getting worried. He still doesn’t know what he wants to do next. He definitely doesn’t want to be a line cook. He’s a career changer and among the oldest students in his class.

He worked in his father’s construction business for years. It was a heart-wrenching decision to leave. His father wanted him to take over the business but he likes to cook.

“So?,” say I, “If there is anything in the world you would like to do what would it be? ”

Don’t know…” is the answer. “I just don’t know.” “I like to be outdoors.”

He looks worried. And sad.

“What do you like to eat?”

“Everything.”

“What was your favorite class?”

“Fish. “I really like fish.” (Now we are getting somewhere.)

“What do you like about fish?”

“I don’t know, I just like fish — and water.”

Hmmm…Click!

Several years ago I went on a press trip. The plane landed first in Ketchikan, Alaska, one of the state’s largest cities with a population of a little over 7,000. The locals grumble. They say it’s getting too crowded.

If you wanted to complain you could mention the weather. It was so freezing when we got there you could not only see your breath, you could play cymbals with the icicles. I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold.

We stood on a thick sheet of ice waiting for the tiny seaplane that would fly us way north to a remote fishing lodge where it was even colder. The lodge is the only building on an island. It was once a whorehouse so privacy was its redeeming feature. It’s a place where you’d need to cuddle up to keep warm.

It’s still remote there. Still so private and so far away that if you swallowed a fish bone, you’d probably choke to death because medical help would take too long to arrive. Three guides live at the lodge.

Their job is to take guests out on small boats and let them think they are catching the wild salmon and halibut that are plentiful in the frigid waters, though in truth, it is the guides who do all the real work.

Our guide warned us that if we fell overboard, we’d last for only last a few seconds…not even a whole minute. Neither my companion food writer nor I fell in. We got back to the lodge safely and stretched out beside the roaring log fire while the guides rustled up hot toddies and grilled the fish ‘we’d caught’. I’ll remember that marvelous meal forever.

So as I looked at David looking concerned, my train of thought went like this: “Outdoors…Fish…Chef…Fabulous Food!” David didn’t exactly warm up to the idea.

“I don’t mind cold weather,” he said tentatively. “How about becoming a chef in the Arctic?” I asked. He hesitated. “Way too cold,” he decided. “Oceanography expedition chef?,” I suggested, “Chef in a seafood restaurant in Manhattan?”

“I’m a country boy,” he said.

“Let’s keep thinking…,” I replied.

The day after my meeting with David, I received an e-mail from an old friend:

“On Thursday, we are leaving Las Vegas where we’ve closed our restaurant. We’re headed to Captiva Island, Florida where my husband has been appointed Executive Chef at the South Seas Island Resort (Check it out. It’s breathtaking!)

The resort, owned by Luxury Resorts of America, is spectacularly beautiful albeit pretty remote — the closest place, Sanibel is not exactly a bustling metropolis. and the nearest city, Fort Meyers, is still 40 minutes away. But in all the ways I can think of it seems perfect for us – I am looking forward to taking up once again running on the beach and Louis is anxious to get back into the kitchen. Louis will be overseeing their six existing restaurants, which includes a Barbecue place (so maybe dreams do come true after all!). As importantly, he will also be opening a Fish Camp just outside the “doors” of the property. It is scheduled for a February 2009 opening.

Hmmm…Click!

Fish Camp…February opening! Job for David? Yes!

Now he’s off to paradise in a warm climate. He’s off the hook. Gone fishing — and cooking!

One thought on “Gone Fishing

  1. The moment I noted David was among the oldest in his class and a career changer riveted me to his story as I too am in the same boat (so-to-speak). It suddenly made me realize so many of us actually do hold the pieces to our own puzzle but sometimes it just takes the input of a second very special set of eyes to help coax those scattered pieces into a recognizable picture of our dream. Ms. Chalmers is an obvious master of this. I’m buying the book!

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