Forgive my indulgence here. I've been doing a lot of reading...and reflective thinking lately.

These days I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what I want my life to look like. I'm at the crossroad. I'm ready for a change and I've been doing some exploring...trying to figure out my next steps. While my round the world trip may be a few years off, I'm making some changes now in anticipation of that event.

You see, when I turned 18, I had no roadmap. The main goal was to graduate from high school. After then, it's pretty safe to say...there were no other plans. No visions of college, or thoughts about a career. I was lost. Raised by two working middle-class parents...after graduation, I did what they did. I went to work.

Maybe I watched too much TV. Maybe I read too many books.

All I know is, I looked at my parents' life and decided...I want my life to be different.

Okay, the reality is....that's all I knew. I didn't know how it would be different...or that one day, I'd want to make a difference. I just knew that life had to be about more than getting up, going to work, and spending 50 weeks a year...planning a vacation that involved little more than visiting relatives.

Even when I was growing up...in my own rebellious way...I sought out everything that was new or different. I befriended the new kid from India...even though it wasn't until I was much older that I grasped where India was. My neighbor down the street was an African American artist who taught karate to all the kids in the neighborhood...for free. Deep in the heart of racist middle America...I had to lie when I went to his house.

I've always been intrigued by people and the things they are passionate about. Art, jazz, food, textiles, physics, photography, scuba diving, theater, dressage, business, philanthropy...you name it. I love learning about it.

I'm insanely curious...and always have one eye cast on the next adventure.

But every now and then, something trips me up.

The moment hits me so hard, it's worthy of a little gasp. La la la...and then WHAM! I stop dead in my tracks....and realize just how far I've come.

Such an event happened this week.

I'm working on a new project and several of us went out for lunch at a small Thai restaurant. I start blathering on about how well the food is prepared and noticed some nuances that were exceptional. The woman sitting next to me, picks at her food and says, "You know a lot about this, huh?" More blathering ensues and I mention that I took cooking classes in Thailand. Then WHAM! It turns out, this 50 year old woman had never eaten Thai food before. And even though Canada is just three hours north by car, she had never left the United States.

I keep thinking...what was so profound about that moment?

As I'm writing, I realize...that could have been me.

Hell, just a few short years ago...that was me.

Life is full of funny twists and turns. Who knew that when I followed my heart and moved to Seattle, that this would be my life? I still have to pinch myself sometimes!

In this oh-so-reflective mode, I keep trying to figure out...what exactly was the critical path that lead me here? Like anything, it's a series of events, each one leading to another.

At each major stepping stone, I doubted myself completely.

With each leap, more than a few people who loved me said in their own special way, "You'll never make it."

Leaving the naysayers behind, I crossed the chasm, leaping from rock to rock. For my next step, I could see the rock ahead and it never failed to be covered in moss. I'd hurl myself towards the rock. Occasionally, I would stumble and collapse. I'd cling there, with my chest against the cold rock, lost in the rhythm of breathing. There, with the damp moss against my face, I'd survey the landscape...and determine the best way to get back up.

And eventually...I'd figure out how to stand, again.

My new vantage point provided a fresh perspective.

Not long after I regained my balance...I'd spy another rock. My ex would say, "You just got here. Why are you making another leap so soon?"

I had no words.

But I readied myself for the next leap anyway.

People ask me how I gain access to noteworthy people and events. That's it. That's the big secret: I leap.

To the outside world, I may appear confident. I can assure you...looks are deceiving. I'm nervous as hell. Scared to death. And think, "What the hell am I doing here?"

But here's the key...I keep going.

My dad has this saying, "You can make any mess you want...as long as YOU clean it up." Before, that saying applied to making a mess in the kitchen. But as an adult, what it's come to mean to me is...whatever situation I get myself into, I have the power to fix it.

So I leap.

Maybe I get bloody. Maybe I get the wind knocked out of me. Maybe I don't know what I'm doing...but I know...I have the power to fix it.

The questions I keep asking myself are...what do you want your life to look like? What's the next step? And most importantly, what are you waiting for?


The Overrated Menu

Check out Tony Bourdain's piece on the overrated menu.

He cracks me up:

Cruelty-free Berkshire pork with shallot reduction and Yukon potato gnocchi: Nobody wants to be cruel, but you did kill the thing—what's cruelty-free about that?

Do You Want to Be a Star?

Auditions for the Food Network brought up a slew of discussions on my side of the fence. People came out of the woodwork asking for tips, advice, insight, and "Hey, do you own a video camera?"

Let's just say...there was a flurry of activity going on last weekend.

I've been a little philosophical lately, and it seems this is a good time to address some of those thoughts.

Here's something I realized:

Not Everyone Wants to Be A Star.

I bought into the excitement...and called all my favorite chefs and culinary mentors. "Hey! Auditions are on Tuesday!!"

The responses ranged from: "Are you kidding?" to "Look, I've worked in TV before...and it's not pretty. I'd never want to do that."

Since I have a tendency to go big, and I'm often in the center of all that media hullabaloo...their response baffled me. After a few heart-to-heart discussions, I learned that for them, it had nothing to do with a lack of confidence...but a crystal clear certainty about what their dreams were. And frankly, their dreams never involved chasing after TV or paparazzi flashing spectacles.

Truth be known, my motives were even more selfish than that. Two friends that I respect and admire beyond belief...create some of the most amazing food. I'd kill to work in the kitchen along side them, learning every step of the way. And if their cooking demos were bundled into a DVD set? All the better.

But what I've come to realize, is the same lesson I learned working in politics: The most talented guy...doesn't necessarily want to be President of the United States...or the next Food Network star.

But what if...you did want to be a star?

Here's what I know:

If you have a dream, and you really want it, step up and bring your A Game.

I've preached that same spiel to chefs, aspiring restaurant owners, politicians, non-profit folk, leaders of industry--you name it. Across the gamut of occupations, if you've got ambition and you really want your spot in the limelight, nothing short of your A Game will do.

Auditions for the Food Network illustrate this perfectly. Over half the people who show up...aren't prepared. No photo, no audition tape, and the application is not complete. No considerations have been made for hair, make up, or what looks good on camera. And the announcement specifically says, "Be clear about your culinary point of view." This is not the time to ramble on about how you like good food. It's important to be concise...and precise.

Initial eliminations are very easy. Those who want it, figured out how to prepare. No question about it.

This is not the time to lobby with excuses.

When the big boys roll into town, they're here, they're serious, and you clear your calendar for them.

That's obvious, right?

Lord help the people who took in the applications. I would have loved to buy them all a drink. I'm sure they've got some great stories to tell....

The truth is, no one cares if your car broke down, or if you couldn't find childcare, or if the dog ate your homework. Professionals figure it out...and they make it happen.

It's just that simple.

Case in point: A friend of mine went to audition. Not only did she have her demo tape, a headshot (you think they're going to remember you without one? HA!!!!), and her application was already filled out. She walked up to the table with a complete package...and they were shocked!

I bet that made a great impression.

And you know what?

She's got a callback later this week.

The truth is, once you get access to your dreams, it's hard as hell. The learning curve is steep, and there will be a lot of people counting on you.

But before all that happens, you need to get past another series of hurdles. If you want to get close enough to even see the reality of your dreams, the first step...

Bring your A Game.

And leave your excuses at home.

Seattle Food Network Auditions

Okay folks, the big boys are rollin' into town...and auditions are on Tuesday.

Are you ready?

Here's what they're looking for:

• Cooking know-how: You can be self-taught or professionally trained but you must have strong cooking skills. Cooks, Chefs, Foodies, and all those who are passionate about food are encouraged to apply!

• Personality that pops: Let yourself shine and show us who you really are. Don't be shy. We are all about personality-show us yours!

• Teaching skills: Bring the world of food and cooking to life in your very own passionate and unique way. Please be clear about your cooking point of view.

• Keep in mind, sometimes we don’t know exactly what we are looking for, that is until we meet you! If NFNS4 is not the right fit for you, but you think you still have what it takes to have your own show, please come see us or submit your information anyways.

From a pool of finalists, one winner will receive their own six-episode show.

The Next Food Network Star 4

Seattle Open Casting Call

City- Seattle, WA

Date- Tuesday 9/11/07

Time- 10am-4pm

Hotel Andra Ballroom
2000 Fourth Ave

Seattle, WA 98121


Please come see us in person at the Hotel Andra Open Call!!!, but if you can’t make it to the open call, be sure to make your tape and send it in. The deadline for all completed applications and VHS/DVD/MINI DV is October 12, 2007. We will not be accepting any other format. Please visit us at www.foodnetwork.com to fill out the application and learn how to send in your video.

For more information or questions please e-mail:

Alfresco with Ken & Catherine

When Ken & Catherine call, I come running!

You see, Catherine is the wine & cheese buyer for Seattle's Spanish Table. For her, work duty includes following the hot new wineries, traveling to Spain, and sampling copious amounts of wine. And with a Hot Picks nod from Wine & Sprits, her star is definitely on the rise.

Ken is a former chef and the creator of a dish my friend still swoons over! He now works as a wine rep--supplying the city's finest restaurants.

Together, this dynamic duo create the most amazing meals. And when they extend an invitation to dinner...I consider myself blessed, thank my lucky stars, and wonder, "How did I get so lucky?"

Hospitality is in their DNA.

And Catherine is channeling Martha for sure! From the linens to the sweet garnishes on the plate--no detail is missed.

For them, it was a casual night talking shop. For me? I'd pay money just to be there.

I mean, really...why go out when you can dine like this?

PS. See that freshly churned chocolate sorbet? That's my contribution from David Lebovitz' book, "Perfect Scoop." Made with items already in my pantry, this recipe comes together in mere minutes...and it's oh-so-delicious!