I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Finally!!! The "everything you ever wanted to know about me" post

Or at least everything that Lisa of La Mia Cucina wants to know about me. Several weeks ago, Miss Lisa offered to interview interested bloggers as part of a "get to know you better" MEME. Like an eager school girl sitting in the front row on the first day of class, I raised my hand to participate. Lisa promptly emailed my questions, but that little thing called life got in the way and I'm just now getting around to posting my interview.

(1) You are a successful business owner. You started from catering in your own kitchen, to opening up a storefront catering business. What's the best advice you can give others if they want to follow in your footsteps? What is the worst downfall of owning your own catering business?

So, fellow bloggers, you think you might want to be an entrepreneur, eh? I once read an article that stated that owning your own business was an “important component of becoming a millionaire.” Now, before your eyes gloss over with dreams of endless money, let me tell you the reality of the situation.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! WHAT?? BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! SNORT! GASP! WEEZ! Oh Lord, I think I’ve cracked a rib from laughing so hard.

While that theory has certainly proven true for people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and the Google boys, I don’t see myself receiving an invitation to the Millionaire Club anytime soon. I remain an optimist though…. HAHAHAHA! Okay, so maybe it won’t happen to me. A certain image has been promoted of the self-employed. It’s often glorified as the Great Dream, leaving your old job, with the long hours and annoying boss in exchange for a flexible lifestyle that you are in control of. It’s not by any means easy to start your own business and you wind up losing many things you might not have realized you valued in your old secure job. To me, even though this is a 2-part question, the answers are the same to both parts. The downfalls can very well be the same challenges that drive you to start your own business.

1. Can you say good bye to a reliable and predictable income?
No job is 100% secure and there is a good argument that being in control of your income via your own business is more secure than a job however it doesn’t feel like that, especially when you start out. Even the oldest most established business cannot be certain sales will keep coming. From week to week you go up and down and are never sure when or where your next sale will come from. You can have really good months and really bad months and the only constant is unpredictability.

2. Are you okay with NEVER leaving the office?
With your old boring secure job, when you leave work, you leave work. I live and breathe my business so I don’t ever really leave work. Now, I’ve got it pretty good at the moment because things are slow in the kitchen - most people are preparing for vacations and opting for more casual entertainment like throwing a burger or steak on the grill and swigging down a cold beer instead of party platters and buffet service. But then again, that relates back to point #1 above. Chances are when you start your business you will most likely carry the whole dog and pony show, doing anything and everything that needs to be done and until you can justify hiring others your hours will be long and you won’t have a free weekend for a very, very long time. My parents and grandparents owned their own business for many years and people used to comment to my mother that it must be nice to just work whenever she wanted to. Mom would always tell them that she only worked half a day – the first 12 or the last 12!

3. Will you be happy if you don’t make a million dollars?
An unfortunate situation in many small businesses is that the owner often doesn’t make much more than an average salary, sometimes less. Now if you are contemplating starting your own business based purely on financial rewards then you might want to run away screaming right now. I don't anticipate making a big windfall until I sell my business and most likely by that time, I'll be using the money for retirement. The reality is that only a small percentage of businesses make their owner really wealthy, the rest of us stumble along earning an average wage. Even with knowing this, I love my business and cannot think of anything else that I’d rather do. Running your own business may have the potential to make you rich and then again, it may never make you rich, but the important part is that your own business is very likely to make you a happier person. Anyone can get rich but those of us who are content are rich without material wealth.

4. Are you okay with never being able to gossip with workmates?
There are no co-workers for the entrepreneur. You can hire employees that may hopefully become friends but the dynamic is always you as the boss and them as the employees. If you have been used to working in a busy, lively, talkative office full of peers that share the same perspective as you, with Friday afternoon drinks, group functions and shared time complaining about the boss — you can kiss all this goodbye.

(2) Everyone is getting this question, just because I wanna know! If you were told that you could only have 5 foods and 1 beverage for the rest of your life - what would they be?

How could you do this to me, my dear friend, Lisa?? This is almost an impossible decision, but if it has to be done……

(1) Chocolate chip cookies. Not just any chocolate chip cookies. Oh no. Chocolate chip espresso cookies. When these are on the baking schedule in the catering kitchen, I command the ladies to hide them from me. If I see them cooling on the rack I feel compelled to quality control test them. Over and over and over again. I'll have to say there hasn't been a bad batch of chocolate chip espresso cookies leave our kitchen under my watchful eye! LOL

(2) Can I give a really broad answer like “anything Italian”? No? Is that Lisa I hear in the background saying, “Choose one or lose the privilege of them all!” Okay, so Lisa wouldn’t do that to me but I really do have to choose just one thing. Eggplant Parmesan. It’s my “must always order” item from the menu of any Italian restaurant. Deep-fried eggplant slices layered with yummy marinara sauce and smothered with mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan cheese. YUMMMMM! Love it!

(3) Shrimp. Okay, there’s another broad answer but seriously, I don’t care how you prepare it. Just gimme some shrimp. Bubba Blue said it best…. “shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp Creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich, shrimp scampi. That’s about it.”

(4) The perfect salad. Now, the word “salad” can mean a lot of different things - pasta salad, chicken salad, garden salad, fruit salad, congealed salad, on and on. Even a typical garden variety salad can be made a multitude of ways. But to me, the perfect salad is a simple one of mesculan greens, sliced peeled cucumber, shredded carrot, goat cheese discs (that was actually going to be my #5 food but I thought I’d be sneaky and throw it in here!) lightly dressed with the perfect amount of a light vinaigrette dressing and finished off with a sprinkle of sea salt. Oh, and serve it room temperature. I'm really weird about that.

(5) Okay, if I were on death row and had to pick the very last food I’d ever eat again, I’m going to say watermelon. No other food says summer like a subtly crunchy thirst-quenching piece of juicy ripe watermelon. And don’t forget the salt! I share the love of watermelon with my Dad. He used to tell me when I was a kid that watermelons didn’t turn red until air hit them. He’d have the watermelon on the picnic table and as he gouged it with his special “watermelon cutting knife,” you could here the melon split open and with a dramatic pause, he’d pull it open to reveal the juicy red meat. I was never like most kids – eating a messy wedge of watermelon while juice dripped down your elbows and onto the grass and seeing who could spit the seeds the farthest. Nope. I was the prissy little girl eating her watermelon on a plate with a knife and a fork.

And for my one and only beverage, it would have to be sweet tea. Life is just a whole lot sweeter with a cold glass of tea down here in Dixie! I remember once my family took a trip to Michigan to visit a friend of mine. We were having dinner in a restaurant and my Dad just simply ordered “tea” to drink. He had the funniest look on his face when the waitress brought him a mug of hot water and a tea bag.

(3)What is your favorite flower? Why?

This one is easy…..even though I had it in my first wedding (and we all know that didn't last!), the Stargazer Lily is still my favorite. I love the fuchsia color and most of all, I love the smell. It’s not a perfumy smell like a rose but more of a medicinal smell. I have one growing in my flower bed right now and if my dog will stop peeing on it, I’ll be lucky enough to see it bloom in late July.

(4) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Will you still be catering?

If you had asked me this question 5 years ago, there’s no way in the world that I would have predicted that I’d be doing what I am now nor would I have guessed that I’d be doing it where I am. If I shook my Magic 8 Ball today to predict my future, I wouldn’t settle for the "reply hazy, try again" answer or even the "better not tell you now" answer. I’d shake the daylights outta that ball until it told me what I wanted to hear. It would tell me that in the very near future I’d be settled back in my hometown. It would say that I’d be reunited with my friends, family, and all other things that make me feel all warm and fuzzy. It would tell me that I would find my passion for life again, whether it be cooking for the joy of it or scratching around in a little patch of flower garden dirt. My Magic 8 Ball would also reveal that I’d have a quaint little storefront in downtown Jonesborough selling my specialty and gourmet foods. Catering will be something that I will have to think about long and hard before starting again, and even Magic 8 says, "ask again later." It’s hard work, and at times gratifying and satisfying work but my heart lies in the retail side of things right now and I want to explore that option more and more.

(5) Describe your fantasy vacation.

Lisa, how did you know that I’ve been jonesing for a vacation? I applied for a passport and although I don’t have any serious vacation plans as of yet, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its arrival for nearly 2 months now. I’m generally happy to go just about anywhere on a vacation…..just get away somewhere even if it’s just for a long weekend, ya know. But if you asked me about my dream vacation, I’d have to say that my itinerary would take me to Tuscany. I loved the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun" with Diane Lane. Tuscany, with its enchanted landscapes from the mountain to the sea. I’d stay in an elegant and peaceful villa with amazing view over the sea and just a few minutes walk far from the long sandy beach of the coast. My villa would be surrounded by a well-maintained English garden, with olive trees and typical Mediterranean vegetation and a view of the gently rolling hillsides. I’d enjoy my morning breakfast and evening dinner on a wide terrace watching the sun rise and set. For lunch, I’d sip a glass of wine and relax in one of the many sidewalk cafés and later stroll through the cypress lined vineyards or maybe tour one of those mysterious and elusive castles that I can see emerging out of the mists. Maybe walk the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci or take a peek at one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces. A place of dreams and rejuvenation…tranquility and peace. Please hurry passport….I feel like Charlie Brown waiting by the mailbox for a Valentine from the little red headed girl!!!

Okay, so I know Lisa didn't expect to get a book and this probably is WAAAAY more than anybody ever wanted to know, but hey I warned ya! hehehe If you'd like to keep the interview going, keep reading. I'm going to post the instructions below and then I promise I'll wrap it up!

1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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the pastry princess said...

So fun!! Your answers are great and I'm thrilled to have just discovered your blog...will definitely become a frequent reader now. Thanks!

Lis said...

I absolutely loved reading this, Alison! You had me laughing out loud! My dogs pee on my favorite flowers too.. hahahaaaa

I'm so sorry it's taken so long for me to come read and enjoy. But it was totally worth my wait, for sure!

If someone were to ask me about my top 5 foods, watermelon would be on my list as well - along with my fork and knife to eat it. hee! AND I prefer my salads at room temp too - regardless of what type! And I thought I was the only weird one.. glad to have such good company. =))

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you'll get back home soon.. I know how much you miss it.

Hugs sweetie!