Part 16: Roman Candles Fizzing Out

This is the latest installment in a continuing series that documents my personal quest to become the host of my own cooking show. Since this is a relatively new “career,” there are no vocational programs or community college courses to prepare me for it. From what I have seen, the two most important elements in securing such a position are passion for food and plain old dumb luck. Born with a passion for food, I set out to make my own luck.

Roman Candles Fizzling Out

My job as the executive chef at Mars Hill Cafe paid well enough to afford to go out and do things while also providing me with the time to go out and do things.  That’s uncommon for many chefs.  My problem was that all of my friends were married folk – homebodies who expend all of their energy raising kids and paying the mortgage.  They have little interest and even less energy for social activities like the theater or festivals.  So, I’m at a culinary event when I meet a young woman.  She’s beautiful – long black curly hair, sultry brown eyes and SHE’S A FOODIE!  The timing was perfect.

Beach WalkWe met on a Saturday.  Tuesday we go on a date, meeting for dinner downtown at a local brew pub.  We split a craft brew sampler tray and share each others meals.  You know those awkward silences on most first dates?  Not a one.  After dinner, dessert and a ton of flirting I walk her to her car and a little smooch time.  Best first date ever.

Just that quick we are an item, her the brainy-beauty who works at a local museum and me the chef at one of the city’s hottest restaurants.  The whole thing had a real Romance Channel feel to it.  Finally I have someone to go with me to all those cultural festivals that my married friends (who’ve never actually attended one) consider uppity.  It is an amazing month of romance, flirtation and snuggling.

I’ve always heard it said that the woman you date for the first month of a relationship is not the woman she is on the inside but rather the facade that she uses to lure you in.  I don’t know how accurate that is.  But I can tell you in this instance it was dead on – you could set your watch to it.

As fast as it all came together it fell apart, faster even.  The fun loving, caring person I had met a month earlier had been replaced by a scheming, angry and insulting task master.  I was no longer asked if I could help her with something; I was commanded.  Pet names like sweetheart and dear had been replaced with idiot.  A friend once gave me some great advice – as soon as a relationship stops being fun get out.  I endured the insults.  I endured the ridicule.

What I refused to endure were her attempts to completely retool my life.  I needed a flashy car.  I needed to spend more time with her hip friends and less time with my own.  I liked to go out once or twice a week; she wanted to go out every night.  But the kicker was her constant insistence that I quit Mars Hill Cafe to find a job at a casino in Biloxi because they paid more.

I loved being the executive chef at Mars Hill Cafe.  I loved that everyday I went to work I not only made lunch for our regulars but that the proceeds from the sales went to feed the less fortunate, disaster victims and those who had suffered personal tragedy.  That’s where I learned that the best gift anyone can receive is giving to others.  And she wanted me to walk away from that for money – to spend on her.

We met a few weeks before Thanksgiving.  We didn’t make it to Christmas.  Four of the best weeks of my life and one of the worst.  We wanted different things.  I may have lost my girlfriend but I still had my dream job.  Right?

 

Have you missed previous installments of Diary of a Wannabe TV Chef?  No worries, you can always click the button at the top right on the menu bar entitled “WannabeTVchef Diary.”  Or just click HERE.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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