Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Eating isn't easy: But it should be

Eating isn’t easy: But it should be

So if you’ve been following me on the Facebook or Instagram I’m sorry for all the hash tag clean eating photos. Well I’m not actually sorry; I hope you have found some ideas to cook at home as well.

So I started this eating home cooked meals thing because well; I am on a very thin budget and my love for restaurants and bakeries had to take a backseat for a little while. As I started this journey I figured I’d share my photos and try to write more recipes for them as well. So that’s the backstory of where all the #eatclean posts came from. Now for the stuff you’ll want to argue with me about.

Recently I have had the opportunity to work with my hands on a local farm with a family I know and respect. The trip to the farm is short and sweet, it’s a brisk 13 miles from my front door about a 15 minute drive. Why is that important? Because I live in a place where that kind of fresh food is available just 15 minutes away. Quite often these fine folks are at farmer’s markets just down the street from my house. I realize that is not the case in many cities throughout the United States, in fact there are places in America that people are starving and have no idea what farm fresh spinach looks like. To me that’s a big problem, that is insane! How can we live in what people argue to be the “greatest country” in the world yet we have neighbors, friends, family, and community members that are starving? In order for me to really elaborate on this point we have to look to our American History, luckily we don’t have to travel to far back to find some points of interest. Let’s start in the 1930’s, an era of American History often remembered for the “Great Depression,” a time in America where the unemployment rate hit its high at 23% in 1932, in the following years leading to up to America’s participation in World War II the very disputable number of deaths related to famine were 7 million Americans. Yes this is a staggering number. But compare it to an even more staggering number, 90 million Americans in 2016 are obese. Now this is as a much an opposite argument as I can come up with. Now this doesn’t mean that 90 million people are dying from starvation or even suffering from that. But what it means is there is a severe breakdown in our food system.  It is easily arguable that more than 7 million Americans are dying from food annually.

So how did we get here? How is it that we still have food insecure Americans alongside severely obese Americans? In my humble opinion it comes down to how we are eating and the food that is available to those Americans that are suffering through poverty. Did you know that in America we produced almost 719 trillion calories per day? That is a huge number of calories. Shit, okay back on track what’s my point? Come on Andrew get to it already…

So what it comes back to for me is how we educate and how we provide for one another, yes I know I am starting to sound like a dirty socialist, take care of our neighbors, live happily together share your food with a starving child. I know I am the worst. If you seriously think that taking care of our communities is a crazy thought you should really consider that statement. Nonetheless, in today’s America you can buy 2 “Big Macs” for $5. TWO BIG MACs for FIVE DOLLARS! But in the same day you can not buy 2 “organic” apples for that price. That is insane. What does that say about the fast food we are consuming? What does that mean to the community members that need help the most? It means you won’t starve but you will get sick, if you have a diet of what is “affordable” then odds are you may find yourself in an obese state of living. Fast food is full of crap that ruins our bodies, that negatively affects our mental state of being. I’m not saying that all our problems in society lead back to food, but come on let’s at least look at it. Let us imagine a society where we all have access to fresh food, we all know how to prepare that fresh food, and there is enough for everyone to eat it. The cost of health care would drop, our kids would know what fresh spinach tastes like, and our farms would be bolstered with increased funding to make even better options available.

Now, I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to eating shit food. But I had to make a change to my diet based on not only my income but also my health and weight concerns. In just over 21 days of eating home cooked meals, I saved $175.00 and lost 20 pounds. Yes I am lucky, I am armed with the knowledge of cooking, I grew up on a farm where all we had was home cooked from the garden, caught from the creek, and hunted in the woods. I don’t subscribe to any specific diet, I’m not a paleo eater, nor do I believe in the “organic” stamp. I do believe in education, nutrition for everyone, and sharing fresh food. I do believe that we can become a healthier society if we educate our community members on how to cook that beautiful fresh spinach, I do believe if given the opportunity to cook at home society would fall in love with food all over again. Each year I grow my own garden, this year I’ve taken it to the next level, instead of a giant green lawn I’ve added a big raised bed for fresh vegetables, I’ll pickle my own okra, I’ll make my own tomato sauce and can it, I’ll share the excess produce with my neighbors. I am committed to being an example of what we can do together. So I’ll continue to share my recipes, my food adventures, and my ramblings of why the organic stamp is a sham.

If you made it this far; thank you. You’re beautiful, you’re wonderful just the way you are. If you want some suggestions on how to cook something shoot me an email. I love y’all just the way you are. Thank you for reading. All the best and happy cooking.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wins and Losses

Wins AND Loses:

All so often I find myself talking to friends family and strangers about the victories in life. Whether through social media outlets and the thousand friends I have there, or in person at a demo talking to strangers; the path of least resistance is the chosen path for most. It makes total sense, who wants to talk about the times where shit hit the fan? Who really wants to get into the times that the world didn’t go their way? I generally don’t like to share those moments, it’s not fun nor glamorous. However those moments have happened, they’ve shaped our choices, our paths, our experience. In order for wins to exist there must also be losses.

I am an athlete at heart, I love sports, I have had the opportunity to play them at high levels. I have love for the games, so for me looking at situations as “wins and losses” is so much easier. I hope it all makes sense to you as well. Things you should know; this is not a sad poor me post, this should serve as an opportunity to celebrate the losses that have given you the courage to achieve the wins.

For me life has been relatively easy. I know that sounds arrogant, it’s not, it’s true. Yes my parents divorced when I was 6 and yes that was hard at times to go back and forth, to not know one side of the street and then to disconnect from the other. Not understanding why. Bare in mind my parents love me unconditionally, and I rarely went without. Yes I was on financial scholarship for sports, I had to have a summer job to pay for the gear that I wanted for the next season, which meant I’d miss summer baseball with my friends who didn’t have to work. I was learning the value of work, the value of being able to purchase something on my own. The responsibility to my family. It wasn’t easy but believe me there folks out there that have had to work a lot harder in much more difficult situations. For part of my youth I was the chubby kid, I wore “huskie jeans” and felt misplaced. The place I found myself was through sports; again this will sound arrogant and you may not like me anymore but I was naturally better than my peers, I didn’t have to work at sports, I could wake up and go be good enough to get picked for teams in the top 5 every time, I don’t know what it’s like to get picked last. Sports were my great equalizer, they were my path to acceptance. I continued those achievements in sports, I became the captain of the football team, the baseball team leader, the rugby team captain, and any group project I was offered the leadership role. The thing that set me apart? I have no idea, I was just me being me, you’d have to ask my teammates, coaches and friends what made me different.

Okay, So there’s the background music. Now to talk about the losses, and the victories thereafter. Because we ALL experience them in some way or another, I thought I would share some of mine. Now keep in mind I am just over 8 years clean and sober, so some of my dialog may have that 12 step tone.

I have had more than 30 full time or Part time jobs in my life. I’ve been fired from 0. I’ve left on my own terms with no less than two weeks 28 times. I’ve walked out 1 time and had a mutually agreeable resignation 1 time. I’ve probably applied for over 400 jobs, I’ve been told I was over qualified, under qualified, too slow, too fast, too dirty, too loud. I have worked for free weeks at a time just to earn a spot. Working in Sonoma County and San Francisco in the early 2000’s was a tough game, someone was always chasing you, and you were always chasing someone. Your best cooking buddy would throw you under the bus the first time he could if it meant moving up. I did the same. It was very cut throat, it was very tiring, it was exhausting, it was brutal. I’ve gone weeks without a job while moving to Portland, and when my last hope was shot I threw up one more resume to a craigslist add that turned into a job. I quit cooking worked at Starbucks and fumigated grain ships, because I was going to go back to school. I never started school because it wasn’t easy. I wound up taking an executive chef job I had applied for almost 6 months earlier that turned into an amazing experience. I was hired while the current chef was still there, he caught wind and quit on my first night. I was thrown in the fire. The staff quit and I had to hire a team of my own. During my 3 year stint there I worked with some of the most amazing and talented cooks, servers, bartenders, bussers, prep cooks, dishwashers, and managers any chef could imagine, I was published in magazines and I was a part of the cool crowd. Then the point came where I finally had enough of the crazy nights and inconsistent ownership. I wanted a change, so I took action to make a change. The loss 3 years ago that was not getting into school became a victory. I started a hot sauce company with $25,000 of investment and a 50/50 partner. After 1 year he moved to China. I was left to run a business, go to school full time, and work part time. It was insane! I would work my ass off, I didn’t have days off, I was committed to creating a hot sauce that would change the industry. I had projections, I had a budget, I had the personality. Let me tell you, you can have all the right stuff, but a consumer product goods company is not easy to start or run. For every store that accepted my sauces 2 said no, I spent hours, days, months trying to get this thing going. But I never quit, quitting isn’t in me. I continued to push, no matter how many times customers told me they didn’t like my sauce, every time a store said no, each time a lesser product was accepted before me. I bled, I cried, I laughed, I hated the very thing itself. But then I’d win an award, a customer would tell me how much they love my sauces, there would be victories after losses. There were weeks I was so frustrated and upset I’d just stop moving forward. Well at the pace I usually did. But I never quit. There is always opportunity in loss, what did I learn each time someone said no? I’d go to the next store, I’d ask what I could’ve done better, then 6 weeks later I’d go back and try again, I usually got nos but here 5 years later they’ve turned into yes. Sure there are times that those losses feel like the end or like you can’t crawl back from where you were. DON’T STOP! DON’T QUIT! Keep pushing forward, keep taking action. Yes recently I’ve gone through some shit I managed to dig my own hole, but you know what? I got my head right and I’m back on track, I took the risk, I made the mistake, I had a loss. But after every loss there is a victory.  I’m working full time, the hot sauce is swinging back into summer shape, and I’m not loosing my house. Yes for a minute it was all a huge loss, I took a risk most people will never have the guts to try, but I took it! Yes I sat back and wallowed in my own woes. Again, I tell you I am a fortunate man, maybe it is easy for me to get a job, save my house, and get my business back to basics. Or maybe, and this is what I think; I have surrounded myself with people who truly care, I have showed up and been there for them so when I needed it most they showed up for me. I am a fortunate man, I will not forget that, and as I continue to re-grasp my footing I’ll keep working hard to be better.

No matter how screwed you think you are, don’t wait to the last minute to make a change make it now, if there is something to be learned from my experience? Don’t wait till tomorrow, do your due diligence and ask for help. When experiencing a loss, stop and think about how to turn it into a win in the next match. There is always hope and always a way to set right what was once wrong. Take my word for it, one foot in front of the other, ask for help and run your crazy ideas by someone before taking action. Then take action and chase the dreams you set in front of you.

Thank you for listening to the ramblings. I love you and know that you are special and wonderful just the way you are.

All the best and happy cooking.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Ego Trip: A journey of self will run riot.

The Ego Trip:

So I want to share this with y’all because well; if you are in the same place I was you maybe able to gain some hope or learn from my experience.

As you may or most likely, may not know, I own a hot sauce company. NW Elixirs is the name of the brand and it is an amazing product. From the packaging to the content, my sauces are award winning, I can say that because I have the trophies. Funny that I’d start this post with that statement. The Ego Trip was born just about July, 2015. I had recently been shown on the Food Network Show; “Chopped.” It was an amazing experience that took me and my ego for one hell of a ride. Immediately I was if anything else consumed with my instant “fame” although the fame part was short lived it was enough to get NW Elixirs off and running, with the company showing signs of success I made the decision to go after it full time. You’re right, sounds like the logical choice to make, however you are probably not on the Ego Trip.

While going full time into the hot sauce and rolling in the PO’s (purchase orders) and online inquiries it seemed like the perfect storm to get NW Elixirs into the next level of success, however, I was already in the driver seat, I was already full throttle on the gas and in “control” of the “Ego Trip” this was the perfect opportunity for me to rest on my laurels and let the company cruise. That thinking helped me to sit back and go to neutral, all the work I had been doing, the endless nights, the sleepless mornings, the pepper coughs. Those days were behind me, I was on top. And the the trip was in full swing. I let the reins go and sat back to watch my hard work start to fall apart. All the effort was gone because I was in the driver seat fully consumed by the trip.

By October, 2015 the company was still in full swing and making money, I was paying my bills, I was going on dates, I was playing rugby, I was spending time with family, I was saving money, it was all coming together. The holidays rolled in and as it is with most small businesses the cash flow went slow, the company needed cash and fast, so I pulled some of my savings and put my paycheck on hold, because that is what a responsible CEO would do. I knew the money would come back in after the holidays and I’d get paid back and be back into the driver’s seat. Well turns out that it took longer than I assumed for the company to pay me back, however I still stayed full throttle, I still stayed in the trip, I kept the appearances. I never asked for help or shared with anyone what was really going on. I kept the appearances, because I knew it would all be okay. I was right, the money came back, and even though I was a little behind on my mortgage, electricity, water, cable, phone, and anything else that wasn’t “fun” I made an effort to make everyone whole again. And I did. I saw a bit of the problem coming in February and made some choices ON MY OWN to help get the company back into production. Again with a loan, emptied my savings, and put the company first. However it turned out that if you just throw money at something but fail to actually “work” at achieving your goals, it doesn’t really help. Everyone tells you when you start it will be hard, it will be stressful, and you're going to have to work your ass off to make it to the top. The problem with knowing all that information? I felt I had paid my dues, I had done the hard work, and I had earned the reward. I could not have been more wrong.

By March of 2016, I was loosing a grip, I was losing the ability to hold off the creditors, I had started driving for Lyft and Uber, because, “I just do it to make some extra cash.” At Least that is what I convinced myself of. I was sure that this would be the solution to keep my appearance up. I was sure that by making $500 a week I would be able to survive. I was wrong. I was so so so wrong. But I was so convinced that everything would come around, the consulting job I had been offered was coming around the corner, the hot sauce company would pay me back and I’d be able to make everything work out just fine. I was so caught up in the act, in the fear, the insecurity of others knowing exactly what was happening. I kept up the appearances and left everyone in the dark, I didn’t look for work because the consulting was going to be here in no time. I was afraid to tell my partner what was happening because I thought she wouldn’t love me anymore, I was afraid to tell my investors because I would be a failure, I didn’t tell my friends, family, trusted advisors. I kept it all in. I was convinced I would be able to fix everything and no one would know the wiser. I was so wrapped in fear of losing face that I stopped working to achieve my goals, I wanted to be the cool guy, the guy that had it all. I was so insecure about what you may think of me that I fell into a little black hole. Yep, the truth hurts, the truth sucks. But you know what? Had I been truthful, had I asked for help, I wouldn’t feel the anxiety and distance I feel right now.

However… There is hope, there is an answer, there is an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I finally couldn’t hold the appearances, I was bursting at the seems and I had to come clean about where I really was in life. I had to tell my partner I had mislead her, I had misrepresented where I was and that I was in a really bad spot. I had to share with my friends that I was struggling. I had to take responsibility for my actions. I had crashed, I took control of the trip and crashed and burned. All because of fear and insecurity. As I write this, I feel a sense of emptiness, and churning in my stomach and a fear of change I’m anxious, I’m overwhelmed, and I am thinking too much about the future. But you know what? I have the two choices, roll over and give in, or pull my boots up and get to work. Get back into action and get back into the saddle again. Y’all know me and who I am as a person, the decision is easy. However the wreckage is not. The wreckage is deep, the wounds are fresh and it is not going to be an easy road. I may lose my house, it’s close to foreclosure, I not find work when I want it.  But I refuse to just give up, throw in the towel or let my mistakes run my life. I can only let my actions speak for me, I can’t just say, “yeah, it’s all going to workout.” It’s going to take work, it’s going to take time, the work part is easy, I’m pretty good at that. The time part is hard, the fact I’ve hurt people I truly deeply love is the hardest.

I’ve had two interviews with a really cool job opportunity, I’ve filled out the paperwork to potentially save my house from foreclosure and I start a job on Wednesday. I have work for the weekend and should know if I have gotten the job I am working towards. There is hope in proactive work. But it takes time and patience, nothing can happen at my speed, I’m not in control, I can not force the situations, I can only show up and be a part of my own life. I was reminded of this over the weekend. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a celebration of life for a man who played a crucial role in my most impressionable years, as I listened to those who loved Jordan most talk about the man he is, how much he loved, how much he gave, how no matter what time of day he was always there. He never quit caring about those around him, he always worked hard, and people were inspired by his actions. His actions spoke so much louder than his words, and that was made very clear by those who shared their stories and memories. Jordan will be missed but always live within me.

It’s time to go to work, it’s time to take action, no more bullshit. There it is. There I am, raw and wounded. I am good man, with flaws, I’ve made mistakes; today I choose to stand up and take charge of my destiny. I will love deeply, I will show up for my family, I will be an inspiration to my peers. I will achieve my goals and I will be successful. I hope this has been a good read for you and that you can learn from my mistakes. Never close out the people who you love the most, and never hide yourself be real even when it’s the worst you think it can be. Be honest and true to yourself, don’t hide from reality. You are perfect the way you are and if people can’t handle you at your worst they don’t deserve you at your best. Be you, work hard, achieve your goals.

I love y’all so very much.