A New Beginning

For the second time in my post-collegiate career, I've taken a risky leap of faith: I became an intern again.

This is my second week working at a small food & hospitality PR agency. While that may come to you as a shock (since, well, I've spent the last few years of my life convincing you that I'm a baker and will always be a baker), it's not a shock to me or anyone in my inner circle.

Radical honesty? I will always, always consider myself to be a baker. It's what drove me into this industry and keeps my creative mind awake at night.

But it was time for a change. Before I decided to write this post, I wrote another long-winded entry about the End of a Dream: my dream to become a pastry chef, that is. But I couldn't finish it.

This "dream" that I had sacrificed a lot for over the past few years somehow became muddled. There were moments when, exasperated, exhausted, and burned-out, I came home from work and cried. Was I still working towards my dream? Was the work I found myself doing still rewarding? Who was I becoming as I worked towards these goals?

Also underneath my personal reflections and confused questionings was the cold, hard truth of reality: was I working towards job security? Did my career path promise me opportunities beyond achieving my "dream"? Would my investment come with returns, such as health care (important in a particularly back-breaking industry with little time off in terms of PTO and hourly), raises, and other benefits?

Most importantly, was I still happy?

I don't regret a second of what I did with my life for the past year and a half. Not one minute of it. I truly believe I gained "real-life" experiences, as well as work and interpersonal skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

But at the end of the day, I'd come home and hang on to every minute I had left before I had to get up and do it all again. And that's how I knew my so-called "dream" was over – at least this part of it.

 "Self Portrait" by Alex Hawkins

"Self Portrait" by Alex Hawkins

So, I'm an intern again. At first, this was a hard concept for me to come to terms with. As a 24-year-old who's been out of college for almost two years (and hasn't been an intern for almost the same amount of time), it took a lot of self-convincing to take a step back in my career.

After endless job searching and endless silence, I realized that my resume didn't look like much to people outside of a kitchen. (I could write an entire other post about how much that infuriates me, but I'll spare you for now.)

In order to move forward with my career, I needed to start from the bottom and pay my dues (...again). So, with a deep breath and an optimistic attitude, I accepted an intern position at a PR agency that I had been following on social media (where I also coincidentally found their job post).

This doesn't mean I'm giving up on my "dream." I'm not letting go of it, I'm not settling, I'm not selling out. I'm still in an industry I'm obsessed with, I'm working with (or working at a company that works with) kick-ass clients that make me melt inside when they're brought up at work, and I'm learning more about a skill that I truly enjoyed picking up at my previous job.

I'm just trying to figure out what the next part of my "dream" is. And you know what? That's okay. I don't need to know right now.

I'm only 24, anyway. ;)

2016: a summary

I have to give it to Instagram – it's a great way to keep track of your memories.

When I decided to write about this year (because let's be honest: 2016 was quite the year), I wanted to open with one of my favorite moments. Really bring you there with me. But I sat and stared at the blank page before me, not being able to choose between the countless stories that popped into my head.

So, of course, like the millennial I am, I opened Instagram for the millionth time today and went to my page and scrolled through everything I had posted this year. For me, that's not a lot; I used to post maybe once or twice a week at most.

It took me a second to realize I was smiling. All of these photos had become a collection of everything that was monumental this year. And, regardless of the political strife that occurred only weeks ago, I have to admit: 2016 was pretty damn awesome.

So, for those of you that may enjoy sharing in others' moments, I give you my favorite memories from 2016 (and thanks again, Instagram, for helping a girl out):

  •  2016 began with two of my closest college friends, one of whom joined me in New York later that year as my roommate and coworker. It also began in a little part of New York I like to call home: Astoria.
  • The love of my Danish life, rugbrod, crossed the pond and joined me in America (shout out to Meyers Bageri for taking the leap).
 A few of my favorite Danish pastries from Meyers Bageri

A few of my favorite Danish pastries from Meyers Bageri

  • Turns out Beyoncé is just as good live as she is recorded (and in my dreams).
  • I watched my sister graduate high school, and tried my hardest not to cry when I watched her leave for Boulder, CO.
  • I shared in the excitement of my two closest NYC friends moving in together, even if it meant losing one of them as a roommate. Later this year, I became a proud dog aunt to Rangeley, their adorable adopted pup.
  • Mini Melanie moved up in the production world, twice. You can find us trying to be hipster in South Williamsburg, where Melanie now owns her own brand-spanking-new kitchen in the Old Pfizer Building.
  • Turns out pilots can be pretty cool, so I took them off my "dealbreaker" list and started dating a sir Craig Steve. Took us five years but we finally made it happen after he won a round trip to LA to see the War Dogs movie premier and decided to take me with him. Love you, Craigo!
 Steve, a NYC September sunset & me

Steve, a NYC September sunset & me

  • I checked off a bucket list item and sat in a metal tube for almost 24 hours to go visit a dear friend and family in Sydney, Australia. Oy, Straya mate! Still not Aussie enough? Damn.
 Hunter Valley, Australia

Hunter Valley, Australia

  • My Canon recently became number one on my tangible-things-I-love-the-most list.
  • I spent the holidays with my entire family, happy as ever.

So thanks, 2016, for opening my eyes and heart to a world of adventure and endless love.

To everyone that was a part of this wonderful year: cheers! Here's to another one.

 Central Cost, Australia

Central Cost, Australia

Being the Intern

If you had told me two years ago that at the age of 23 I would be managing a group of pastry interns, I would have laughed in your face.

But, crazily enough, here I am, and last Friday we said goodbye to our very first full-time kitchen intern. 

It was a weird moment for me. As I spoke with her moments before she turned and walked upstairs for the last time, I could see something so familiar in the way she was carrying herself. It wasn't until I was on the train home that I recognized what it was.

When I left Blue Hill for the last time as a pastry intern three years ago, I cried. I cried walking up the stairs to the parking lot, I pulled over in my car to take a #shameless photo of the BHSB sign for Instagram, I cried when I posted it on Instagram, and I cried all the way home. I didn't sob, but it was definitely the brokenhearted, appreciative cry you have when you know you're walking away from something that changed you.

That's what I saw in our intern last week. And it was weird for me because I was on the other side of it this time.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.18.15 PM.png

My coworkers at Blue Hill probably thought I was insane for being sad about leaving. And don't get me wrong, I was incredibly excited to get back to normalcy and move on to my next adventure.

But there's something so raw about interning in a professional kitchen. You give up about ten weeks of your life to do bitch work for people who yell at you for not doing the dishes right. Your soul gets crushed, you question your life decisions, and you come out at the end realizing you just spent three months paying your dues.

Yet, during those last few weeks you find that you met inspiring people, you bonded with coworkers that will ultimately become lifelong friends, and you learned things you didn't even realize you were learning just by witnessing the organized chaos of it all.

I cried that last day not because I was going to miss the day-to-day life of working at Blue Hill, but because everything else I was leaving behind had changed me.

Before our intern left, she came over to me and told me, "you know, it's very rare to have a nice manager." I laughed and responded with, "I don't know if that's a good thing..." because, well, being nice in a kitchen doesn't always get things done.

When I turned around, she was giving me this look like, "you know that's not what I meant." And that's when I saw it – that even though she rolled a shit ton of truffle balls for us and was constantly elbow deep in dishes, she was leaving this place a little different than when she started.

That's what interning in a kitchen is all about. And that's what I hope to give to every single intern who walks through our doors.

And Daria, if you're reading this – thanks again for all your hard work. Stay in touch!

FOMO

I was sitting in a cold, cushion-less patio chair, shifting my weight from one side to the other, shivering slightly from the cool spring breeze. I was anxious and uncomfortable–mostly because that chair really shouldn't be used without a pillow of some sort–but also because I couldn't keep this secret anymore; I needed to tell someone. And if it was going to be anyone at all, it was going to be him because he wouldn't judge me. Or, at least, he wouldn't judge me as much as everyone else.

"I have something to tell you," I said.

I didn't wait for the slight panic in my high school boyfriend's eyes to register before I nervously followed with, "I think I want to go to culinary school."

And there it was: my future, lingering in front of us – waiting.

But he didn't miss a beat. "That's awesome!"

With an are-you-so-sure-about-that expression slapped across my face, I immediately started questioning him, daring him to wonder how that was a viable career option or where culinary school would take me in life. But he didn't, and the longer we talked about it the more real it became.

I was going to become a baker. And that was okay.

I don't remember when I changed my mind.

It was early junior year when I visited the Culinary Institute of America with my mom. CIA was the first of two schools I was looking at that day, and we had woken up at the crack of dawn to drive up to Hyde Park. I didn't even sleep much in the car because the sound of the pouring rain was that loud.

But when we arrived to the school, my heart jumped.

You know that feeling when you just know? About that guy you've been texting, or that apartment you just found, or the college you thought you fell in love with the minute you stepped foot onto its campus? That was me and CIA: obsession at first sight.

But a few months later, something changed. One minute I was dreaming of wearing a chef's jacket, and the next I was touring campuses in the South.

Culinary school wasn't something you were supposed to do. At least, not where I'm from.

In my hometown, not going to college isn't an option. It's not something you earn the right to attend, or think twice about. Getting a degree is a part of life, simply the next step after high school.

"You don't want a normal college experience?"
"Aren't you afraid of what you might miss out on?"
"What happens if you change your mind, what will you have to fall back on?"

I wasn't strong enough then to withstand the pressures that society placed on me. My future was already mapped out - why else would I have grown up in that town? But they didn't get it; that I could be someone other than who everyone else was, who everyone was supposed to be.

So I gave in. I looked at colleges. I stared at lists of potential majors for hours, trying to convince myself that my future awaited in one of those categories.

But even then, in the back of my mind, I knew I wouldn't find it there.

My FOMO (the fear of missing out) was real.

And honestly? I was scared. Mostly of making the wrong decision.

It's a big burden to bear as an 18 year old: choosing your identity. Thinking back, how was I supposed to know who I was meant to be? And why the hell does the world think I was ready to tell society to fuck off–let me be me–when I'm not even allowed to legally drink alcohol? 

So I couldn't do it. I couldn't flip off my friend's parents who judged me, family members who scoffed when I said I didn't need money to make me happy, and a possible education that would guarantee me a good, safe life.

And part of me wanted that life. Facebook made it especially hard to ignore that fact.

"It's the four best years of your life," they said.

So I went.
And you know what? I wouldn't trade those four years for the world. But all the while I still had a lingering drive to wear that white jacket. And now?

I finally am. And I wouldn't trade this life for anything, either.

Remember Today, For It is the Beginning of Always

Three years ago from today, I walked through the double doors of the pastry kitchen at Blue Hill at Stone Barns for the very first time.

It was my first day in a professional kitchen and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't know that the next ten weeks were going to be some of the hardest of my life, that I was going to be endlessly yelled at for messing up, that I would quickly start second-guessing my being there, my ambitions, and my plans for the future.

I also didn't realize that by walking into that kitchen, I would make lifelong friendships, learn countless lessons, and ultimately fall in love with the community of chefs, cooks, dishwashers, front of house staff, farmers, and diners – all of the people that made coming to work every day worthwhile.

I am incredibly grateful for my time at Blue Hill, for the people that got me through those doors, and for Melanie - for believing in the girl who walked into that kitchen with her hair down, nails painted bright green, a chef jacket that obviously consumed her, and for disregarding the fact that she had no idea who Alice Waters or Dan Barber even were.

In honor of it being my three year anniversary of diving into this industry, I'm reposting the blog entry I wrote after my first week at BHSB.
Edited for grammar.


Originally posted on ahawkz.wordpress.com on May 29, 2013

I had a plan last week, and that plan was to write another post after my first day at work. Keyword: day. But nope, to my surprise (and everyone else’s) I was told that my work days are not just days…but they are also nights… and early mornings. In fact, they happen to be 13 hour days, 5 days a week, with days off on Monday and Tuesday. 65 hour weeks, standing the entire time. This apparently happens to be the way life in a restaurant works, and it also happened to be the biggest reality slap I have ever received.

But let’s start from the beginning. When I was offered this internship at a restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns for the summer, I was thrilled. Not only would I be working directly in a kitchen with the pastry team there, but I would also be working at one of the best restaurants in the country (Forbes ranks BHSB at number 9 in the top 100 U.S. restaurants). To anyone in the culinary industry, this is a dream, and through connections and wonderful family I managed to be plopped right into the midst of the big leagues. All I could do was count down the days.

Fast-forward to last Wednesday, my first day at work. I was originally told that my hours would be 9-5pm like any average job/internship, and that I would end up working later hours once I got my “feet wet.” But prior to arriving that Wednesday, I was told to come in at 11am instead. So after running some errands in the morning, I was on my way. I was told to meet the head of human resources (the person who I had been in contact with since I was “hired”) in the cafe, where he then took me to get my uniform in the basement and gave me my locker where I put all of my belongings. All I had with me when he showed me around was my uniform: baggy black pants that were slightly too large, a long-sleeved white jacket that had the double breasted buttons, and my bistro-style crocs. With my sleeves not rolled-up, my hair down, and my bright green nail polish still on, I couldn’t have stuck out more as the new kid as I walked through the kitchens. But when he finally left me in the hands of one of my new bosses, Melanie, I was straightened up a bit and put to work….until 1:30am.

Although I was blindsided by the fact that my hours would be 11am to close, I was the happiest person on Earth after my first day. It was completely overwhelming and tiresome, but I knew I was working in an absolutely beautiful kitchen with some of the best machinery a chef could ask for. Not only that, but the people I am working with are awesome (for the most part). It was completely surreal that on my first day, not only did we have Alice Waters as our guest speaker at family dinner (a time when the chefs and front of the house sit together for a meal made by us), but I was also put to work in the kitchen during service and was working only feet away from Dan Barber.

Fast-forward to Sunday night, the longest work day because service starts at 1pm instead of 5pm and doesn’t end until close. That means the service kitchen is going non-stop all day, and it is also the day we spend hours cleaning everything. At this point I had lost at least 3 pounds, my legs had become numb to the pain of standing, and my feet were begging for me to sit down. I had burns all over my hands, bruises on my legs, and chocolate stained to my fingernails. The chef that has created most of the dessert plates had made me cry several times, I was sleep deprived and annoyed. The honeymoon phase had ended quickly and abruptly when I finally realized what I was getting myself into. Sunday was a day full of me going back and forth, questioning if I could really handle the brutality of this industry and wondering if I should have chosen something more basic as my first introduction to the culinary world. Who was I to think that me, the most amateur of the amateurs, could actually survive in a kitchen with some of the best chefs in the country? A mere 20 year old with no experience, no culinary education, alongside with the pros. I felt so incredibly ridiculous that I even cleaned out my locker that night, telling myself that it was the end and I should find somewhere else to work.

However, I’m going back to work tomorrow. The hours may terrible, and I may be terrible right now, but the people are amazing. They’re normal underneath all of the hype, and they support me 100%. Even the chef who makes me cry straight up told me that I have performed better in the kitchen than some of the culinary externs have in the past. My bosses like my commitment and probably my naivety. I feel so included with them at the end of the night that it would be absurd for me to give up on my dream just because it was a reality check. This is an incredible opportunity, and when they tell me to keep it up and that it’ll get better all I can do is go back home, sleep off the pain and the negativity, and get back up in the morning and do it all again because one day they’ll be referring to me as “chef." I’ll be a big deal one day, and I’ll have these people to thank for it.

Below is a link that not only claims this restaurant to be the best, but also has some pictures that represent what we serve pretty well. One of the pictures from the website is shown below, and it shows some of the things that I have learned to make this past week. They’re some of our petit fours and we serve them along with the check, which is usually unbeknownst to the customer. From left to right: chocolate covered hazelnuts, caramelized pumpkin seeds, and chocolate covered honey truffles (the website lists them differently, but I’m right). Simple, but they will blow your mind.

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/dinner-at-blue-hill-at-stone-barns-2013-4?op=1

 Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

A Mini Housewarming

It was 5pm on the dot and I already had a drink in my hand. A fruity, delicious, "is-there-actually-alcohol-in-this?" cocktail that was too easy to gulp down after a day in the kitchen. I had to keep reminding myself: this is not hydration.

But I was giddy and wearing real clothes and it was happy hour. I couldn't contain my excitement for the coming two hours – our Housewarming day had finally arrived. The craziness of the holidays, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day had finally passed (for now), and Melanie and I were able to take a breather and share our excitement and journey with our closest friends and family.

It was just about two months ago (although it feels like an eternity) that Mini Melanie moved from East Harlem down to the Lower East Side. Previously, we were up on 115th Street at Hot Bread Kitchen's incubator kitchen. But after the holidays proved we had outgrown the space, it was time to find a kitchen we could call our own.

Enter to the stage: Hill & Dale, a small gastropub on the corner of Allen and Delancey. On a rainy Monday morning in early April, we moved out of Hot Bread and into the one-line kitchen. After a day full of organization, relabeling and consolidation, we took a second to take in the new space.

"This is so incredibly cool," Melanie said. I smiled back, looked up and down the line, and nodded in agreement.

It was so, so incredibly cool.

A lot has happened since that rainy day. We found ourselves busting our asses for Mother's Day orders (who knew that would be such a crazy holiday?!), Melanie was frequently being interviewed for blogs, and Thrillist did a video shoot on our soon-to-be-released Rainbow Truffles. Mini Melanie was steadily gaining more recognition, and we couldn't be more excited with the success we've seen since moving into the space.

Although it was a crazy two months, throughout it all we found the time to recipe test new truffles and cakes. I'd love to tell you more, but it would ruin the surpirse ;) Gotta love that mic drop, right? So stay tuned for more info. For now, let's just say Mini Mel is going to have a sick new menu and look, and it's going to blow. your. minds.

 A sneak peek at our new truffles!

A sneak peek at our new truffles!

So with the move and our first round of new truffles, we invited friends and family to not only see the new space, but to also taste some of these new sweets. It was a night to remember, and I couldn't be more happy to be surrounded by such wonderful, supportive people.

 Shout out to my besties, Jen and Beth, for coming out. Love yewwww!!! xx Photo by Edward Moss

Shout out to my besties, Jen and Beth, for coming out. Love yewwww!!! xx
Photo by Edward Moss

If you find yourself on the LES, stop by H&D. We're there from early morning to 5pm, but the bar has a killer drink and food menu, and the staff is amazing. Definitely worth swinging by - we'd love to see you!!

#friyay

I was still feeling the buzz from the drink I had after work when I arrived back in Astoria. I tend to power walk everywhere (why can't I just run?! so much faster, ugh) and tonight I was being especially speedy because it was rainy and cold. All I wanted to do was curl up on my incredibly comfortable couch and watch a movie, like No Reservations. I was even considering cracking a beer.

Craaaazy Friday night, amiright?!

When I finally barreled into my apartment, it was well after 8pm. Shit, I thought – I was supposed to Instagram for work twenty minutes ago.

Dropping my three bags, I plopped onto my bed and quickly 'grammed a photo of some of our truffles. I put my phone down, realizing I was sort of hungry, so I went to the kitchen to grab a yogurt. When I came back I had a text message from my boss:

"Oh my god"

My heart immediately started racing – I knew that was a good "omg," and the ...'s that appeared at the bottom of my screen meant the good news was coming. In that moment I considered a million different scenarios of how this text might play out.

Then, after what seemed like an eternity:

"Thrillist posted the video on Facebook"

Holy. Fucking. Shit. – that was fast.

Let's rewind a bit, shall we? Just to the beginning of this week – don't worry.

It was an especially stressful week; we were finishing this insane order for House of Creed (really expensive fragrance company), which included bagging thousands of tiny pieces of chocolate bark and making hundreds of truffles. On Tuesday, the team was there from 6am to around 8pm.

That same day, Forbes dropped an entire THREE PAGE article featuring Mini Melanie. Three freaking pages.

And then, a few hours after Forbes made us forget the horrors of packaging quarter-size pieces of chocolate for a hot sec, Melanie gets an email from someone at Thrillist saying that they found us on Instagram and want to do a video about our truffles.

A VIDEO.

The only reason I knew this was so legit was because I had to read popular food websites for my internship last summer, e.g. Eater, Food Beast, Buzzfeed, etc. Thrillist was one of those sites, and I knew that they were at the top of their game due to their high-quality, "groundbreaking" videos, news articles and short-form pieces.

Basically, Thrillist is like that friend you have that discovers Shake Shack before it's Shake Shack. Or the one who found Panic! At The Disco before they were on Z100.

And they wanted to feature us.

It was only yesterday when Thrillist's crew came to shoot in our kitchen. Literally, just over 24 hours ago. Which is why neither Melanie nor I were on the lookout for this video. They had told us they wanted to expedite it, but within a two-week time frame, not by the next day.

So of course the minute I found out it was on their Facebook page, I immediately opened the app on my phone and aggressively searched until I found it.

I was shaking. Heart pounding. Speechless.

It was brilliant. Beautiful, awesome, insanely cool. And Melanie's voice-over was on point.

I knew Melanie was experiencing the same reaction that I was right then: this strange and exciting feeling that this was where Mini Melanie's ascent to the top begins. This is the day we'll look back on and say, that's when it all started happening.

Of course, I may be writing this now and nothing will ever come of this video.

But you ever have that feeling when you just know?

:)

Plus, look at that view count. Not bad!!

Source: https://www.thrillist.com/eat/new-york/low...