Seven years ago I left NYC kitchen’s and returned to my childhood home, Orcas Island. Moving back to the island was a leap of faith in creativity and a divine intervention. I slowly made a transition out of “the all consuming” restaurant kitchen, putting my hand to gardening, and switching from creating plated desserts for menus to wedding cakes for bright eyed lovers.
I have worked in the culinary field for the past 20 years. Though I started out studying Art in Mexico and then in Vancouver B.C. I decided to take some time off from art school, hop on a month long train trip across Canada to the east and do my formal culinary training at The New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. After graduation I found a position at a Relax & Chateau property, The Pitcher Inn, nestled in a tiny postcard town, reminiscent of Eastsound. On my off hours I picked up an internship with a wedding cake baker, met a florist, fell in love with the idea of working with flowers and asked for a part time job. I was cooking, creating floral installations, and learning how to cope with hot VT summers and buttercream. My grand introduction into the world of weddings. I loved it!
Feeling the need to further my experience in the kitchen and art making I moved to NYC. It was just after 9/11, the city was tender, full of heart, creative young cooks, and artists.
There I had the fortune to work with some wonderful people and talented chefs who influenced the way I look at cooking and creating desserts. I have much respect for the time they spent with me and the craft they passed on. To name a few, Gina Depalma of Babbo, Stephane Willemin of La Bergamote, Zak Pelaccio of Fish & Game, Marie Shiel-Regusis of She’ll Bake Anything and Elenis Cookies.
It seems when you grow up on a small, argumentatively isolated island you are one of two sorts. There are those who leave and remain “off island” with a longing in their heart, And there are those who return to satiate that longing. I knew from an early age eventually all roads or ferries in my life would lead back to Orcas Island.
Professionally I have spent my time back on the island in diverse ways. I helped open and run a French Cafe ( the very missed Chez Chloe, Wendy Thomas), I spent 4 years running the pastry program at The Inn at Ship Bay, built and sold a pop up grass roots mobile wood fired pizza oven ( along with Geddes Martin, Ship Bay), worked as an event florist ( Petals & Twists, Leslie Ginnes), helped start up a bar ( The Barnacle, Jared Lovejoy), got my hands back in the dirt on Orcas Farm, and Greening & Greening.
Personally I spent my time reconnecting with life long friends and community, digging for clams and crabbing with my step father, preserving fruit, learning the intuitive art of vegetable farming, married and continued to discovered the forest like I discovered The Met, quietly and in awe. Most unusually, for people of this area, I enjoyed the mild winters and secretly look forward to them every year.
I feel very blessed to have spent the beginning of my life on this island. Now choosing to continue to live my life here close to my family, surrounded, supported, and sustained by community, good fresh food, and salty air.
If you have chosen to make Orcas Island the destination of your special event (high five) and invited all your loved ones to experience this beautiful, peaceful haven (double high five). Through the years the memory of their time here will deepen in their hearts, for the rest of their lives. And they will thank you for this as the years roll by.