Cornmeal mush - not just your current headspace | using early career memories to reshape the future
“Gladi let’s quiz each other on food terminology.” We were sitting at our tiny dining room table in our humble post-college apartment, there I was studying the catering and event menus of the resort that I had just been hired at.
Although I had been working for 3.5 years doing event and wedding coordinating, it was a much smaller property and I didn’t consider myself an experienced “Event Manager” yet. I had earned credentials as a certified wedding planner and created a niche for myself at that property, which at the time seemed like a really big deal for being in my early 20’s. However, I wanted so much more.
Then I got my big break.
I got the call that would change the course of my career for the next decade. I’ll always remember sitting in my bedroom and answering the phone to hear the voice of one of the most respected catering and event professionals in Orlando.
She was someone I looked up to, attempted to emulate, and only dreamed of working alongside one day. And she was calling to recruit ME, to join her team at THE property that I’d basically been stalking on-line for months due to the hype of the upcoming grand opening. I day-dreamed about working there… and like a typical, young woman someday having my wedding there. (I had just met my husband so of course, I was already planning the wedding).
YES, YES, YES! I exclaimed to her, and then carefully she prepared me for the interview process ahead. I landed the job. I was so excited. I was not going to let her down, or myself down.
Then reality sank in that I was heading to the big leagues, and I was basically a newbie in this business. Will I be expected to know EVERYTHING? Panic and anxiety set in, but then that competitive spirit inside kicked into full gear. My pride was not going to allow anyone to question why I was hired. I had skills, I had talent, I had hustle, I had a unique knack for connecting with eccentric chefs, and I had PASSION. I just didn’t necessarily have the “foodie” knowledge yet that I knew I’d need.
The next day I printed the catering menus for each property of the resort (Waldorf Astoria and Hilton). Yes, two properties. Two buildings to learn, two brand standards to grasp, two varying service standards to understand, and two types of menus to learn and memorize. This was no easy feat!
I sat at that dining table for days with my Food Lover’s Companion, highlighting, writing notes, paraphrasing culinary terms in the margins, looking up ingredients, and translating dishes into verbiage I could understand and confidently explain to my future clients. Chicken Piccata days were over.
“OK quiz me,” Gladi said. Okay, here we go…
“What is polenta?” I asked.
I remember this moment so clearly. It was listed as a side offering for a plated dish in one of the menus. I remember being perplexed and intrigued by this item because I can assure you there was no polenta served at my dinner table growing up in Missouri.
Would she know?
“Ehhhh, Uummm….I dunno,” she responded. Phew, I’m not alone here.
“CORN MEAL MUSH!” I exclaimed.
Then I read her the technical description (refer to top), and we burst out laughing about how I had already paraphrased it into a dumbed-down version that I could remember. Whatever works right? To this day that is how we describe polenta.
Recently one of our featured Innovators, Chef Vinny from EvolVINfoods, released an awesome YouTube video teaching his viewers how to make an easy Elotes Polenta bowl. I wonder how many viewers thought “what’s polenta?” Naturally, he does explain this, which is why we love his approach. Where was Chef Vinny 11 years ago?
But this time we did know, and we chuckled. So, of course, this dish became the menu inspiration for our H&F Redefined website launch celebration.
We love when things come full circle.
What memories do you remember of your early career days? Was it something silly like polenta? Or maybe that same sense of work ethic, preparedness, or hustle I described? How can you re-ignite those feelings, and those concepts again NOW, as you work towards redefining your future?
Final fun fact: I did end up having my wedding at this beautiful property. In fact, so did Gladi. #dreambig