Once in a while, something really cool happens because I am a food blogger. I recently met and was fed by this shining light of a woman, Chef Joann Stabile. I’ll explain how I ended up in her home for a very special meal in a moment. As I learned her story, I realized she was the perfect subject for a post on transformation.
The email came from a new food acquaintance, Carolyn. “Are you free for an Evening of Abundance?” How could I say no to that invitation? I asked whether she remembered that I was gluten-free and vegan, as most foodie meals are neither. “Absolutely! I promise you’ll have plenty to eat. I really want you to experience Joann’s food.”
So on a Thursday night at magic hour I climbed the steps to a townhouse I’d driven by countless times. This is what I found.
Later I chatted with Joann about her transformation from car-finance whiz to culinary goddess.
How long have you liked cooking?
I’ve loved to cook as far back as I can remember. My dad taught me how to cook eggs and boil pasta around age 4 or 5. I started cooking pretty regularly at 11, during my quest to make the perfect marinara. We are Italian. We would always have tons of food at family gatherings and the center of attention was the mostaccioli with red sauce and homemade sausage. It was amazing and I was so fascinated that my dad or grandma would start cooking it the night before.
What was the catalyst for sending you to culinary school?
Being miserable in the car business. When the economy started to plummet, so did my paychecks. The hours were no longer justified; I could hardly afford my lifestyle any longer. The breaking point was when, instead of being promoted, I got fired by a man that I had been training, who was now my boss. I decided to walk away from everything and start over.
Tell us about your training:
I went to the California Culinary Academy—Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco. I staged for a few days to a week in some of the Michelin-starred restaurants of San Francisco and Napa, including The French Laundry. I was given grunt work and easy jobs like chopping and plucking stems. I learned that chefs have huge egos and I didn’t want to work for one! Many of my chef instructors were male. While I looked up to, and learned a lot from, my chef instructors, I knew I couldn’t deal with that male-dominated restaurant environment every day and get paid a lot less than I had in finance.
When did you decide to go out on your own?
I worked for two catering companies while I was still training to be a chef. I loved that it was such a customizable experience. I also knew that even as a catering employee, I would make a much better living than in a restaurant.
Describe your approach to food and catering:
Keep it simple. Let my passion and the ingredients speak for themselves.
What makes your heart sing?
Using quality, whole food ingredients that are in season. The gratification that comes from making someone happy through eating my food. I infuse a great deal of passion and love into what I do. It’s very personal for me and I believe people can taste that when they eat my meals.
What would your advice be to someone who is longing to transform their life?
Find a way to make money doing what you love. Even if it’s not a lot of money to start. I haven’t felt like I’ve had a “job” in about 2 years now. I love what I do. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen.
Inspired by Joann? Hire her!