Day Two in Decatur

Today was remarkably different from yesterday, but just as interesting/exciting. I tossed and turned a bit last night, but was up and at ’em, waltzed over to Starbucks first thing and found my way to class just before 8. We are a class of 9 plus our energetic, hilarious, and b.s.-free instructor, Cathy, who has been an area personal chef for more than a decade. She didn’t have the good fortune of attending a class to teach her the ins and outs of personal cheffing, but had to learn it all the hard way (or at the very least the extremely interesting way!) and has since helped to develop the course I’m taking.

A bit of a side note — the office building in which the academy rents a conference room for the class used to be a bank and the conference room itself used to be the bank vault. No, really — the door is still there, with its big ol’ emblem. And if you stomp on the floor there’s no question there’s steel under that thin layer of carpet.

The class is full of all kinds of characters, including those who’ve been laid off due to the economy; a recent divorcee looking to supplement her alimony checks after nearly three decades as a wife and mother; a portrait painter hoping to supplement his income; a recently retired army colonel just back from Europe; a former executive chef and chain restaurant franchisee hoping to do some enjoyable and meaningful work as he lives with a serious illness; and those looking to create a custom menu for their lives.

We’re a chatty and friendly bunch — so much so that our class is a bit behind already, something quite out of the ordinary according to the woman at the helm. That speaks to the casual nature of the course in general and the fact that we’re all so excited and interested — there are just so many questions!

We’re all at different stages in our business plans and development, but it’s really incredible to be in a room with a collection of folks all working toward a very similar goal. We all have different points of view, different concerns and fears and questions that span every topic imaginable. I can’t fathom walking away from this week without every possible topic I could dream up being addressed.

On top of our instructor’s advice, insight and 15 years of working through the details of what makes an efficient and successful personal chef tick, she’s got all kinds unbelievable stories that, though they make us laugh, are truly invaluable bits of info and — I’m sure — frustrating situations she had to face.

Like the fact that you might want to mention to clients up front that neither they nor their children can be in the kitchen on their cook day — or you might end up running a counseling service while slaving away in the kitchen. (I mean, if they want to pay me for my time, I have no problem throwing back some wine and chatting, but they won’t have any dinner on the table at the end of the day!) Perhaps you should say up front that you’re not going to open the door for anyone, so if they leave you will not let the plumber in, sign for packages or deal with solicitors.  Or, hard as it is to believe, please don’t leave your toddler granddaughter with me when A) I don’t know she exists and B) I don’t know you’re leaving. (True story!)

We popped across the street to a lovely little French restaurant called Cafe Lilly where we all either ate soup or salad and half a sandwich for lunch. Though the tomato dill soup sounded great, it was made with chicken stock, so I went with the grilled veggie sandwich and field greens salad with a cup of hot tea. I think I was hungrier than I thought — I wolfed it down.

About half the class then walked down the street to get some coffee at Dancing Goats. The coffee was really rich and delicious and the decor reminded me a lot of Argo Tea, which I frequented when I lived in Chicago.

Along the way were — of course — more interesting and colorful shops.

I also passed a cute little yarn shop named Sheepish (I seem to have a nose for sniffing them out no matter where I go!), but it isn’t open on Mondays. Perhaps that’s for another lunch break later this week.

By the end of the day, just after five, I was pretty pooped. More than you would think after ‘just’ sitting and listening all day. It’s a different type of tired than chasing after the kids all day, but equally mentally draining (I’m afraid this blog post won’t be quite as well-spoken as I hope yesterday’s was — and even that was after a day of traveling). The fact that I have been slowly tapping it out over the course of two hours says enough.

For dinner I  joined two others for sushi across the way at Sushi Avenue, next to Cafe Lilly, and it was delicious. A little hot sake and miso soup was just what I needed on a drizzly and cool Georgia night after a long day.

On the agenda for the week is the renowned Dekalb Farmer’s Market, which is open daily until 9 p.m. Word on the streets is the hotel shuttle will take us there, and we can buy several years’ worth of spices for under $20 (where I can fit this into my luggage, I haven’t yet determined).

Just across from the building our class is in is the restaurant Watershed, owned by the Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers, which has a good reputation so I’m told. Though the rest of the menu looks delicious for meat-eaters, the lone “Hot Vegetable Plate” isn’t really selling me. But we’ll see.

Funny as it sounds, I’m looking forward to a day of learning about the real meat of the business side of personal cheffing, including taxes, marketing, etc. tomorrow. This morning when Cathy said each day students arrive later and later and by the end of the week are mush. I think I’m only starting to understand why, but I do believe I’ll be a happy pile of mush. The good news is I’m only getting more excited to start this venture and hopeful for what’s to come.

4 responses to “Day Two in Decatur

  1. This sounds so interesting. I went to the farm market website. It looks fabulous! have fun!

  2. Awesome! Have fun, Kirsten!

  3. Kirsten, I truly enjoy reading about your adventures in Atlanta – you are as talented a writer as you are a cook! I see a really cool (best-selling) book in your future! I hate to make you “work” on your vacation in Florida but I am so excited to try some of your favorite dishes while you’re here 🙂 Anxious to read about Day 3!

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