A Berry Pie, A Pale Carpet, & A Top Chef Future?

After a 1986 spring visit to the chi-chi shops of Palm Springs, a Southwestern pastel pallet of peach, mauve and teal inspired a redo of our harvest gold and brown home’s interior.  Two weeks later, my now pre-adolescent daughters and I swooned over a pale apricot carpet sample.   

OMG the apricot carpeting and peach painted walls, trimmed in pale teal, was gorgeous. It reversed our masculine-inspired home to a three females in-charge and in-control home.  Concurrent to the home redo my daughters began exhibiting their distinct differences.  The oldest took to schoolyard politics as a student council member and class president, while the youngest showcased her artistic panache and damn the torpedoes style.

That artistic panache took time finding its direction, but eventually created a celebrity chef and a Top Chef, Season 9 cheftestant. 

Since her first interview as a rising star, the first question is always a variation of, “Did you love food as a child?”

There’s a gazillion twists on Chef Dakota Weiss’s reply—all of which are creative reproductions. It’s true that my old hippy ways about eating whole foods was the household rule.  Sweets came from fruit, honey and maple syrup—unless they visited my godfather and his legendary sweet tooth. 

The telling  interview question would be, “Are there any culinary moments you most remember as a child?”

In unison, both daughters would reply, “The PIE! THE CARPET! THE PIE! THE CARPET! moment.”   

Six months into our new apricot carpet lifestyle, I met the man fated to become known as “spouse” for the next 20-plus years.  I’m unsure if he fell in love with me and my daughters because I was like a wild cat mother who glared at any danger that might come the way of her two offspring, or because I made a killer lasagna that preceded  the legendary pie vs. carpet moment.

The pie was a magnificent blend of boysenberries and peaches wrapped in a buttery whole wheat crust.  When I removed it from the oven I recognized it as a masterpiece.  I cradled it in  heat padded gloves,  crossed into the pale carpeted family room to present this work of art, tripped over my deaf and blind 15-year-old mutt, and screamed “The Pie! The Carpet! The Pie! The Carpet!!!” Future spouse stood horrified thinking he’d have to apply CPR skills while I flew into the air, hot pie still in hand, while one daughter scrambled to get the teal throw down on the carpet where it looked as though a purple pie would crash and splatter, and the other prepared  to salvage the rare sugary pie before it went flying, all while I continued screaming, “The Pie! The Carpet!”

The pastel-carpet-angel intervened and I found my footing and saved the pie—and the carpet. It was a delicious pie served with my homemade honey-vanilla ice cream.  Did these moments inspire a future chef? She says yes.

Executive chefs require more than culinary skills.  Responsibility, management and applied focus separate good cooks from titled chefs. 

While Dakota stumbled through her teen years, I insisted she learn consequences and take responsibility. She did.  And when she focused on her goal, I supported her decision.

There’s a fine line between controlling a child and letting them develop their gifts.  My tactics included providing opportunity while I disguised my own fears and insecurities. I applied basic values that kept me from the gutters during my own youth.  And one more thing: many a tasty and wholesome family meal.

The Pie! The Carpet! moment metaphorically still lives while we wait for the Nov. 2  Top Chef, Season 9 premier.

Did I mention that gray hair came my way during my daughters’ teen years? You should see the gray that happened when it began to look like there was a Top Chef candidate in our family.  I’ll save that for another post. Meanwhile I think I’ll try recreating that wonderful pie that never did touch the pale carpeting.

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