More About Chef Drew

chef drew papercut blog size watermark copy

I recently completed a couple of art pieces for my son, Drew. One is seen above and the other can be found here. Each of them is cut from a single sheet of Tyvek paper and mounted on mat board.

For those of you who may not know the history of Drew’s passion for culinary arts, I thought a bit more explanation may be in order.

It started when he was about six years old. We were eating dinner together and after taking a couple of bites, Drew said, “You know, this is good, but it would be better with some Grey Poupon.” I can’t remember what we were eating, but I do recall the shocked look Joel and I gave each other. Not only did our six year old know what Grey Poupon was, but he knew it wasn’t in the casserole we were eating. And even more interesting…he was right. Grey Poupon would have been the perfect addition.

It was then that we began to wrap our minds around Drew’s passion for food. Not just eating it, but understanding it. He was the one of our three children who routinely asked what was in each dish. And we learned that it wasn’t so he could refuse it (that would be Calvin) or dismantle it (that would be Alex.) Instead, it was so he could taste it more fully, discerning each flavor, appreciating combinations, usually replying with a “Hmmm…nice.”

He always said thank you for meals. It’s like he knew early on that there was time and effort and love in the preparation of food and he appreciated all of it.

It was around 10 years old that he really started to want to cook, not so much to help us in the kitchen, but to do his own thing. He started playing around with whatever was in the refrigerator. Tortilla wraps were his specialty with so many odd combinations of insides we began making them as leftovers regularly.  We went through more than a few additional phases. The Red Pepper Flake Phase, the Joe’s Hot Stuff Phase, and the Chorizo Phase easily come to mind. We have a few really awesome original recipes thanks to those ingredient explorations.

It was, and is, common for Drew to come home from school with, “Guess what recipe I thought of in social studies today?” Then we’d get the ingredients and give it a try. Concentration in class, average. Creative thinking, exceptional.

In recent years, he’s progressed to making family dinners without batting an eye, creating new desserts for fun, single handedly doing the grocery shopping, and cooking for guests including a group of my women friends twice monthly. He never complains. Ever. We’ve taken cooking classes all over, bought an arsenal of cookbooks and ipad recipe apps, and watched every reality cooking show on TV. Bobby Flay, Art Smith, Jamie Oliver and Guy Fieri are our heroes.

As you can imagine, we talk about food a lot – planning menus, sharing ideas, batting around his thoughts for the future. He hopes to attend Johnson and Wales Culinary School in Denver and dreams of someday owning a restaurant. The fare served shifts on occasion, but it is always a small diner where he has the freedom to create his own recipes and easily watch his customers enjoy them.

To that end, during his freshman year of high school we started exploring a local vocational program, Anthis Career Center, in the neighboring school district. He is now in the first year of that program as a junior and loves it. We feel so lucky to have this stellar program in our backyard to build on Drew’s body of knowledge of course, but also for ours.  He exhausted our culinary expertise a long time ago, thus the wealth of learning he is getting at Anthis is a welcome addition to our kitchen.

Drew has a lot of interests. He loves the game of football and could be classified as an uber Packer fan. He plays video games, goofs off with his friends, watches dumb TV, hops on and off of Facebook, plays sports for fun, TPs his friends trees…you know, normal teenage stuff. Cooking, however, has evolved through the years and quite some time ago moved from the list of interests to a passion.

And that’s the crux of this. He has learned early on what it feels like to have passion as part of his everyday life. He has complete confidence that he can make a living doing what he loves and it doesn’t cross his mind to do otherwise. He doesn’t have a backup plan, a more realistic goal ‘just in case’. He isn’t daunted when nearly every person he meets tells him of the long hours involved, the lack of time off, or the multiple burns and scars from kitchen accidents over the years. His response usually is, “Good thing I love it or all that would suck.”

It has been one of my life’s lessons to watch someone thrive while engaging in their passion. To witness someone from such a young age express his passion so fully and continuously has compounded that lesson. It is no coincidence that the rest of the family is actively working on re-discovering their passions and moving toward them. Drew has definitely been a catalyst for our pursuits. Passion is good! One might say that it’s the main ingredient for living.

Completed October 2011. Mixed-media including Tyvek papercut and acrylic paint, 24×30″. 

The other version of Chef Drew may be found here.

May 2015 addendum: I’m rereading this note as I sit in a hotel room in Poughkeepsie, roughly six miles down South Road from The Culinary Institute of America the morning of  Drew’s graduation day! He didn’t go to Johnson and Wales after all as is noted in the blog above. On our way out the door to celebrate!

January 2012 addendum: Here’s a shot of Drew receiving the original framed and ready for display. So fun!

drew receiving art

Addendum May 22, 2015: Culinary Institute of America graduation day!! z

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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