Guess what!? This month marks the one year anniversary of my time at Liliahna. As they say in Latin, “tempus fugit,” or “time flies” in English. Any way that you look at it, it makes no sense. How have twelve months passed? Valentine’s Day, the first day of spring, memorial day, the entire summer, my birthday, school starting again, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now we’re here, already half way through the first month of the New Year. (sigh)c'est la vie.
While I’m sitting here writing this, I am aware of two things: (1) a few years from now, I will find this post again, and be utterly embarrassed by my lack of writing skill and poor humor. I’ll also probably wonder what exactly I was doing with my life. (2) it’ll also be cute because obviously, I’ll be famous, and people will be like, “oh, that was when Nichi was first coming up, how cute.” Okay, that’s enough.
But, say I did become famous in the world of food. Then, this post could document the beginning of that success. So just for good measure, I’ll tell you an abbreviated story of how I came to know of Liliahna.
It was a cold and dreary winter’s day…
Just kidding. Actually, it was cold and it was dreary, but I’ll refrain from writing a novel. That book will come in due time.
It was January and I was meeting up with an old teacher for chai latte’s at a cafe near my college. One thing led to another, and we were deep into a conversation about my budding culinary interests, and how that was clashing with my life as an academic at university. I told my teacher that I would often find myself in the library at 11:00pm, on the one hand, desperately trying to get back to my dorm by midnight, but on the other hand, unable to stop dreaming of how exactly I would plate this new dish for a dinner party coming up. Or, at the same time that I was grasping for that final, perfect word to complete my poem, I would want nothing more than to take knife to board, and mince an onion till tears started to flow, or juice a lemon over my fingers, catching the seeds and letting the acid touch every micro-cut on my hands to remind me of what it felt like to be alive.
In the classroom, I was competing with Keats; at only 24, he wrote one of the most enduring lines of poetry, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” In the kitchen, I was competing with Aiden Byrne; at only 22, he became the youngest chef to ever win a Michelin star. In every space I occupied, the world was my oyster, yet at the same time it was all slipping away from me. I meditated on the fig tree quote fromThe Bell Jarby Sylvia Plath. I was deathly afraid that unable to choose, one by one, each of the figs, each future I had drawn up for myself, would wrinkle, turn black, and plop to the ground at my feet. In the midst of this quarter-life crisis, which you can learn more about at another time, my teacher opened up his planner, and said he knew exactly what to do. He said that he had met a woman named Erica Hudson the night before, a second-grade teacher at the school I went to and a colleague of his. He had her contact information, and said that her son, Brendon Hudson, also a graduate of the same school, was thriving in the culinary world, and in catering specifically. Neither of us even knew the guy, but my teacher promised that he would be able to help. That night, it slowly came back to me that I had met Brendon once before when he came back to our school to speak about his career. Our school would often organize these talks with successful alumni to motivate students and remind them that life after school does exist. I even remember sitting at lunch that day after hearing him speak, talking with my friends, and being fascinated by this ritzy, glamorous figure who seemed to be living his best life in every sense of the phrase. It was a lesson in being nice to everyone you meet -- the world is small, after all, and you never know who’ll come back into your life holding the exact opportunity you need.
Since this is getting long, and I’m indulging myself too much here with my own story, I’ll wrap it up. In the end, my teacher was right (shout out to him, he knows who he is). Chef Brendon did get back to me, we met at a little coffee spot called The Bun Shop, and the rest is history. Obviously, in the face of COVID-19, my love of cooking and serving people was quickly replaced by my current job working on digital media for the company, but nonetheless, I could not have asked for a better year at Liliahna. Brendon is a good guy, and I know that he knows that we all know that this is just the beginning. Now, something that I don’t know is what the future holds, except that it will be full of good food. I guess I know that much.
I hope you all take a moment to reflect on the past year, wherever you may have found yourself. I assure you that if you look hard enough, even the dumpster holds something beautiful. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”