Laying on my couch, taking this moment to ground before I drive up towards Purgatory Resort to cook a seven-course meal. Taking a moment to reflect on how I arrived in Durango (albeit eight years ago) and how I'm currently paying my rent and bills... as a private chef. It's astonishing, really. The past year has been an unexpected one. A year ago, I would not have guessed that I'd be a private chef and not a social worker. (Who knows? Maybe a year from now, I'll be using my graduate school degree and no longer working as a full-time private chef. I doubt it.)
A friend reflected to me yesterday that I'm in a love affair with food. The sentiment landed deeply. I am head over heels in love with the ingredients I use to cook.
I accepted tonight's job just two days ago. At first, I wasn't sure what I would cook. Although I've been cooking for twelve years, spent a year at a hut cooking three meals a day for up to eight people, and have worked on and off as a private chef for a year and a half, I only recently formalized offerings. (I remember hiking Engineer back in August with a friend and decided I was going to build a website and make business cards.) As I wondered how I could cook an incredible meal for tonight, I realized I was overthinking.
Instead of thinking, I went to Sunnyside (Durango's local butcher and one of my favorite specialty shops in the world) and purchased some local meat (bone marrow, lamb, and their maple bourbon bacon). Instead of thinking, I purchased seasonal vegetables (delicata squash, carrots, and greens). Instead of thinking what I should cook, I let the seasons inform the menu; I let the ingredients speak for themselves.
Tonight's menu ranges from roasted bone marrow with a salami red wine roll (from Bread, obviously) to roasted delicata squash filled with carrot puree topped with honey and parmesan to spicy lamb kelp noodles inspired by Northern Chinese flavors to Thai summer rolls (basically a salad packed into a rice paper roll) to a venison stew (the deer being one my friend harvested and I helped process) to Mexican spiced chocolate fudge. That's not even the full menu. I am proud to say that each dish is built on a local ingredient (whether meat, goat cheese, or vegetable), and I firmly believe you can taste the difference.
Who knows what tomorrow will hold... but for today, I am endlessly grateful to be a private chef here in Durango, Colorado. Of all the places I have ever lived, this is the place that taught me what home feels like. To the seasons, to our lands, to home.