I often sit at my computer with the goal of writing a blog, but I get distracted and think about how I sat (nearly) every night in my bed at Ballymaloe and wrote a blog. I don’t know how I did it, yes of course I had a lot to talk about. But I have a list on my calendar that moves from month to month with ideas for a blog – I suppose it’s a bit of writer’s block.
When it comes to Ballymaloe, I always seem inspired to write a blog… I’ve been talking a lot about the last BLOG I wrote, and I can clearly remember sitting on the airplane flying from London to Edmonton crying as I wrote it… I was coming home, and about to turn 28, I remember feeling inspired, hopeful and ready. I’ve wanted to write a “post Ballymaloe,” blog for a while now… I know when I was thinking about doing the course, I read every blog I could, I emailed people who had blogs, I asked questions. I am love getting emails from people who are interested in doing the course, and I think there are people that are probably too shy to get in touch. So perhaps, this is what that is… A bit of reminiscing for me, a bit of what’s ahead for The Ruby Apron, and a bit for those thinking about doing the course.
Like I said, when I wrote the last blog, I said turning 28 was a bit like a new year, well now, I’m turning 30, and if it’s not enough to start a new year – I’m starting a new decade. I’ve thought a lot about that bit in my last blog over the past few weeks, and keep thinking about it in a bit of a negative way… I need to give myself more credit. I’m doing what I love – is it easy? – no. Do I enjoy it? – yes. Every week I learn something new, whether it’s something I’m doing right, or something I am doing terribly wrong. So before I write about softly whipped cream and what’s to come…
For those of you reading this, thinking about doing the course… One of the most common questions I get is about the job prospects after the course. Being Canadian, it’s totally different. People don’t credit the course here as they would elsewhere, and I don’t say that in a negative way. When I decided to do the course, I knew that would be the case. I also had zero intention of working in food. When I say that, people say well why did you do the course, and perhaps I did think I would end up working in food – but not in a restaurant setting. I didn’t want that then, I didn’t want it when I finished the course, and I don’t want it now. I’ve had to carve my own path – and I’m still doing that – you build relationships, if you’re passionate about something, it happens. I’m grateful it hasn’t come really easily to be honest, I’ve learned so much from it. As I think about things I’ve learned it’s all the bad stuff that comes to mind – that I don’t like dealing with – business licenses, regulations, taxes, etc., those are all country based things, so I did have to figure those things out on my own – I’m still figuring some of them out. There are other things too – dealing with people, creating boundaries, policies etc., but those are things you can only learn from experience. Then there are super positive things – dealing with people, building relationships with clients and producers, cooking, learning, growing, teaching…. And those things I credit to the course. My passion, I credit to the course, which makes the rest easy. So yes, it’s been hard at times, but you build a good support system and if you want it, the rest can happen. In saying that, I am talking about starting a business, not getting a job – I can’t comment on that, because that wasn’t the path I chose to take once I finished the course. Another question I get all the time – which is a question I asked, what time of year would you recommend doing the course? I remember Toby Allen telling me, there are pros and cons to each course, and I couldn’t agree more. The one thing I will say about January – for me, our “hungry months” are longer than that of European countries… Which was part of the reason I chose to do the course in January. September – I can’t even imagine in Ireland, beautiful – and a glut of produce coming in from the farm, but one of things I was so thankful for as the course went on – the days got longer, which is the opposite in September. April – well you see a totally different side of the school and farm, and I think it would be pretty incredible. I think there are pros and cons to all of them as Toby said, but I wouldn’t not do the course because I couldn’t make it work for the intake that I thought would be best, if that makes sense. I honestly hear someone’s voice from the school in my head every other day in the kitchen, whether I’m cooking a recipe that’s from the course, teaching a technique that I learned on the course, or I tossed a bowl in the sink before scraping every last bit out of it (sorry Darina!), or something as simple as softly whipping cream (by hand) to finish a dessert. I read menus in restaurants and hear myself saying such Ballymaloe things “how do you have FRESH BC berries on a menu in March?”. It sounds cheesy (a term I hate), but I’m so grateful for that. I’m so grateful Ballymaloe will always be with me. I am also so grateful for the experiences that have come since Ballymaloe – if you had told me two years ago that I would own a business, I would have told you to beat it.
So onto that – how did The Ruby Apron come to be… I came home from Ireland, and went back to my job, which I loved, but I was always running out the door (with a stack of cookbooks), and flour somewhere on my face or clothes, late. I had ideas running through my head about a business, but never really thought anything would come of it… But then, as it’s instilled in you on the course – I realized, why not just get up and do it. So… It started slowly, I’ll run a cooking class… Then I looked into getting a business license… Then I quit my job. I’ve tried things that haven’t worked (Farmers’ Market), I’ve adapted and changed as I need to. It obviously wasn’t as simple as, run a class, get a license, and you have a business… But here I am two years after finishing the course, and nearly 18 months after starting a business…. I think people at home often think, how much can you really learn in 12 weeks, and I’ve said it before… The course is intense, there is SO much to learn, that is taught, and that just comes after living on an organic farm for 12 weeks, surrounded by like minded people, cooking, eating and talking food. I have gotten off track though – back to the business… So now, two years later, I’ve hit points where I think what am I doing? I can’t do this? What was I thinking? But then really great moments happen – where you sit down and talk to your brother (over a beer or two, mind you), and you get his vote of confidence and his two cents on the business… You have someone that you respect say to you, “Kaelin, bread IS your thing… And your bread IS the best” You have that same person ask you questions that put it all into perspective, “What is it about bread….?” Then you realize on your own, “I’ve been saying for two years, ‘if I could get rich off of bread…’” And your mind starts to wander just like it was two years ago when I came home from Ireland. I’m pretty lucky to do what I love, I’m pretty lucky to have people who support me.
I am looking forward to continuing to teach my passion — sourdough. Educate people about real bread, the importance of real bread, and continue to build relationships with farmers who are doing incredible things, which help make it easy for me to teach. I often say that bread is the simplest of things – it’s simple to make, it’s delicious, and nutritious, but it’s also the simplest thing to teach what’s wrong with our food system – from the soil that grows the grain, to the baker baking the bread…
So for now, I leave you with this… I’m about to turn 30, I’m feeling inspired, hopeful, and ready… I’m also feeling grateful (which I probably was on that flight home two years ago, too!).
“The health of the soil, the health of the plant, the health of the animal, and the health of the human are all one and indivisble” — Darina Allen