Chefs Advocacy Foundation

There is a beautiful article in today's Crains about our restaurant group Team Sawyer.

The Chef sat down with Kathy Carr last week to chat and after a 2 hour interview my phone rang. The Chef had let it slip that I was in the startup phase of a non profit foundation called Chefs Advocacy Foundation.  

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The Chef's Advocacy Foundation came to be because of the experiences the Chef and I have had over the years in the hospitality industry as well as watching countless friends go through many of the same things that we have gone through. I have seen friends lose restaurants because they couldn't afford to hire an attorney to look over contracts,  I have seen chefs sued for their creative property by profiteering partners, I have watched grown men choose to take their own life after being persecuted by people who saw the financial gain a celebrity chef can bring to the table.  The Chef and I have even had our own experiences with these kind of issues throughout the past 10 years of our professional careers. Had we been able to hire an attorney or even consult someone our path could have been much simpler. Chef's Advocacy Foundation will allow these kind of consultations to happen for those in the hospitality industry at no charge by way of legal aid through the foundation. 

"You can't make good deals with bad people or bad deals with good people."
-Richard Melman

The industry has other pitfalls as well besides profiteering partners and bad contracts. There are long hours, low pay, and the allure of the glamorous celebrity chef lifestyle. Addictions arise, mental health is put on the back burner, and hospitality fatigue happens. Chef's Advocacy Foundation will provide assistance in all of the above and more for anyone in the hospitality industry. These chefs give back so much to this industry and so many other industries that it's only right to start giving back to them. 

While we are still in the beginning phases of startup for this foundation we are always looking for help, ideas, thoughts, and input. If you are interested please reach out to me via email. And if you haven't check out the amazing Crain's Cleveland article on Team Sawyer, please do! 

Censored

Unfortuanety today I was asked to take down a tweet (actually a Twitter Blog is what the school called it) that I had posted about the bullying incident on the bus. I complied not because I believed I was in the wrong (I wasn't, it was very respectful, mentioned no one, and was only a call for support & awareness), but because the school system has no idea what Twitter, blogging, or social media is.  A parent (I'm guessing of one of the boys) had obviously seen my tweet and felt something because of it (whether it be shame, embarassment, or sadness we'll never know) and felt that I should censor myself and what happened to my son. When I was asked to take the tweet down, I explained my point of view. My tweet wasn't malicious, hurtful, or controversial. It was honest about a real event that took place in our school with our son. I told my viewpoint as a parent and expressed the fact that I would be writing this post.

For those of you who know me in real life you know that I am probably the most open minded, outspoken, strong, and uncensorsed person you know. I have real thoughts, I form my on conclusions, and I educate myself to constantly keep up with this ever changing world. I am not meek and I sure as hell am not afraid of bullies.

The problem with me taking my tweet down and in fact being asked to do so, is I am being made to feel as though my son's story should not be heard. Yes, I know the school heard it, and yes they did a good job of diffusing the situation. But what about the million other parents out there who don't come forward to talk about something that is happening with their child? Why can't they find comfort in knowing that another parent has gone through the same thing they have gone through? Why the shame in talking about kids who bully younger kids? Why should I have to censor my life? Why????

This is an issue that should be talked about. It shouldn't be embarassing or hidden in a school file drawer. The parents of the bully don't need to hang their head in shame or anger toward the parent of the victim. They need to open their eyes, take a big look in the mirror, and change whatever they know is affecting their own child. Change needs to come to this problem and the only way change can come is if everyone starts talking about it.

Social media is here to stay and I have watched it's power. It is a useful tool in many aspects of our life and has halped me both professionally and personally. I have an enormous support sytem of love that surrounds me everyday because of social media and I am beyond grateful for that. I understand that not everyone understands social media and I am perfectly ok with that. Life changing tools take time to become an integral part of everyone's life. All I know is that I will never be quiet about things I believe, I will never lower my voice because someone is scared of what I might say.

I am proud of my son for speaking up when someone was doing him wrong. I hope he learned it from watching me.

Door to Door Organics

We love getting our summer share of veggies every week from Fresh Fork Market so when I was approached by Door to Door Organics to check out their veggie/fruit delivery service I wasn't super into it. Then I check out the website and found out that I could get an all organic fruit delivery. I signed up for the bi-weekly  fruit delivery and last week we got our first box. 

I was extremely pleased.

Our organic fruit box came with all of the above, including the watermelon! Most of the fruit was almost ripe, nothing in the box was bad. The fruit lasted exactly one week so I'm not sure if my bi-weekly delivery will suffice, but for now it works. I love the complement of Door to Door Organics to my weekly veggie box from Fresh Fork and I would love for one of you to try your very own Door to Door grocery delivery service!

Door to Door Organics is giving all of my readers $10 off your first order and one lucky reader a $ gift certificate to use. All you have to do to enter is share this post socially with #chefswidow #doortodoororganics. A winner will be picked on Friday August 1st, 2015! 

Wonderland in Toronto

After our unbelievable Legoland experience we knew as parents we had failed miserably. We passed the entrance for Wanderland on our way into mall Legoland and after a quick google search we learned that it was Canada's version of our very beloved Cedar Point. We bought tickets online and headed across the street to try and redeem our birthday blunder for the boy. 

Wonderland ended up being amazing!! The park is beautiful and clean. The people who work there are nice and friendly and the rides were quite similar to Cedar Point although the height limits are much lower. Our 7 year old who can't ride any roller coasters at Cedar Point could ride all but 3 at Wonderland. We had a brilliant time and the day ended up a win for everyone including the earlier bummed out birthday boy.   

We highly recommend Wonderland for all families visiting Toronto.  

🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of

🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪 

The Thompson Hotel Rooftop Pool Toronto

We didn't stay at The Thompson Hotel in Toronto however the Airbnb we rented had rooftop pool access for the win!! 

Legoland Discovery Zone in Toronto

The boy turned 10 on July 6th. The Chef and I wanted to do something special for him that he would remember for always so we decided to road trip to Legoland in Toronto. He was dying to go to Legoland and when I was surfing the web (gnarly doode) I saw that Toronto had their very own LL. I google mapped the drive and found the trip to be a little over 4 hours. His birthday was decided. We would be headed to Canada. 

We got up early on our first day in Canada and mapped the car to Legoland. Imagine our surprise when the directions had us turning into a mall. My stomach dropped. Did I not read something right? Was Legoland not in Toronto? Turns out I did NOT in fact read something right. Legoland Discovery Center is in Toronto and Legoland Discovery Center SUCKS.

We walked into the mall all looking confused. How could there possible be rides and legos and all of the amazing things Legoland offers, inside a strip mall? The answer came to us very quickly after we bought our tickets and waited in line to start the 'tour.' We realized that we had been hosed. Legoland Discovery Zone was a glorified Chuck E. Cheese. There were two baby rides (as the boy called them), three lego short films (one was silent? ummm wtf?), and a car building race area. Other than that there was a play area that kids had to wear socks in and if they didn't have them they could buy them for $5 (guess who bought socks? raises hand) and a few lego models as seen above. Twenty minutes in and the boy came up to the Chef and I "Is this it? I mean it's cool and all but it's kinda lame" he said obviously trying not to hurt our feelings. The Chef and I totally agreed and remembered that as we pulled in to the mall for Legoland we saw signs for Wonderland, Toronto's amusement park. The kids went back to playing in the janky beta mall legoland and the Chef & I furiously googled admission prices for Wonderland. Wonderland would save the birthday!

Legoland Discovery Zone was a total disappointment. The only people who should go to Legoland Discovery Zone are kids who are 4 and under. Any kid older than that is going to see that it's a total sham. 

Rating: 🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

 

The Darkness of the Kitchen

For me a restaurant kitchen is full of life and fun. When I walk into a kitchen I see smiles, passion, and some of the most creative and kind people I have ever known. That light that I tend to see when I walk into the kitchen is not always there for those working in the kitchen. The restaurant industry is not an easy one. Chefs work long hours, addiction runs rampant, greedy, jealous, and parasitic people flock to the brightness of those behind the counter, the pay is never what it should be, and the hard work never stops no matter how big you get. The life of a Chef is not easy and anyone who says different has never worked in a restaurant.

 Last night that darkness claimed the lived of a chef that we know, a chef that our pastry chef worked under for many years, a chef who even held a dinner at Trentina before it opened. When the Chef found out about Hamaro Cantu's suicide, his face turned solemn and he muttered under his breath "that could have been me." 

Tears welled up in my eyes. I knew what he meant. Even though we have been silently struggling over these past 3 years, never in my life would I have imagined the Chef even thinking about crossing over to that dark side.  In my eyes he is so strong. Able to weather through any storm. Able to take pain beyond any pain you could possibly imagine. Able to live with the betrayal.  Not like me at all. I have always been the weak one. The broken one. Not him.   

I pray Chef Cantu's wife and family can find solace somewhere in this tragedy. 

Wen Hair Care

I stopped using traditionally shampoo 2 years ago. Between the unknown chemicals that I was putting on my head (not to mention my kids heads) and not being able to find a brand that I liked I decided to quit the chemical laden product and find a new haircare path. First, I tried the No-Poo thing. It wasn't great and my hair seemed worse off from the baking soda.  For a couple month's I used a shampoo bar and all natural conditioner. That was better than the no-poo but my hair still looked drab.  

One day I was at Sephora and decided to check out the shampoo lines they carried. I told the Sephora girl that I was looking for a chemical free line and she led me to Wen. She said "I know, I know you've seen it on infomercials but I started using it 6 months ago and I love it! Just look at this shine!" Her hair was remarkably shiny and I happened to have a gift card. I bought a Wen Gift Set and decided to give it a try. 

That was almost a year ago and I have definitely drank the Wen kool aid. It is AMAZING. And it's amazingly easy. It's a conditioning shampoo which means bye bye 2 products. My hair was a bit troubled when I started using Wen and within a month it was shiny and growing like crazy. Even with all my crazy dye jobs my hair doesn't get fried and stays strong. I've even gotten rid of shampoo and conditioner for our entire household. The minis and the Chef are not faithful Wen users. If you are thinking about trying Wen definately check out their seasonal specials on the conditioning shampoo. It's a great way to test out the product and see if you like it for your hair.  


I give Wen  🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪 only because it's a little pricey and that takes some getting used to.

Ritz Carlton Battery Park

The Ritz Carlton Battery Park is a great hotel for families staying in the city. As ex-New Yorkers we often stay on the lower east side, where we used to live. However the Chef was in town for an amazing event and they put us up at the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park. Even though I lived in New York for most of my 20's I had never really explored Battery Park. I went there once when we went to Ellis Island and I think that's about it. 

We checked in and the first thing that I noticed was how kid friendly the front desk people were to my kids. They got them a Ritz Carlton kid bag that had toys, goodies, and a hotel scavenger hunt. My kids were impressed. After checking in we went up to our room and were very pleased with the size of our suite. Lately I have noticed that hotels have been selling "suites" that are really just a big room with a pullout couch. This was not the case. We had two very large separate rooms and the minis set up camp in theirs and we set up camp in ours. For our family of four, a suite has become a must have aspect of travel. It allows space for all parties involved and can easily make or break a vacation. Since this was a work trip we knew that space between mom and dad and the minis would be important. 

The master bathroom was gorgeous with a huge soaking tub and separate shower. The minis had their own bathroom and a kitchenette. The room itself was spectacular. 

We had a fabulous time staying in Battery Park and it really grew on us as a place for us to stay in the city. Transportation is easy from the hotel to anywhere in the city and the path by the river is easily walkable and filled with playgrounds and fun sights to entertain the kids. I would highly recommend staying at The Ritz Carlton in Battery Park. 

🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

 

Super Kidney to the Rescue!

Chillin' at Rainbow Babies

Chillin' at Rainbow Babies

The other day I shared a picture of the boy at the doctor's office on Instagram. I briefly mentioned his kidney disease and within moments I began to receive well wishes, emails, calls, and texts from people I do and don't know. I guess I had never really shared his disease publicly until then. Your words of love and support were truly thoughtful and as I read some of them to my son he said "mom you should tell them about my super kidney." So here I am. Ready and willing to tell you the story of my son's super kidney. 

The boy was an unnamed baby in my womb when the Chef and I found out that he would be born with kidney disease. Having virtually no parenting experience the news of our baby boy's tribulation broke us down flat. If the pregnancy hadn't scared us this certainly had. What had we done wrong? 

From the moment we found out that the boy had multicystic dysplastic kidney disorder we  made it our goal to find out everything about it. Our pediatric nephrologist guided us through the mumble jumble of the medical texts and assured us that even though this disease sounded scary, it was certainly manageable. Hell. Most people went through their entire life having the disorder and never even knowing it. Finding out about it in utero was rarer than the disease itself. 

Almost 10 years ago the boy came into this world healthy and happy. The first couple days were rough, as a series of testing & prodding left us scared. We made it through it and Catcher's kidney disease has barely been noticeable. We go to a specialist every couple of years. He gets an ultrasound to see if the super kidney is growing. Eventually his right kidney (the one that is covered in cysts & doesn't work) will disappear into it's self and his left kidney will become super sized.

Until this year we have not found a pediatric nephrologist we liked as much as our first specialist at Rainbow Babies when the boy was born. Unfortunately our health insurance didn't allow us to go back to Rainbow and two years ago we found ourselves at the Cleveland Clinic with an uncaring doctor who treated us like a medical record number. I vowed to never settle for a doctor again and this year after a huge search we found ourselves in the hands of two fabulous nephrologists back at Rainbow Babies (seriously the best!). They made the boy feel special and spoke to him so he could have a good understanding of what was going on inside him. Last week we got his ultrasound and as I held his hand in the dark room I saw his super kidney for the first time. The kidney was huge! I knew in my heart of hearts that he was going to be ok.

The doctor called us this week and confirmed my positive feelings. His good kidney, is in fact, turning into a super kidney. All is well and the boy doesn't need to come back until he was 12. I just couldn't be any happier. I am so grateful that he is healthy and I am so thankful that he is so brave. I've got a good one, that's for sure. 

This is 36

36 means I almost have a 10 year old son. Like whoa. 

36 means I have known my husband for 20 years and have been in love with him for 13.

36 means that I haven't smoked a ciggy in almost 4 years.  

36 means I lost the most important woman in my life, my grandma, 12 years ago.

36 means finding joy in simplicity gets easier every single day. Fuck the chaos.

36 means I don't have time for crazy, hatred, anger, martyrdom, bigots, or jealousy. 

36 means I only open my door to true friends. 

36 means going to bed before midnight makes mornings so much easier.

36 means my vodka drinking abilities have become laughable.

36 means my daughter looks up to me and it is on me to show her what being a real woman is all about. 

36 means I love my body. Even the squishy parts. Granted I would accept a little lift here and there. 

36 means I don't have time for liars or people who take themselves to seriously.

36 means I am stronger than I have ever been. Mentally and physically.

36 means PINK HAIR DON'T CARE. 

36 means I found my tribe. 

Chef Jonathon Sawyer on The Chew

Tuesday was one of the COOLEST days of my life as a Chef's Widow. We came to NYC for spring break this week and the Chef managed to snag himself a spot cooking on ABC's The Chew thanks to our dear friend Michael Symon. We were lucky enough to accompany the Chef to the studio and hang out while he got his makeup and hairdid and even got to sit in the green room while he went on the show!

He made a ramen grilled cheese from his book Noodle Kids and I must say that HE DID AMAZING!!!! I totally started tearing up when he walked on stage. Pride can't even describe how I felt. We had such a great time and to see how much work goes in to producing, filming, directing, and starring on The Chew really shed a light on how badass Michael Symon really is. Hosting a daytime television show is an insane amount of work on top of being an actual Chef and restauranteur. But I guess having a chef's work ethic probably makes it a little less daunting. Either way it was a phenomenal experience all around and I am so grateful we were able to spend the day at The Chew!

Chef Sawyer on The Chew

The first time I met Michael Symon was in the early 2000's. The Chef and I had just moved back to Cleveland, young, pregnant, & scared. Michael & Jonathon met one night at his new restaurant Lolita. They smoked cigs, talked food, and by then end of the night they had themselves their very own bromance that continues to this day. Michael was beyond kind to the new kid in town. He hired the Chef, gave him health insurance (while we were pregnant no less, who does that?), and gave Jonathon the freedom to explore his culinary passion and talent. His talent inspired Jonathon and when Michael was ready to open a restaurant in New York City he came to Jonathon to run it. His belief in Jonathon's talent has always been unwavering and his constant support of the chef's career and our family is beyond generous.

Tomorrow the generosity continues. The Chef will be filming The Chew with his old friend and talking about his family book Noodlekids. Tune in at 1pm on ABC to check out my love Chef Jonathon Sawyer making ramen grilled cheese. It's gonna be a good one. 

Turning the Page

Today was 45 degrees and it felt like I was on an island basking in the sun. This cruel winter has made me happy about 45 degrees. I don't even know who I am anymore...

Now that the signs of spring are upon us I can start to close the door on my what seemed like forever hibernation and open the door to sunshine and blue skies. This winter was brutal not only because of the cold but because of the amount of work the Chef and I have been putting in at the restaurants all while trying to balance happy healthy productive kids.

Newsflash.

It's not fucking easy.

The Chef cooking nights while I work during the day and become a taxi cab in the evenings didn't do our relationship any favors. The term Chef's Widow became redefined in our house as the Chef cleaned up other people's messes and worked the line every night. The old fights came back and just like that I was a new mamma with a newborn at home by myself everynight. This time though, I didn't write about.

I'm not sure why. 

Writing about the struggles of being married to a chef has always been easy for me. But for some reason this time it wasn't. I have learned many important lessons, both good and bad, since we opened our first restaurant in 2009 and one of them has remained constant. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Angelina Jolie knows what I'm talking about fo sho.

Celebrating the end of winter in NYC

Celebrating the end of winter in NYC

And it' so true. The things that we have gone through in the past five years are enough to fill a novella, or at least be turned into a Mexican soap opera. But my focus on the pain is gone now and all I can see is a beautiful support system growing at the restaurants, a Chef who still works as hard as he did 10 years ago and loves me to the depths of this Earth, and a family of my own that I am completely smitten by. For the first time in years I feel completely at peace. 

Valentines Day

Yesterday I received an email from the boy's class mothers that let me know that the class would not be celebrating Valentines Day and would be replacing it with a Friendship day in a few weeks because of religious reasons and the fear of alienating children. I did a double take and quickly called the Chef. 

The minis and I had worked all day Tuesday on their Valentine's Day cards and reading that the boy wouldn't get to share his love pissed me off. One of the best childhood memories of mine (and almost every single person I could yesterday to talk to about this weirdness) was Valentine's Day. Especially in grade school. It meant so much to collect those little cards (the candy was nice too) and race home to see all the people who gave them to you. The Chef felt weird about it too. Neither of us could figure out the religion aspect (we did eventually learn that Orthodox Jews do not support Valentines Day & that Valentines Day has roots in Catholicism) and the alienating part seemed like a no brainer. There are so many creative ways to celebrate love, it doesn't have to be candy & cards. It could be a book exchange, it could be a RAKE day or they could cook together as a class. They could all write poems about love and share with the class. Something, anything to say that Valentines Day is important. In the crazy world we live in, I can't help but believe that LOVE is truly the only way to celebrate our amazing lives here on Earth. 

Although the boys class won't be celebrating, the girl's class will so at least she will have that experience. Now to figure something out for the boy...

Making Time

I constantly think about this blog. At night when I lay in bed waiting for The Chef to come home from the restaurants I think to myself 'man I should really start writing again.' I muse and ponder about what to write about and when I can't come to a decision the desire to write gets put on the backburner. 

So here I am. Laying in bed, watching Eddie Huang's new show Fresh Off The Boat (the soundtrack is rad) waiting for The Chef to come home. I originally thought I would write about food and getting my kids to eat healthy but then I figured that topic has been exhausted. So I figure I will just write and see how it goes.  

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I have been happily working with The Chef at the restaurants. We opened Trentina in July and by God has it been an adventure. We knew it wasn't going to be easy opening a Northern Italian fine dining restaurant in Cleveland and since the opening we have learned many lessons. The restaurant, just like The Greenhouse Tavern in year 1, is growing and evolving into what it's meant to be. I am so proud of our little gem in University Circle and I really do believe that it is quickly becoming one of the best restaurants in this city. The Chef has been in the kitchen every night and the team he has assembled is turning into something special. Avengers Unite! I am excited to follow along for the ride and for the food! Holy moly the food is divine. And I'm not just saying that. See for yourself. 

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I myself have plunged full force into the marketing and branding of Team Sawyer Restaurant Group. We've had a pretty good game so far but there is always more that could be done. In a few short years our restaurant group has grown exponentially and we are finally finding our rhythm both in team and family. We now have an immense amount of support behind us and the creative forces that drive the Chef and I are front and center. 2015 is going to be a fun and crazy year. Between balancing work and still having a full life with the minis, maybe I'll even have time for this old friend.