When I lived in the States, I would write a Christmas letter every year and I really enjoyed it. It was nice to think back and reflect upon the year, and I hope a good way to fill family and friends in on the happenings throughout the year. I decided to pick the tradition back up this year and reflect on some of the highs (and lows) of 2015!
The year started with a new chef lecturer in my pastry school course. Originally, our class was really upset with the change midway through the course, but as with most things, it ended up being a really good thing and we got a chance to learn skills from another chef and our group bonded over the experience. The pastry section of the course ran until the third week of March. Highlights included a class lunch at one-Michelin starred Clove Club, afternoon tea at The Ritz, World Chocolate Masters UK event, and learning the skills for many delicious pastries. Lows included tears over a soufflé disaster during an exam (somehow barely eeeking out a pass because of my second dish).
In mid-January, I was part of the inaugural TEDxClapham team, which was truly a wonderful project to be a part of, a fab group of people to work with and enabled me to meet some great new folks. The theme ‘creating a legacy of change through action‘ brought together in some fantastic speakers including JC, one of the Movember co-founders, twins Lisa & Tida Finch, founders of mission-based jewelry designers Finchittida Finch, Brian Rose, founder of London Real, and Dr. Sue Black, one of the UK top women in tech, among many others. One of which led to some freelance event work during my spring break at the end of March.
February included a quick trip back to the States to Charleston for my dear friend Andy’s wedding. It was an amazing wedding filled with Southern food and some of my most favorite people in the world.
The second part of our course started in the beginning of April, which was the advance diploma in food preparation and cookery supervision. We had some practical kitchen work, but the large majority was academic and project based. My favorite parts of the second half included our guest speakers working in various parts of the industry in London, attending the Estrella Damm gastronomy conference, our menu planning weeks in the Billingsgate kitchens, a class softball game and picnic in Hyde Park and our gastronomy trip to the Amalfi Coast in April.
Our class trip to Italy was such an amazing part of the course. It included a gelato-making, a buffalo mozzarella farm, a winery, and learning about limoncello. I went a few days early to explore and had an incredible time visiting Pompeii, Positano, the Path of the Gods and Capri. It was such an incredible trip and I absolutely fell in love with the region. The gastronomy project we had to complete following our trip was my favorite unit of the course. I did a video project combining footage from our trip combined with an interview of Italian Chef Antonio Mellino, who has Quattro Passi restaurants in both the Amalfi Coast and in London.
May brought over some sorority sisters from college to visit. Since they had all been to London before, Sarah and I planned a weekend filled with eating, drinking and selfie-sticking our way around London. It was an amazing weekend catching up with some very good friends! #ZLAMLondon2015 🙂
This year included lots family time in Europe, which kicked off with my Dad and Katherine visiting me in London at the end of May. They spent the month of June in Paris, so I took a weekend to go down to visit them and explore the Paris pastry scene. While in London, we explored the sights and took in Carol King’s Beautiful, which was a great show! In Paris, we explored the city and ate all the pastries!
The end of our class wrapped up with our City & Guilds exam and then we started work experience. My work experience included a variety of out of the kitchen food related experiences – Royal Ascot, taking advantage of being in Europe with a few trips and cultural gastronomy research, work with a YouTube cooking channel, and food styling.
In July, Rochelle and Lindsay headed to Europe and let me tag along with them on a road trip around Iceland. Road tripping with these chicks was awesome! Iceland is such a spectacular country. Visiting in early July gave us super long days which were perfect for squeezing in tons of sights. Sadly, no puffins, but we did enjoy waterfalls galore and the most glorious spa day at the Blue Lagoon. Going late in the day and staying till close gave us a few moments of alone time in the lagoon, creating one of the best photo ops. 🙂
The summer was filled with various other visits from US friends and my cousins. It was fun showing my cousins around the city and being able to take the younger to a pub for a beer, since he’s 18 and legal in the UK (a little college-prep; sorry Aunt Susan & Uncle Greg!).
At the end of August, I traveled to Spain to visit some friends living in Madrid and explore the Spanish food scene. The trip included a few days in Barcelona and a visit to La Sangrada Familia, one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever stepped foot in. Below is the way the afternoon light shines through the stained glass. Truly stunning!
In September, I met up with my friend Becki and one of her friends for a girls trip to Mykonos. It was my first trip to Greece, and a heck of an introduction to the islands. Millions of laughs, endless searches for hallumi souvlakis, dancing till dawn and blue and white for days. From there, I traveled with Becki back to Athens, then made my way back to the islands. Visiting Naxos for a night, followed by meeting a friend for two nights in Santorini before heading back to Athens. A little backwards in the planning, but it was a great time catching the Greek island highlights, channeling my gymnastics youth flipping off rocks, eating the best food and getting a little preview into what this fab country has to offer. 🙂
Late summer/early fall brought about some fun London summer activities including a My Morning Jacket concert, a Hot Chip show (at my fave London venue, Brixton Academy), some culture at the Carston Holler exhibit, tennis birthday parties, winning The Contiki Challenge scavenger hunt and filled with one of the things I love most about London summers (and Indian summers), park days and pub gardens.
My mom came to visit me at the end of September for her first trip to Europe! We spent the first days exploring London and showing her all of my favorite places. Sarah, London (my friend, not the city!), and my mom had a ladies night out on the town starting with cocktails & dessert, a nighttime London Eye champagne experience and dinner. It was great introducing my mom to my London friends and showing her my favorite restaurants, pubs and sites!
After a few days in London, my mom and I had a wonderful mother/daughter trip to Italy for a week before meeting up with Bill, Paul and Sara. They met us in Naples where we headed to Capri and Positano. Our trip included a visit to Chef Antonio Mellino’s Amalfi Coast restaurant (the chef from my gastronomy project!), which is a two-Michelin-star located in Nerano (on the tip between Sorrento and Positano). It was one of the best meals and service of my life! We hiked the Path of the Gods, explored the town and ate all the gelato! All of the walking earned us multiple gelato a day. 😉
The main reason for the family Euro-trip was coming over for my graduation. Once we arrived back in London, we were joined by family friends, Candace and Dave, for the adventure. It was a bit surreal being back in a cap and gown again. Even more surreal calling myself a pastry chef. I’m so grateful to them for taking the time to come over for my graduation. We had a blast exploring London, even if they completely distrusted my “it’s just round the corner” by the end of the trip. My definition and theirs varied…greatly. 😉
After the fam left, November brought about a near-nervous breakdown. I’ve struggled with what path I want to take with my new qualifications. I was finally able to finish a piece I had been writing for five months about what exactly makes a chef a chef. Huge thanks to my friend Dave for being reader number one, encouraging me along the way, and helping me with some final edits. It took five months, twelve edits, lots of conversations with friends, hours and hours of obsessing about it mentally, but I’m proud of the way it turned out. As for how it all turns out in the future, I guess that’s part of the fun of the process.
My visa expires in mid-Jan 2016 and trying to figure out not only the path I want to take, but where I’ll end up living, has been a heavy weight. Sometimes being an adult isn’t the most fun. After a lot of internal debate, I’ve slowly come to a decision and plan. Sticking my head in the sand about the whole thing just created more anxiety. Going through these ‘growing’ periods in a necessary evil in life. Unfortunately. 😉
I celebrated Thanksgiving with fellow ex-pats in London. Spending most of the weekend with Sarah, Rob and the kids, following the Turkey Day festivities, we subjected ourselves to the Georgia/Georgia Tech game. I brought over a bottle of Dom Pérignon, which I had received for a gift during the event back in March. Quoting Napoleon, “Champagne: in victory, one deserves it; in defeat, one needs it.” Sadly, the outcome of the game dictated the latter for us. I absolutely love having them live over here as well!
The first week of December was exciting because I started my first pastry chef commis job. I started working at Pretty Sweet, a high-end patisserie catering company, founded by pastry chefs Claire Clark, MBE and Sarah Crouchman. It’s been a wonderful start to my pastry chef career and very lucky to have found such a great group of folks to work with and learn from. Claire worked at The French Laundry in Napa, so we have fun comparing British and American quirks. 🙂
I spent my first Christmas away from home and was graciously taken in by a group of South Africans. My friend Andrew’s brother Rich took me in on Christmas Eve and cooked me the most wonderful meal. I introduced him to A Christmas Story and then the following day we celebrated in traditional English style. If I couldn’t have been with my family, this was the next best thing! So grateful for their generosity.
2015 was a pretty special year. Even though it included some challenging adult decisions, it also included so many wonderful memories. To wrap up the 2015 recap, here are a few of my favorite photos throughout the year with some of my most favorite people! 🙂
2015 was a really special year. I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity for such incredible travels and visits with friends. Despite the challenges, looking back, this year will be one for the books. Looking forward to seeing what new adventures 2016 has in store.