It all started with my big mouth.
I visited a gluten free class at Williams and Sonoma to see if there was any new information to be acquired. Another participant asked the woman giving the class a question that she could not answer. As usual, I saw an “insert culinary knowledge here” moment and could not let it be. Now, please understand I tend to do this, not to draw attention to myself or make myself feel important, but because I feel that it is part of my responsibility as a chef to share what I know, especially when it can help people who have been dealt a harder dietary deck of cards than most.
That is how I met Lynda Pelayo. Little did I know, she would quickly become one of my favorite people to have ever met during my travels. Lynda approached me after class, explaining her recent celiac diagnosis and need for guidance. I was more than happy to help. We set a date and had a cooking class where I met several other lovely ladies. I am not writing today to tell you about the cooking class but to tell you about some very amazing women.
After the cooking class, I no longer saw Lynda as a client but as a friend and we quickly got to know each other better. She invited me to a cooking party/get together where I was stunned at the caliber of the women she knew and had brought together. Anyone who knows me will tell you, the most amazing woman I have ever known is my Mother and the second, my grandmother. Lynda ranks high on this list, I hesitate to say in third place, just because many of the other ladies I met that night or through her are all worthy of that spot.
Lynda is truly an Aloha Ambassador and if I knew where to petition to have it made official I would. It is hard to explain the essence of Aloha, unless you have visited Hawaii. Even then, aloha is something I think only locals can truly express, it has nothing to do with the touristy preconception. If anyone I met while in Hawaii embodies the Aloha spirit, it would have to be Lynda Pelayo. Determined, positive and vibrant, Lynda is truly awesome!
Another woman I met through my budding friendship with Lynda was Colleen McAluney. Now this is a woman who can balance and multi-task in every sense of the word. Colleen always has something going on, but also is always willing to lend a helping hand in any way she can. Her smile and quirky laugh will brighten any day and she is a true pleasure to be around.
Then we reach Vien Schwinn, a spunky, adventurous fireball. This woman has stories that require more than just one round of Pho. Fun to be around with a contagious thirst for life, Vien is rumored to be an amazing cook, fearless adventurer and loyal friend, all three of which, I am sure are true.
Last, but definitely not least, Susan Page. My kind of woman. A Texan-Hawaiian, she is as beautiful as she is wise. Susan is the woman that smiles through adversity and doesn´t give up, always coming out on the other side with great rewards. Talented, generous and sassy, Susan is the woman I want sitting next to me at my dinner table for drinks and laughs.
I met many other notable women in what I secretly called the Aloha Circle. There was never a patronizing tone, only respect, love and friendship to be had. DC, Marjan, Mel, Lesley, Jacque, Sue, Tana, Helena, Susie, Jamie, Melissa, Tanya, Vicky and even younger additions Madison and Jackie… Mothers, daughters, wives, widows, girls… Women. It was a moment where age, background or experience did not matter. I met amazing women in Hawaii that only reinforced something I already knew… few things are more powerful than a woman with a story. I was in the presence of greatness and felt both humbled and honored, that I was not considered a spectator but a part of the circle.
I wish them nothing but the best. I say until next time instead of good bye.
And to each and every one of you, if you are reading this…
…My kitchen is always open. There will always be a chair for you at my table. Wherever my home is, you are always welcome. Aloha and Mahalo!