“Quiero enseñar y ayudar a las personas a romper las barreras de la cocina y que lo hagan sin receta. Quiero que innoven con fundamento.”
Si sois de los que después de unos años realizando el mismo trabajo habéis llegado a la conclusión que la monotonía se ha apoderado de vuestras vidas, sin duda que en algún momento también habréis soñado en dejarlo todo para poder empezar de nuevo. No os preocupéis, es muy frecuente e incluso conviene soñar.
Otra cosa es dar el paso y atreverse a llevarlo a la práctica. Y es que he perdido la cuenta de las veces que me han comentado “lo mal que lo estoy pasando”, “lo aburrido de este trabajo” o “las pocas ganas con las que me levanto”. Pero, aún a costa de ser poco empático, suelo contestar: “¿… y por qué no haces otra cosa?”.
No os contaré las respuestas que he recibido… y aún menos si la respuesta procedía de alguna persona que trabajaba en la administración pública.
Bien al contrario, os animo a leer la entrevista que tuve la oportunidad de realizar a alguien que no solo soñó en cambiar su destino, sino que además, lo hizo de forma decidida, imaginativa e innovadora.
Y si además sois de los que un día soñasteis con un trabajo mejor, deseo que os sirva de inspiración para… ¿quién sabe?
¡Quiero ser muy buena cocinera…!
Cuando conocí a Siiri Sampson, enseguida supe que se trataba de una persona singular: “Mi lema para este año es: Pregunta por todo lo que tu desees”, me advirtió.
Y no es para menos, puesto que afirma convencida, que “las recetas culinarias son un freno a la innovación”. Toda una declaración de intenciones.
Después de 10 años, Siiri cambió un trabajo seguro, estable y bien pagado en compañías como Microsoft o Dell, con la idea de emprender su propio camino en el mundo de la alta cocina. No os perdáis la forma en que lo llevó a la práctica y los 10 pilares en que fundamentó su sueño:
El momento “ajá”.
Dime Siiri, ¿hay un momento en que descubres que quieres cambiar? ¿O es la suma de varios momentos? ¿Cuál fue el detonante?
Yes, there was a specific moment when I discovered that I wanted or needed to change my career. I had been talking with a friend who had recently changed careers (also into the food industry) and one night i was getting ready to leave for a cook book release party. I was putting my make up on and thought to myself, “gosh, some day it would be great to —-“ and the voice in my mind said, “STOP! ENOUGH! I am so tired of hearing you talk about what COULD happen some day. This is exhausting. Either do it or stop thinking about it. But no more ‘somedays’. You have one year to figure out what you want to do with food full time as the next phase in your career, and if you can’t make it happen in one year, let it go and focus on what’s next.” I had to make this change because I was compelled to follow my true passion. I know my true purpose at this time in my life is to attempt to influence change in food education for the mass public of my country. It is a long road, but I see what is broken or missing in our system and I can’t ignore it. My objective is to impact the direction of change, or to start a wave of paradigm shift that will have long lasting impact on the general public that cook eat at home.
I planned the transition from one industry to another over the course of a year, which I’ll discuss in a minute. The actual transition was done over the course of six months. When I knew it was time to step into the next phase of my career, which was cooking full time and beginning to pursue food education, I took a year to research, investigate and search for numerous answers: what kinds of jobs exist in the cooking side of the food industry that I would be interested in, what types of companies or departments exist that are appealing to me, what am I capable of and what do I need to learn, what are the best methods or schools I can learn from and how, etcetera. The most important questions I had to answer, however, were the following:
- What do I want my eventual legacy to be, and how do I set out on the right path for my life as of today?
- What do I want?
The second question is actually the most important and I have learned it is the question you must continually ask yourself, as the answer is constantly changing.
Enfrentarte a tus miedos y “anclarte” a una emoción.
¿Qué recuerdas de la etapa de transición mientras dejabas tu anterior trabajo y empezabas con el nuevo?
I remember feeling constantly terrified every day when I woke up. This lasted the entire year before I started working in restaurants, as well as every single day I woke up during the six month transition as I continued to move away from the standard stability of a 9-5 career (and the benefits like a salary that accompany that lifestyle). Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night, riddled with questions, worrying about how I was going to make it all work. And every morning when my alarm went off, I would lay in bed and ask myself, “what have I done? Am I crazy? Is this crazy? Will this work?”
Of course, the fact that I was asking myself those questions meant I was preparing more than enough and that while it was indeed crazy, it needed to be crazy in order to work. I needed to completely change the way I lived my life in order to fully embrace my true passion.
I was completely surrounded by a wonderful support network of colleagues, friends and family, and yet I felt completely alone. My work colleauges were incredibly supportive and still are, even though I was leaving them. They agreed it was the right decision for me, and did everything they could to help my transition go smoothly. My friends and family stood by me when I was afraid or worried, helped me when I had times I couldn’t get it all done on my own because I had created more work than I could handle, and celebrated with me when I experienced successes, however large or small they were.
But as the six months of transition went further along and I was in the middle of planning my move to Spain, everything became much more intense. I felt more alone even though I was spending more time with the people I loved, knowing I would soon be saying goodbye to them.
Tal como dice la canción de Serrat “Porque te quiero a ti, porque te quiero, cerré mi puerta una mañana y eché a andar. Porque te quiero a ti, porque te quiero, dejé los montes y me vine al mar”, también se atrevió.
¿Cómo pusiste en marcha tu pasión?
The process of preparing for the six month transition was, for me, a large but methodical process. Since my job for the past 9 years had been in strategy and project management, it was easy for me to set up the end goal objective or question and then identify both the milestones I needed to achieve finding the answer, as well as the tasks and timelines that would ensure I reached it within my self-imposed timeline.
One of my ongoing tasks or processes was to conduct informational interviews with chefs, restaurantuers, cooks that worked for other chefs, freelancers and private chefs, and small business owners as well as my teachers and mentors across all industries. I standardized the questions I asked them to give me enough data points to build a strong case for the top one or two paths I was the most interested in following.
As time went on and more milestones were completed, I realized I did not want to attend culinary school (because of my own discipline, study methodologies and other access to resources like interning or “staging/stagiaire” with chefs I knew. Additionally, the industry has changed drastically in recent years and culinary school would not necessarily be the most beneficial path for my needs, work ethic or personality type). For me the best path was to intern with chefs for six months to get the basic proficiencies of working in a professional kitchen up to industry standards while thinking about what the next six months should look like.
As I began the actual transition, I worked three days a week at my original strategy job and three days a week in a professional kitchen as an unpaid intern. That left me with one day a week to work on additional research and also help on the side with other cooking projects like private events where I’d assist chefs with private parties and dinners. I held this schedule for the first three months while I began to close out clients and projects at my day job. This encompassed the middle of December 2014 thru the end of March 2015.
In April of 2015, I changed my schedule over and began cooking for another company in various restaurants they owned, five days a week. I was actually getting paid to cook in restaurants and learn from their chefs, which was just as instrumental as the previous experience in a completely different way. I maintained my previous job at the strategy firm the other two days a week, so I was working seven days a week. This break neck pace was not sustainable long term, but I wanted to ensure I captured every opportunity possible while I could.
Para la Real Academia Española de la Lengua la acepción ’emprendedor’ significa “Acometer y comenzar una obra, un negocio, un empeño, especialmente si encierran dificultad o peligro”.
Pues bien, si el significado profundo de las palabras que empleamos condicionan el espíritu que ponemos al realizar las acciones que las definen, dudo que Siiri se considerara a si misma una emprendedora; porqué si bien podemos estar de acuerdo en que para montar una empresa se requiere esfuerzo y valentía, y que incluso puede ser arriesgado, realmente ¿emprender entraña un especial peligro?
At the beginning of the transition, I kept asking myself, “What do I want to do next?” and was having a hard time answering the question definitively. I changed the question and started asking myself, “What do I want to do?” But that still did not help me answer anything. So I shortened the question even more and started asking, “What do I want?” This seemed like such a simple question, and yet, it is really at the center of life – knowing what we want and being able to act on it in a real and satisfying way is one of the most difficult processes as it turns out!
The first thing that came to mind is that I knew I wanted to finally take a trip I had put on hold multiple times over the course of the previous decade. I had always wanted to travel to Spain, ever since I studied Spanish literature and poetry while I was at Reed College. I could not do a semester abroad because of scholarship restrictions and degree focus, so the trip was postponed. When I knew I wanted to move into cooking full time, I wanted to take a two week vacation but realized I should really work as much as possible and save money for whatever phase came next. After repeatedly asking myself “what do I WANT” every day for a week or two, I realized going to Spain would be a reality. However, as my true passion revealed itself to be food fundemental education, it was clear that I needed to embark on additional research and field study experiences. Quickly, the idea of “I’ll finally take the vacation to Spain,” turned into the idea of, “I need to spend some time living in Spain, learning about their cuisine, techniques, traditions, food culture and progressive movements.”
Anyone in the culiary field today can tell you that Spain is essentially the current Mecca of our industry. It combines the longest standing culiary traditions steeped in culture and history and strife, with the most progressive chefs and teams in the world that are pushing the limits of food science and gastronomy, asking questions that we didn’t know existed a few years ago. If there’s one place to go study food today, it’s Spain.
And so my next six months was decided; move to Spain.
Donde aparece la parte proactiva del emprendedor.
There are so many things I want to try, test, see and achieve to fulfill my passion. Many more things than I can write in one interview! I would like to repeat this process in other countries, traveling around and learning how to cook from all different chefs and home cooks, to continue becoming a walking encyclopedia of cooking techniques and ideas. I would like to get a reservation to eat at El Celler de Can Roca, while I’m in Spain. I would like to deep sea fish in the Pacific, and take a hunting trip with my dad and brother-in-law. I’d like to work in the kitchen with my accomplished chef friends, cooking for people like us who love food enough to just let us cook for them without a menu or preconceived idea of what should be done in the kitchen. I would like to study in the El Bulli Foundation Lab to understand the process of true innovation in the culinary world. And I would like to build a small place all my own on the islands near where I grew up in Seattle, Washington, USA. The San Juan Islands are an incredibly beautiful, sacred place and I would love to have a retreat there with a simple and open kitchen, a garden and some time to just cook things I have book marked in countless cook books, magazines, websites and written down on napkins from friends and chefs alike. But as far as fulfilling my work goals, I would like to take the next decade to work on building food education that focuses on fundamental skills in the kitchen that moves home cooks away from the idea that they need to use a recipe to cook. I want to help them break down barriers they have when it comes to just cooking what is fresh and in season, using flavors and techniques that professional cooks use, and understand enough food science to feel the freedom to try something new without fear of failure or the need to buy many ingredients only used by one recipe.
¿Qué te está aportando lo que estás haciendo ahora comparado con haber dejado un trabajo estable y seguro? ¿Qué echas de menos de tu anterior trabajo?
I miss my colleagues from all my previous jobs. Being in Spain is wonderful but trying to find work and the opportunities to work in kitchens is difficult and lonely. Of course I miss my friends and family and the people I worked with in the United States are both friends and family to me. I miss having the security of paid work, and also feeling like my purpose for that day is evident every day I wake up. It is difficult to wake up many days and not know what I am going to do that day, or what I should do with my time. But learning how to be comfortable in that feeling is as important during my time here in Spain as the actual learning of cooking Spanish cuisine and culture. I need to embrace feeling relaxed and not always having something to do or be busy. I need to regain that balance in my life. This time in Spain, however long I’m here and wherever I travel or if I am lucky enough to cook in a kitchen here, all the experiences I have are equal in importance.
¿Cómo te imaginas tu trabajo dentro de 10 años?
I have no idea what my job will look like in ten years, but I hope that I have started to develop and deliver the food education content through multiple mediums such as print, web/online, live classes, radio and television. I believe all the mediums are necessary to provide content in the different learning modalities that speak to each individual.
I would love to be living back in Seattle in 10 years time. Between now and then, I imagine I will live in many different places, countries, cities, countryside, and lots of traveling.
Who do I want to be? That is the same question to me as “what do I want”? I want to be a compassionate teacher and student that is able to be present and appreciate the world around me, while still having the same drive and ambition I have today. I would like to find a partner to share those experiences with, that possesses the same ambition and compassion I strive to embody.
“Las mamás, tradicionalmente han sido las depositarias del saber culinario, y yo quería aprender de ellas, y en su cocina…”
¿Cómo tienes planificado el viaje? ¿Cuáles son los puntos clave?
I have a list of cities or towns I want to visit that are based on the restaurants, chefs, techniques, traditions or foods each place is known for around the world or within Spain. Although, more than what they are known for, I have an interest in learning them, so they are at the top of my list (things like sobrassada, butifarra, ensiamadas, etcetera).
El proceso de aprendizaje que se propuso realizar Siiri, no por conocido es menos innovador:
Siiri contactó con Servas, una de las primeras organizaciones pacifistas nacidas después de la segunda guerra mundial, en que sus miembros ofrecen su hogar para algo más que hospedar a viajeros y visitantes de otros lugares. Primero los momentos, después los monumentos, es uno de sus principios, y qué duda cabe que los mejores recuerdos de un viaje se producen compartiendo una buena comida entre personas.
El caso es que Siiri, visitando y compartiendo cocinas y comidas con cada una de las familias que visitó durante su viaje, descubrió no solo nuevos productos, orígenes y tradiciones culinarias, sino que también adquirió maestría en sus diferentes formas de elaboración.
Conoce más sobre el movimiento Servas a través de este vídeo:
Y no lo confundas con otros sistemas de viaje “barato” como pueden ser Airbnb, Hospitality Club, Work Away, HelpX, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, Couchsurfing, o tantos otros. Los valores fundacionales de los movimientos idealistas de voluntarios son completamente diferentes de los de las organizaciones privadas, la mayoría de ellas con ánimo de lucro.
Comentaste que sientes la necesidad de llenar el “contenedor” de tu conocimiento con las diferentes técnicas, métodos, personas, productos, contextos, perspectivas, etc., y de todas las formas posibles, para luego poder “personalizar” para cada alumno lo que el necesite, según su método o estilo de aprendizaje, ¿puedes explicar esto por favor?
“My idea on teaching is based that each person has a unique learning style. So if I want to convey my knowledge well, I need to adapt to different learning models.”
¿Cómo explicarías lo que estás haciendo –tu sueño- en un tweet?
I want to teach and help people to break the barriers of the kitchen and to do so without recipe. I want to innovate with fundament.
¿Qué esperas obtener de este viaje?
I want to obtain experiences I can’t quantify. I want to meet people I won’t meet anywhere else, eat food I didn’t know existed, learn skills and techniques I had not imagined possible and learn about who I really am and discover the next best version of myself. I want to obtain a different type of security in myself, that no matter where I go, I will be fine, I can find my way, I can trust myself and I don’t always have to be busy.
En cualquier cocina de cualquier restaurante, te encontrarás con mucho caos a tu alrededor. No intentes controlarlo; céntrate en los ingredientes, las herramientas y en el proceso… es lo único importante.
La próxima vez que visitéis New York, os sugiero que contactéis con Siiri, porqué además de “saborear” sus platos, os explicará de primera mano más detalles sobre los 10 pasos que guiaron su innovador proceso para introducirse en el exigente mundo de la alta cocina.
Después de conocer este tipo de historias, ¿cuál es el precio que pagamos por querer preservar nuestra “zona de confort”? ¿Cuántos trabajadores, especialmente los públicos, renuncian a su sueño, anclados en su supuesta seguridad laboral?
Si os ha gustado la historia de Siiri Sampson, podéis leer la entrevista entera en: The Siiri Sampson innovation history. Y si queréis contactar con ella, podéis hacerlo desde firstname.lastname@example.org, os recibirá con los brazos abiertos en New York.