Forgive me for being sentimental, but it’s not every day a dream comes true.
When I was 24 years old, after years and years of working in restaurants, I signed up for broadcast school. It was a six-week course. On Day 1 I was asked what my dream was and I said I wanted to host a show on Food Network just like Emeril. On my way to school on Day 3, my car was hit by a dump truck.
I woke up from a coma to find that I had 19 broken ribs and a punctured lung. I checked myself out of the hospital as soon as I could stand and finished the last three weeks of school picking broken glass from my scalp and popping Aleve like M&M’s.
In the 12 years that followed, I forgot about TV and became a radio host. I started a career in stand-up comedy. In the process, I moved across state lines seven times. I fell in love. I got married and had a son. I built a beautiful life for myself.
Things got turned upside down, as they sometimes do, and I got divorced. I quit comedy and radio. I left everything I knew to nurse my son back to health from a bout with MRSA. My best friend was murdered in cold blood. I found myself in the darkest depression of my life. I was unemployed. I was a single parent. I was scared to death.
Somewhere in the fog that followed, I remembered my dream. I thought, “It’s too late. I’m too old.” And then the true blessing of hitting rock bottom revealed itself: I had nothing left to lose.
With the encouragement of loved ones I finally started to pursue my dream. I taught myself how to cook competitively and made it to the Top 5 of MasterChef. I started a food blog. I worked in kitchens all over LA. I catered events and taught cooking classes. I developed recipes and consulted restaurants. I waited tables to make ends meet and when people asked me what my real job was I would say, “I’m going to be a Food Network Star.”
When I look at this moment in my life and ask myself “How did I get here?” I am bombarded not by the memories of all the obstacles I’ve overcome, but by the faces of the people who held my hand when I thought I couldn’t take another step. The ones that gave me a shot. The ones that challenged me. You know who you are and I love you dearly. I wouldn’t be here without you and I will never be able to thank you enough.
I mention the hard knocks because it is my hope that if you’re going through a rough patch my story will inspire you to KEEP GOING. Dreams really do come true. It only took me 17 years.
My first Food Network show #HelpMyYelp debuts Monday, April 10th at 10/9 Central. It’s produced by ITV and it’s the first collaboration between Food Network and Yelp. I feel strongly that we’ve made a difference in every restaurant that’s opened its doors to us. It would mean the world to me if you would help me spread the word and most of all if you would watch it. Read more about it HERE.
I can’t wait to hear what you think! As my Abuela Alicia would say, “Pa’lante.”