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« Dinner at Freeman's, 6/07/08 | Main | Dinner at Toloache, 6/03/08 »

Dear Mentor, I thank you...

Confidence. Wikidpedia defines this word as, "a state of being certain, either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct, or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective given the circumstances." While that's quite technical and vague, how do you define "confidence?" Throughout our junior high, high school and college years, perhaps we gained confidence through how many friends we had, our athletic ability or how attractive were. But after those years are behind us and we're thrown in to the workforce, those elements don't seem to matter as much, or take us as far (unless, of course, you're a model or in politics).

I, like many twenty-something's, went through an identity crisis post college graduation. I'd gotten a job with a global hospitality company in Dallas, Texas, which at the time, was not a place I wanted to be. The year prior, I'd done my internship in Manhattan, and had fallen in love with the city. Unfortunately, fate wouldn't bring me back to my beloved New York for two more years.

Physically, I was in Dallas, but mentally, I was in Manhattan. Not a day went by that I didn't fantasize about moving to New York. My parents and friends told me I was crazy and it was "just a phase," but I knew that I had to get back to the city that I loved. There was absolutely no other place I could have ever pictured myself, and I was determined to do anything I could to make my dream come true.

After two long years in a city I never really gave a chance to, I finally got a job transfer with my company in Dallas to move to New York. I left my 900 square foot, fully furnished, gorgeous apartment and moved to a women's dorm on the outskirts of Hell's Kitchen. For two months, I lived out of three suitcases in a 10 x 8 foot room (with a sink and closet...and communal bathrooms) before I found a permanent situation and three amazing roommates. I worked grueling hours that first year in the big city, and felt that I'd paid my dues both mentally and physically. Finally, right around my one-year anniversary of living in New York, I left the job that had brought me here in hopes of starting a new chapter in my life...Again. About three weeks later, I accepted a position within the financial industry and have never once looked back. My first 1 1/2 years at the new company was interesting, new and exciting, but at the same time, I didn't know where exactly my talents and knowledge fit in. I came from a field that was relatively casual compared to finance, and it took me a long time to conform and become more of a polished individual. Here I was, this silly gal from Texas, with a Restaurant/Hotel degree surrounded by brilliant Ivy League Wall Street success stories. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly intimidated! And this is where the soul searching began...

How could I stand out in this industry? What talents did I bring to the table? I pondered conforming...Even considered going to business school to blend in better with my fellow finaciers. Little did I know, the men and women in suits would love me for who I really was...

In April 2006, I was given the huge opportunity to manage the company's catered lunches and gladly began taking charge. This was the first time in my life that I realized that, perhaps, maybe I had a gift that no one else around me had...A true passion for food. I was in charge of feeding approximately 100 hungry stomachs and I can proudly say that I satisfied 95% of them on a daily basis. There were always those few who complained, but for the most part, I was praised. Never in my life had I felt such a sense of pride and accomplishment. This may sound trivial and small, but this experience jump started my passion for writing about all things "food."

When I first started this blog as a way to vent about personal restaurant experiences and catering horror stories, I never imagined that it would become part of my daily life. I wrote my first entries out of shear heartfelt passion and emotion, as I realized that food to me was like math problems and spreadsheets to my Wall Street heroes. I find it humorous that I found my writing and culinary obsession not during my 4 years in Restaurant/Hotel courses or my post-college job in the hospitality industry, but rather, in a place I'd never have suspected in a million years...Wall Street.

I've got a handful of mentors that have inspired me through this whole revelation in life, but there's one man, in particular, who stands out more than the others. I'm not even sure he knows it's him I'm talking about, but this man has given me the confidence and motivation to be the best I can be, not only in my writing, but in everything I do. He probably doesn't know how much he's taught and inspired me and changed my life. To you, my friend, I thank you. Thank you for giving me a purpose in this crazy working life...For showing me that I have a unique gift and that I can bring something amazing to the uber impressive "table" that is New York City.

So you ask, "How does The Lunch Belle define confidence?" Here's my answer: Confidence is being able to look at the sea of people around you and know that you have a gift that no one else has. Confidence comes from someone believing in you and not letting you do the job half-ass or even mediocre...But doing the job perfectly, because you can.

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