Prelude (Intermission?)

These past 7 months have been really exciting, promising, disappointing, scary, uncertain, trying, and straining on my marriage. I’ve never done anything like this before.

But I had also never seen a vision from God before.

In December of last year (2017), I was in the beginning stages of a career pivot, and I had a fleeting idea pop into my head: why couldn’t I teach cooking on my own, through online videos? As quickly as it had arrived, I sent it on its way.

Backing up a bit more, I got my degree in music composition and taught private music lessons for 8 years. All the while, I was experiencing a growing love for/obsession with cooking. By summer of 2016, it became so strong that I had to do something about it (besides drive my wife crazy trying pretzel bun recipes like I was running a test kitchen). She graciously and wholeheartedly encouraged me to make the career transition into cooking.

So we packed up our cute little duplex in Davis, CA and moved back home—literally. We moved in with her equally gracious father in Novato, which is home for both of us. Through a series of miraculous connections, I got hired at a fine dining restaurant in Sausalito and got the chance to cut my teeth. It definitely felt mostly like getting cut. I worked for one week shy of a year and learned firsthand everything I needed to know about the nature of restaurant work. My takeaways: cooking is exciting and invigorating, it’s exhausting and a terrible schedule, you miss being with family on all the holidays, and the pay is basically terrible. Even if you work up to a head chef position, you trade decent pay for living at the restaurant. My verdict: no thanks.

After counsel from a wise older friend, I put in my two weeks’ notice without having a “next.” But like God always does, He provided. Totally unsolicited, I got a job at the cooking school on the same property. During the 6 months of working as a cooking instructor, I found a real sweet spot in utilizing my skills—I got to teach and cook in the same job. I didn’t thing anything this cool existed! During the 1 hour each day when I got the chance to lead my group, I was in heaven. The only downside: this was the maximum instructing I could do in this role.

Working from 2:00 to 11:00 (PM) was still a rough schedule with having 3 little kids who were now in preschool and kindergarten during the day. On days that I worked, I basically never saw them. I decided that working in the food industry wasn’t going to provide the lifestyle I desired, so in humility, I hung up the dream of cooking for my job. It didn’t feel like a defeat or any sort of loss; I just knew I was carving out a better future for my family.

When the idea of making instructional cooking videos came to me, it felt like a great solution to the schedule problem, while pursuing content I was really interested in. But it didn’t seem realistic or achievable. So I just floundered around on Indeed in search of anything that would pay well and have a daytime schedule. What? Nobody hired me? Why wouldn’t you want to hire a totally lost, slightly over-confident yet simultaneously under-confident 31-year-old for a job he’s unqualified for?

Anyway, at some point, I had a moment unlike any other in my life. While reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, I read a quote that he chanced upon while randomly browsing in a used bookstore. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are men who have come alive.” Right then, I felt God almost physically put his hand on my shoulder and say something like, “Go for it, my son. You know what to do.” It was what I had been waiting for my whole life. And then a flood of ideas not my own filled my head. It was like a roadmap/business plan had been handed to me.

So I decided to start taking steps toward making cooking videos. I bought digital camera, and then by necessity, a new laptop. I created a Patreon page and made a few cooking videos. But things weren’t unfolding as easily as expected. My wonderfully supportive friends and family signed up, but I had no idea how to reach a broader audience. Then, somewhere along the way, a new element crept in: fear. This is not something that I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. I’ve always been a happy-go-lucky—perhaps blissfully naïve—guy. I never have had much of a future plan laid out, so this was scary. I was following steps that I had planned out, but it began to feel like I plotted the wrong course.

Each time I would sit down to work, I felt like I was having to slay some internal dragon that kept rearing its ugly head. I didn’t know how to reach people or turn my ideas and giftings into a way to support my family. So many negative voices were haunting me and asserting that I don’t have anything unique to say, or the adequate experience, or skills, or the voice, or confidence, or anything of value to offer.

But in the midst of all of that, I have seen so many miracles take place. If I could map out the relationships that I’ve been so fortunate to engage in, and the impact they’ve had on me, it would be a crazy web of connections that I never could have plotted out. More times than I can count, I have read the right chapter in the right book at the right moment. I have met the right person and had the right conversation on the right day. I have heard the perfect encouragement from the right podcast in a low and fearful moment. Those are the things that are bigger than me, and they blow my mind. And they keep me going and renew my faith in the vision.

The latest thing I’m learning is that I can’t do this in comfortable isolation like I’m tempted to do. I have a gift to teach and a deep love for people and helping them. I need to be vulnerable and put myself out there consistently, or nothing will happen. This post is the first step in changing my mode to increased visibility and consistent sharing.

I am working on building a course called “The Recipe-Free Cook.” It’s going to require a lot of work up front, so I’m also looking for other employment in the meantime. It’s been humbling to get to this point, and I’m grateful for it. At this point, it’s hard to fully see all of the ways that I have had my selfish premises stripped away. They were totally blind spots and super subtle stuff that I didn’t even sense. Those are all being replaced with a corrected perspective and a complete reliance on God. I haven’t enjoyed all of those moments, but I like who I am becoming. And I am confident that it’s all for a greater purpose than I can even fathom now. It will be so joyful to look back on this time and see it in hindsight with understanding and clarity. But for now, I take one step of the journey each day, trusting that there’s a fantastic chapter about to open up. I’m just not sure how many pages long this chapter is…

Mark BjerkeComment