The Intuitive Chef and Her Kitchen Alchemy - from "Set Sail"

What do you want to be when you grow up?


As a child, I often avoided answering that question. Unlike other kids at daycare, I didn’t fantasize about being a famous singer, dancer, or superhero. Unlike my friends at school, I wasn’t totally obsessed with dressing up as a princess, cowgirl, or movie star. And unlike my high school classmates, I wasn’t dedicated to playing the same sport season after season with the hope of someday becoming a professional. However, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Unfortunately, I always felt insecure and kind of embarrassed to share it.


I was busy daydreaming about owning a restaurant and hosting magnificent dinner parties. I would fantasize about serving a carefully selected menu to my most delightful friends and customers, who would admire my seemingly effortless ability to prepare such a delicious spread. I would craft beautiful menus from simple ingredients and share delicious dishes in a warm and inviting space that people flocked to. I loved cooking, eating, art, and design, and being together at the table. It was the only way I knew to express love and appreciation, and I craved hearing how incredible my food was because it made me feel appreciated, accepted, admired, and most importantly, loved.


As immersed as I was in these fantasies, I never had the children’s version of anything when it came to the kitchen. No Easy-Bake Oven. No plastic kitchen playset. And definitely no ordering off the silly kids’ menu. At two years old, I was playing on the floor of our kitchen with pots and pans and a bag of flour. I had an adorable apron of my own and had started a cookbook collection as soon as I could read. At four, I was ordering my own meals off the same menu as the adults at restaurants. As I got older, I asked for kitchen gadgets and cookie cutters for Christmas and birthdays and had my own subscriptions to cooking magazines. When we were out to dinner, I loved to “get lost” finding the bathroom just to get a peek inside the kitchen. My mom would take me to cooking demonstrations in Boston and, even though I was always the youngest foodie in attendance, I always felt like I belonged.


As a young and aspiring professional chef, I watched the Food Network every day after school before starting my homework. I would pretend that I had my own cooking show as I followed a printed recipe from my culinary idols, after watching them prepare it on their show. I’d gather all my ingredients in little ramekins, just like they did, and talk to myself while following their every instruction.


I loved to play restaurant with real food in our dining room. Even if I served a simple grilled cheese, my set-up was over the top, complete with fancy folded napkins and a fake guest check. I would welcome anyone who was hungry—the babysitter, the cleaning lady, the mailman—simply because I wanted to delight people with food and serve love on a plate.


At nine years old, I knew I wanted to be a chef.


I would stay up late reading cookbooks cover to cover like they were novels. I was completely fascinated by these lists of food that somehow combined in a perfect way to create something new and totally different. As I watched meals being prepared on television, or read the instructions in a book, I could taste the experience each step of the way. I developed a talent for taste, which often worked against me as I set unrealistically high expectations for every meal I ate.


Always looking for a place to fit in and feel comfortable in my surroundings, I was an identity chameleon but I felt a sense of belonging in this world of culinary arts, service, hospitality, and creativity. I explored any opportunity to turn this natural curiosity and talent into a career. I went to culinary camps, food tastings, and cooking demonstrations, always sitting in the front or volunteering to assist the instructor.


My recent reflection on all personal and professional experiences to this point has helped me understand my legacy. These experiences were part of my journey to prepare me to teach people to create nourishing and seasonal meals so they could then live their legacy, creating healthy traditions for generations. Learning to connect to my intuition and channeling this individual guidance from a sacred place of love, deep respect for the physical body, and in collaboration with nature’s rhythms is the gift that I have been blessed to receive. I am so passionate about intuitive cooking that this philosophy is part of my coaching process when working with clients in their first few steps of transitioning to a plant-based diet.


Want to know how the story ends? Visit laurendagostino.com/shop to purchase your signed copy of Set Sail or find it on Amazon!

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