The Job Not Taken…

This evening I decided to make one of my favorite cakes: The Glazed Lemon Cake from the Silver Palate Cookbook. While eating dinner with my son I told him about the beginnings of The Silver Palate company and how Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso had changed food forever with their little shop on Columbus Avenue and the cookbooks that followed.

But then this led me to the story about the job not taken. The summer after my first year in college I’d worked as a swim instructor at a camp and then headed back to my hometown of NYC. I was reeling from my parents’ divorce and had decided not to return to college in Massachusetts opting instead to live and work in New York. Somehow I got information about a job for a little food shop, The Silver Palate, that was just opening. For a girl who loved to cook and bake this was a dream first job — I put on my dress and clogs and walked over to the shop on the upper west side. I had worked hard to lose my ‘freshman 15’ that summer and had vowed to appreciate, but not indulge in, the food I admired in the shop.

I met with Sheila, briefly, and we were to talk again. Having been referred for the job, it looked like the modest opportunity was mine. Somehow, however, a ‘respectable’ office job was offered to me by someone who I knew. It was close to my apartment and with the encouragement of my parents I accepted the position. I have always, always been sorry about that decision. I loved food and people. The office job only highlighted my inadequacy at managing office equipment and working alone. The Silver Palate went on to be the legend it is and I missed being a part of that entrepreneurial endeavor. Lesson learned: When determining the job to take err on the side of interest and passion. This, I believe, applies to young and old. We always do better working from our interests and strengths. I didn’t know office work didn’t suit me, but I did know that food and interacting with people, especially regarding great food, did.

I returned to college shortly thereafter at NYU and vowed never, never to take an administrative office job again.

What did your early work experiences teach you about you and how to make decisions about work?