Growing up on a farm in the Texas panhandle, I was surrounded by God's bountiful creations. We raised our own beef, pork and chicken and we always had a garden. I grew up appreciating God's goodness. It wasn't until 1989, however, that I admitted I needed God in my life. That same year I graduated culinary school.
Joining Mercy Ships (first as a participant in a Crossroads class, then as staff serving as Executive Chef) changed my life and put me on a path to get free from a life of drugs and alcohol. It also brought home to me once again how blessed I am to be able to do what I love and that everything I touch is a reminder of God's creation and blessing.
Over the years we come to understand that it is God who gives us the gifts and talents to be able to run a kitchen -- those gifts being the senses of taste and smell. When food is blessed by God, people may not understand it or recognize it, but they are consuming something which can have eternal significance. Otherwise, as chefs, we are simply preparing another meal.
One of the greatest and most gratifying compliments I've ever received actually happened twice -- once from a chef about 70 years old from Mexico City and another from a chef about the same age from Italy. They each came to me and asked me if I understood what made my food so special. "Years of practice, I suppose," I replied. "No. Anyone who has been in the kitchen can cook food that tastes good. What makes your food so special is your secret ingredient." "Secret ingredient?" I asked. "Yes. The secret ingredient you put into everything you touch is your heart -- your love. You can't buy it, or sell it, but you can give it. That is why your food is different."
Those remarks really touched me and made me even more aware of the necessity of asking God to bless everything I cook. Those two chefs were not Christians and they may not have understood the source, but they recognized the passion and love.
We as Christian chefs have the same thing to offer those we work with who may not be in a living relationship with God. We don't have to preach to them. Hopefully, through our example, they will know something is different. How we handle the daily stress of running a kitchen will say a lot. We can be there for our co-workers as a friend and someone to listen to their troubles and complaints. God always opens doors for us to share the source of our passion. It isn't our job to create the door -- our job is to walk through it when it opens.
I Corinthians 13 says "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
We as Christian chefs have something to offer other chefs cannot give -- God's love and blessing on what we prepare. Our secret ingredient is love.
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Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Cor 10:31 ESV