I’m Jen the Catalyst, founder of Catalyst Cooks. And this is my brain on food:
When did food begin to consume me?
As a kid, my mom made delicious home-cooked meals. With the passage of time I appreciate that more than I did when I was young. I wasn’t even curious about what was happening in the kitchen, and (unfortunately) I didn’t want to learn cooking from mom. When I went to college, I didn’t have to worry because the cafeteria was included in the price of admission and more than took care of my every nutritional need.
Everything changed when I was 22 years old. I studied in Paris for the fall semester of my senior year in college. I lived with a lovely Frenchwoman, Mlle. Bourgain, who made me dinner 2 nights a week and left me the run of the kitchen the other 5 nights. I was lucky, most of my classmates did not have access to their kitchens when it wasn’t family dinner night. But I had no idea how to use it. However, with the helpful prodding of my friends and armed with a Better Homes cookbook, I began to evolve into a functional cook. I even hosted my first Thanksgiving in a foreign land with my new-found ‘family,’ learned to eat my steak rare, enjoyed my first fondue, and started a life-long affair with wine.
I returned home with new cooking skills and confidence under my belt. No better place to practice than in my first post-graduation apartment. With hand-me-down cookware, I threw together dinner parties for friends. I learned how to grocery shop for one, served fun food at my great-grandma’s kitchen table, and was determined to be the entertainment hub of Hopkins. (If there is photographic evidence or written documentation of these events, they are buried in film-based photo albums and written notes, as yes- it was that long ago!)
I began my professional life in earnest – spent a year working in Puerto Rico where the dinner parties were even crazier and the Caribbean influence grabbed me. When I moved back to Minneapolis I brought that experience into my cooking, was even more excited to share it with friends… and despite moving six times in four years, I was always good for being the hostess of a kick-butt dinner party.
When I turned 40 and as my career progressed, the time I had to cook gradually began to decline. I found myself working more than sleeping, eating, and enjoying life- combined. I missed the kitchen and the comforts that my homemade meals delivered. I was more unhealthy than ever before- emotionally and physically. With the support of my Neighbor Dave, friends, and family, I decided to move from my corporate corner cubicle into the kitchen. After much soul searching, I realized that I loved and missed cooking so much, and I wanted to better utilize my natural ability to make fun things happen. Thus- Catalyst Cooks was born!
In the beginning of this blog, I documented my experiences in hopes that others would find it interesting. If you read back to the early blog posts, you’ll find some interesting information on my path to establishing my business. There are some great stories about many company name and my job title changes, pursuing a trademark for Catalyst Cooks, and learning lots about business fundamentals while enjoying a great departure from work “before” to work “after” corporate life.
I’m so glad you’ve joined me for the ride!