An Unexpected Career: An Interview with Theresa
When I was a kid I grew up eating mac and cheese, frozen pizza, and hot dogs.  This wasn’t because my mother did not know how to cook, in fact she is an expert cook with 30 years under her belt. Theresa’s first experience with cooking was not one by choice. She worked second shift at the local truck stop as a waitress. One day the third shift cook called in and there was no one to cover the shift so she got stuck staying to cover. Having never cooked in a restaurant before, she was beyond nervous since grumpy tired truckers were not the easiest to please. She made it through her first night ok but it wasn’t long until they asked her to cover another shift during a bad snow storm. The restaurant got slammed and she was the only cook on.  Just when she was ready to give up she stepped back looked at the long line of orders and told herself “take a breath, you can only do as good as you can” and then continued to tackle the orders.
It was after this that Theresa started to see the change in her attitude towards cooking and began to enjoy it more. She was always setting goals for herself to reach, and once she reached them she set a higher one; “no one can ever reach their best” she said. After managing the truck stop for several years she decided to buy a restaurant in Caledonia and named it Bluff Kountry Kafe. She took pleasure in owning and operating a restaurant but after having a fourth child, she decided that it was too much work and sold it.
It was not long until another cooking opportunity came along. A friend of Theresa’s was opening up a restaurant at the local American Legion Club. She was asked to be the kitchen manager since her friend knew little about it.  Theresa was the only cook for a while but eventually it was busy enough to hire more cooks. During this time she was able to create some of her own unique things for the menu such as the mess hall (a hash brown omelet with ham cheese onions and mushrooms), which was their best seller for breakfast. The mess hall was a hash brown omelet with ham cheese onions and mushrooms. They served Breakfast lunch and dinner and did catering as well. Theresa enjoys cooking breakfast the most because she finds lunch to be rather boring. On an average Sunday morning she made around 200 breakfasts. This is a small amount compared to the amount of people she has had to cater to.
Theresa did not do her first catering until she worked at the Legion. She really enjoys the challenge that catering for a large group. She has catered as many as 500 people at an event. Theresa remembers her biggest catering like it was yesterday. A wedding of 500 people ordered her bacon wrapped chicken which was her secret recipe that she prides herself on. The wedding ended up have about 30 extra people. Luckily Theresa had made ten extra plates; however, that was not going to be enough to feed the other twenty. Even though this was not Theresa’s fault that more people attended the wedding, she still felt responsible for feeding them. She quickly whipped up another batch of mashed potatoes and opened a can of green beans. She then remembered that she had made meatloaf for the lunch special the following day. She grabbed that from the cooler and warmed it up in a matter of fifteen minutes she had enough food to serve the rest of the people. Theresa no longer works at the Legion, but before she left they demanded that she give them her baked chicken, coleslaw, and bacon wrapped chicken recipes but she refused saying those recipes belong to her. They knew that those were the top selling items for catering and they would struggle without them. Theresa said she is not one to brag but the legion shut down about a year after she left because of the downgrade in quality of food.
Theresa had always planned to go to school to be an accountant, but after falling into cooking she never looked back, although there are days that she wishes that she would have went on with accounting so that she would have a more stable, better paying career she still loves what she does as a cook. Theresa and her business partner are in the process of opening up their own restaurant and catering business. Along with the pay, Theresa says that another major downfall to cooking is the effects the long hours and heavy lifting has on her body. Until her dream of owning her own kitchen again comes true, she is doing small family catering.  Theresa says “Every challenge that I have taken with my cooking career has led me to where I am today, which is a place I never imagined to be.”
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