As a child, my family’s obsession with tasty food and our habit of gathering in the kitchen inspired me to cook. Years before I was tall enough to see above the counter tops, I would spend hours absorbing the sounds, aromas, and orchestrated movements surrounding me. Those experiences sparked the curiosity and excitement I still feel every time I step into a kitchen. I often close my eyes and revisit those very first impressions of cooking—the rhythmic tapping of efficient knife work, the steel-on-steel swoosh of hand-whipped cream, or the clinking of dishes as the table is prepared in anticipation.

I encourage people to see cooking as a multi-sensory activity. Sautéed onions passing through the goldenbrown stage to the threshold of caramelization can be judged purely by smell. With a little awareness, you can establish the stage of reduction in a saucepan behind you by using your ears. To have a successful relationship with the foods you are cooking, it helps to be a great listener.

I don’t think this is a mysterious craft. We are all born with the intuition that makes a great cook. All it takes is some confidence. My mom was the best cook I ever met until she took culinary classes. Then she started questioning herself too much in the kitchen. I encouraged her to take a step back and rediscover how to follow her instincts. She’s the best cook in the world again!

Curiosity and the excitement of new experiences, making new friends, and gaining new perspectives on life are what fuelled my appetite for travel. Thinking about all of my destinations, the high plain region of Bolivia remains my favorite place in the world. The natural features of the land exude mystery and the indigenous people have many stories to tell, if only given a chance.

When in foreign lands, I always want to see what is around the next corner. That has led to a lot of trouble at times but has also created rewarding experiences. When I travel I want to be with the local people, to experience life and food as they do. Food brings people together. It is a common bridge capable of connecting any two people, no matter who they are or where they are from. It is easy to interact with strangers when you know a little something about their cooking. Just through a simple expression of interest, many people have embraced me and acted as my official culinary tour guide in their land. The sense of pride and excitement I see in people when sharing their native foods is more precious than the taste could ever be, no matter how delectable.

My culinary excursions have not only led me to discover native ingredients and cooking methods. The perspective I’ve gained towards life from one destination crosses over to the next. The idea that food is a gift from the earth and a sustainer of life, that cooking is an act of love, and that eating is socially unifying, are all concepts I’ve learned through travel.

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