Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Bucket List: how to make your (culinary) dreams a reality

The Bucket List and The Blog
I’m not sure which is more daunting – crossing the top item off of my “list-of-things-to-do-before-I-die” (a.k.a. my “bucket list”) or posting my first-ever blog.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by some wonderfully adventurous people along with a few very talented writers, so it’s clear that if I am going to make good on my bucket list and write about it, this exercise had better be interesting or crazy enough to produce a few smiles.  I therefore invite you to join me as I eat, bake, and travel my way through my bucket list. 

Bucket List Item #1: Learn to make beautiful, rich, delicious, buttery pastries from those who know pastry  best (i.e. study the foundations of patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris while discovering the best pastries to be found in the city of love)!

Thank you, Julia Child
Ironically, some of the courage it took to write this first blog, and to tackle this very-import-thing-to-do-before-I-die comes from Julia Child.  For those of you who are not familiar with Julia Child, look her up.  If you watch any North American cooking show on television or read any North American cookbook that makes deliciously complex food approachable, it was probably inspired by Julia Child.  I’m fascinated by Julia because she discovered food at 32 and coincidentally, at 32 I find myself in Paris as a new pastry student at Le Cordon Bleu – the very culinary institute she made famous.  I also love the fact that at 91, Julia didn’t think it was too late to write her memoirs.  This leads me to believe that even though there are a million blogs out there, perhaps I too might have something interesting to say. 

What it takes to cross an item off your bucket list
Getting started with a bucket list can be as scary as it was for me to post this first blog.  We all have ideas about what we would like to achieve in our lifetime, but how do we make those dreams a reality?  I don’t claim to have all (or even most!) of the answers, but here are a few ideas that worked for me:

1. Dream big enough to get butterflies in your stomach, but realistic enough to make it happen in this lifetime.  Then, stop talking about what you want to do and… MAKE. IT. HAPPEN!
 A few years ago, a fellow 'big dreamer' friend and I started signing off each of our emails to one another with a list of 3 things we wanted to do before we die.  Some of our 'bucket list' items are crazy (like becoming international spies of mystery), but most are actually doable.  Over the years I started archiving these emails only to realize I wasn’t crossing many off my list.  In the meantime, in just one year, my friend had learned to sail in the British Virgin Islands, roamed the Serengeti in Africa and played a polo match in Argentina.  Now it was my turn.

I started by asking myself, in my most challenging moments in life, what made me happiest?  My answer happened to be baking.  As with all things that make us happy, I started to wonder if baking could be something that I wanted to do all the time (i.e. professionally), or if it was just a personal love affair.  The only way I was going to find out was to formalize my skills.  Without delving into the details, it took a little online research, some practical planning and some serious financial investment.  Ironically, investing ourselves financially in our dreams can often be the biggest barrier to achieving them, and yet it can also be the most liberating thing we do.  I’m not a professional coach, but I suspect they would say that when you invest financially in realizing your dreams, you commit in a way you might not otherwise.  This has certainly been the case for me.  And to be honest, at the end of my days I would much rather have the experience (good or bad!) of having done something I’d always dreamed of, than financial stability with many regrets. 

2.     Suspend belief, disbelief and all expectations about the outcome of your adventure
Bucket lists are all about the unknown.  If you are uncomfortable with the unknown, great.  Push yourself.  I stress to no end when I don’t know what I don’t know.  I regularly experience existential meltdowns, but what would life be without unpredictable, new experiences?  When I started letting friends and family know that I was taking some time away from my ‘day job’ to try my hand at patisserie in France, I received a lot of curious looks and the question, “are you changing careers?”.  The truth is, as with fulfilling any life-long dream, I suppose we don’t ever know what the outcome might be.  All we can do is suspend, to the best of our ability, all expectations we might have about the outcome of our journey and focus on learning more about ourselves along the way.  More than becoming skilled at pastries (and ingesting way too much butter and sugar this month), my goal is to be okay with whatever may be.  To launch myself into the unknown and love it.

3.     Bucket List Ingredient List
And the rest of what it takes to cross an item off your bucket list?  Well, I’m hoping to figure this out through this experience and to share what I discover with all of you (and encourage you to share your ideas with me as well!).  At the risk of being a complete cliché, I’ll end this blog with a recipe – the only one you’ll find in the coming weeks that doesn’t include butter and sugar:

First, get yourself a good glass of wine to get the creative juices flowing!  Then take a healthy dose of inspiration, add some serious courage and a pinch of planning.  Mix together and bake for long enough to make sure it’s right for you, but not so long as to burn the opportunity.  Then savour … every … moment because, like a good pastry, a bucket list experience doesn’t last forever!  And as every good pastry chef knows, don’t overwork the dough (or the thought-process).  It’ll turn out better if you just go with your heart.

*Although not traditional to write a ‘dedication’ in a blog, I really want to dedicate this experience to the following people: Nick – for believing in me 200% of the time and reminding me of this everyday.  George – for amazing bucket list inspiration and motivation.  Mom, Dad and Jill – for a lifetime of support through all of my wild adventures. 


  1. Love it! I'm so proud of you! Fergus and I will be thinking if you this month as we ponder our own fears, aspirations, and bucket list items.

  2. BRAVO my darling girl, BRAVO!! I am challenged and inspired - where is the wine?