I first came to Nica on a solo sojourn, where I dedicated myself to surfing for an entire month. I was the culinary producer for the tv show, “Bar Rescue”, and we had one month off from work between seasons. This show was one of the best work experiences I’ve had in my life, where I learned an incredible amount and worked with a fantastic crew that functioned like one big family. However, it was one of the most challenging 24/7 jobs I’ve ever done as well! We traveled from city to city all around the country for one month in each location and worked six days on, one day off. It was kind of like an adult travel camp. We carted our belongings and equipment all around the country with our best friends and created havoc and crazy shenanigans in every city with bars that were lucky enough to have us. We never knew what day it was, and our suitcases were never unpacked.
Once I knew that I had an entire month of freedom before the next work tour, I decided I needed to do something incredible for myself. I wanted to focus on a sport that I have always loved so dearly in my heart, but never really had the opportunity to become proficient in…surfing! I signed myself up for two different surf retreats in Costa Rica, and two different retreats in Nicaragua. Then, I was off!
I fell in love with Nicaragua, the countryside, welcoming people, and its incredible surf. I remember one of my surf instructors being slightly fooled by my surf skills. He remarked that I was so comfortable in the ocean and paddling in big waves. He was completely puzzled when I couldn’t really catch them. I told him I grew up a swimmer and had spent much time in the ocean reading the waves and understanding their force. But unfortunately, my surf skills did not match my swimming proficiencies… haha. However, I told him that I was ready and eager to throw myself in and figure it out!
From that moment forward, we paddled through waves that were DEFINITELY “above my paygrade.” My mom would probably have had a panic attack if she saw me out there. I got thrashed, tumbled, knocked, and thought I might not be able to swim to the surface after several “washing machine” blows. But, I persisted. My instructor from Italy (so many foreigners come to live the semi “off the grid” life in Nica and take jobs that give them ample time for sun and fun) kept laughing and smiling at me. He always told me in the water (usually after a grand wipeout), “You paddle and have the intention, and that is the greatest skill you can have”! I’m not sure I totally believed him after my board knocked my head, I got one gallon of water up my nose, and I was definitely NOT acing any rides.
That thought has continued to stay with me throughout the years and bring a smile to my face from my (very attractive and perfectly bronzed) Italian surf instructor. I have the intention! It reminds me of another quote I will never forget from my Sous Chef, Hillary Sterling. She was shaping me when I was working “behind the line” at Lupa Osteria (a Mario Batali restaurant that is touted to be one of the very best places for pasta in NYC…if I do say so myself). Hillary told me, the best chefs “always stay green.” I translated this to mean, after many lessons from her, that the best chefs are the ones who don’t know everything and are constantly pushing themselves. They are the ones that always have the intention to learn more and to be better. That word seems to always find a way into my life!
If you are in NYC, please have a glorious bowl of Carbonara at Lupa (my Alma Mater) for me. Also, RUN to Vic’s to be smitten by the cuisine and Executive Chef, Hillary Sterling…the best teacher and Sous Chef I’ve ever had:)
Since my Nica surf expedition four years ago, I have continued my love of surfing in my home in SoCal. After this trip, I moved from my tiny studio in the West Village of NYC and relocated 57 boxes of cooking equipment and clothes to an apt in Manhattan Beach, CA. I seem to go from one Manhattan to another:) The first month in my new apt. (it was January) I purchased a thick wetsuit, my very first surfboard, and braved the El Porto windy waters and locals “aggros” with a toasty ocean temperature of 58 degrees F.
I am grateful and fortunate to live up the hill from the beach and a notable surf spot. When I’m not working, I take my board down most days and keep practicing. I’ve come a long way since my first Nica expedition, but I still have A LONG WAY to go!
I have realized that I thrive on intention, persistence, and pushing my boundaries and my brand. Pure Palate teaches you to have respect for what goes into your body and the discipline to take care of your body and mind. What you do with your body defines who you are, and Pure Palate teaches you to apply focus, respect, presence, and routine to all aspects of your life to create a wholesome lifestyle.
For me, surfing is one of these disciplines that I continuously work on to better myself and my practice. Even if I’m still not able to “carve” at this time… I will get there! I too will push my culinary intention and skill as well. This commitment, drive, and passion create the ultimate platform for total wellbeing. This combination is the true fuel that feeds a healthy mind and spirit!
So get out there and keep riding those waves and cooking those challenging faves!