In today’s edition of Life Bites I speak with Taylor Erickson, an incredible chef who found her passion for food in the most unfamiliar way. Like the
various flavours we encounter in our food, Taylor talks about her journey, from modelling to gracing our TV screens on the Food Network’s Chopped. There is more to this woman than meets the eye, hope you feel inspired.
Life Bites is a series that aims to inspire through the art of story-telling. Each story is a reflection of the experiences, lessons and successes of the people I meet along the way.
Taylor it’s so lovely to finally speak with you. Can you tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you for reaching out! Well for starters, I am one of four siblings, we always had a family dog, and I loved camping. My family has a ranch in the Midwest that my Norwegian ancestors settled in 1801, and there is a natural small lake on the property. I’ve loved spending summers there since I was young.
When did you first realise you had an interest in food?
As a child, I spent time in the kitchen with my grandmother, where I would help her prepare meals on our farm. My grandmother’s cooking was simple, but hearty and never left out butter. I remember clearly the excitement, when she would tell everyone dinner was ready, and I would present food to the family with her. It was impactful to me.
What I find most interesting about you is the different experiences you’ve had prior to becoming a chef, as well as the different aspects to your life. Could you share some highlights of your career so far?
Before cooking I was modelling. I grew up quite tall, I was 5’9 in 6th grade! Upon graduation from high school, I truly began my modelling career in Los Angeles, then after a year, I got a contract in Europe and moved to Greece, then Italy and finally Paris. In Paris, I discovered a culture that had such a keen appreciation for cuisine, as well as aesthetics in general. I feel I developed my taste for food in Paris. I was a model at the time, but I took the culinary dining experiences with me and my dream of being a chef was born. After Paris, I moved to the States and attended culinary school. After culinary school, I moved back to Paris this time as a cook! I agree with you, it was a diverse journey… and exciting!
I took the culinary dining experiences with me and my dream of being a chef was born
In 2011, you obtained your culinary training from the Cordon Bleu in Miami. How was that experience for you?
Culinary school was a necessary stop on my journey into the culinary field. There are a lot of incredible chefs that did not go to culinary school, but in my case, I feel that time represented the start of a new chapter in my life. It was a very focused and creative time where I was immersed in my own creative expression, in a lot of ways, for the first time. I was constantly around creativity as a model, but I felt limited in my own personal expression. I was the canvas for other people, and I look back fondly at that time in culinary school as a time when I was the one holding the paintbrush for the first time.
I feel that people are the most successful at what they do when they’re moving within their true inspiration
Given your journey, what key piece of advice would you give to someone trying to enter the industry?
I feel that people are the most successful at what they do when they’re moving within their true inspiration. I don’t have it every day, and I consider it directly from God when I do discover true inspirational moments. I feel that it’s unique to the individual, and allows you the talent to create something truly special. My advice would be to sharpen your awareness so that you can identify when inspiration hits. In art, inspiration equals success.
You were a contestant on The Food Network’s Chopped. What knowledge did you gain from the show and how have you applied them to your career?
One of the biggest things I’ve taken from my experience on Chopped is that broadening your horizons and going out of your comfort zone is scary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. I chose to believe in myself instead of my fears. That’s a huge lesson – it was for me anyway!
Modelling has heavily influenced my discernment for symmetry and my need for aesthetic meaning with my culinary dishes.
Do you still model? If so, how do you find the time to juggle both professions?
Although I don’t model in a traditional sense anymore, I still enjoy the creativity of the fashion world. I am not with a modelling agency, but most of my friends are involved in fashion in one way or another, and I still like to participate in projects here and there.
Is there anything you have taken from your modelling career, that you’ve applied to your culinary career?
I would say attention to detail within aesthetics is something that I naturally apply to all creative endeavours because of my time modelling. Modelling has heavily influenced my discernment for symmetry and my need for aesthetic meaning with my culinary dishes. Cuisine is an interesting art form because there are two things going on. One, the most obvious, is how the food is going to taste. It serves a purpose – to feed someone, or yourself. The other is how it looks to the eye. I can’t speak for all chefs, but I feel most proud and accomplished when both points are properly addressed in my dish.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you began your career as a chef?
At a certain point, in the beginning of my culinary career, I was working at restaurants in different stations, and preparing the same dishes over and over again. If I had to pick out one time that challenged me and my culinary career it was then. Although I was learning skills every day, the work didn’t require my creativity as much as I wanted.
As someone who owns her own private chef business, what advice do you have for others entering the culinary field?
Keep your eye on what you want to achieve. Be strong in that and be kind to everyone. Try and enter every situation as an enthusiastic learner. Men and women have their differences, every person has their differences, so learning to work together is sometimes a tough process, but kindness and respect go a long way.
How do you empower the women in your life?
When I speak to anyone in my life, I regard them with respect, and that comes from me truly respecting myself.
It’s great that you’ve perfected your culinary skills but tell us about a kitchen disaster!
I can’t even believe that I did this, but I made a huge mistake when making one of the most traditional dishes. I was going quickly that day and I put together a lasagna without first cooking the meat. Luckily no one ate it and the mistake was caught just before I served it!
If you had to survive on one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
If you had one piece of advice to tell your younger self what would that be?
Everybody’s new at something once.