Post Grad Struggle Bus

Note from Abby: Perhaps Lexy will become a more than once in awhile guest blogger because she’s one of my best friends who also likes to write and I happen to find her extremely hilarious. She’s also sometimes full of sage old woman advice. For all of our fellow post grads out there, this one should hit home!

This May, I will be two full years out of college. Two whole years! That feels like a lifetime to me. When I was accepting awards and handshakes and congratulations from my undergraduate program, I knew that two years out, I’d be settled into my own classroom. Making a difference. Being the One To Watch, as I had been my entire educational career. It seemed like nothing could hold me down. For years, nothing could.

Now, I haven’t lost hope entirely on this dream. It’s just that the sunrays of reality are shedding some much needed light on the path connecting my current vista to where I want to go, up in the clouds. And let me tell you, it is all uphill. I’m no stranger to hard work: I worked three different jobs simultaneously in college, double-majored, and still found time to volunteer. I work two jobs now. I know how to work and still find time to live, even if I feel like I am barely clinging to life. But somehow, I did not ever guestimate that it would be this hard out in the “real” world.

It’s almost like nothing that happened in my life prior to age 23 even mattered. It’s just this unaccounted for time in my development into a post-baccalaureate “real” person. Like, might as well have popped out of the womb wearing a pantsuit or something, because nobody is going to hire me based on anything that happened prior to my college acceptance. It’s not like I founded my own start-up at age 12, or was a computer genius at age 3. According to my mother, it was most miraculous that I started speaking at 18 months, but then I never shut up, so even that’s not super exciting.

I suppose it is exciting that I’m currently employed, and even though my jobs make mediocre use of my talents, I get paid money. That’s cool. I’m sure in 15 years, I’ll look back on my current foolishness and wish I was more grateful. And I am grateful. But I find myself frustrated often at the Universe that my life doesn’t look like My Life did in my head, despite my best efforts all along to be realistic and practical. I fear frequently that the narrative of get-good-grades-go-to-college-get-a-job is horribly inaccurate and only serves to make money for the people who write and promote that narrative, but that is a radical idea that makes me unpopular at dinner parties and in certain political circles.

I know that I am talented. I have this innate talent for teaching and a sincere love of young people, however complex their background or what brings them to me or my classroom. I am patient and gentle and kind, even though when not in the presence of young people, I swear A LOT. I just don’t know yet what type of job will pay me to be these things. Or worse, I will have to work a job that never pays me to be these things, and these qualities will become my “after work hobbies.”

Abby: For the time being, we’ll all have to live in this in-between state of knowing what we’re doing and PRETENDING like we know what we’re doing. Does being an adult get any easier? Do taxes become easier to understand year after year? Every day presents a new challenge and most likely, a new Google search is enterted to figure out how to fix a situation. But at least we’re in it all together, right? All aboard the struggle bus!

Who else is out there feeling the same way? Any suggestions on figuring out your passions and how they can fit within a fulfilling career? On Food for Thought Thursday, I give an update of our winter dessert menu at the Taj Hotel in Boston! You won’t want to  miss it!

Advice from my foul mouthed friend

A note from Abby: Another exciting guest post from one of my best friends, Lexy! She is previously known on here for her hilarious dating post about horse girls and is back again to grace us with her presence! Make her feel welcome and be sure to tell her how much you like her in the comments below! Onto the post grad struggle!

I am the kind of guest you never want in your home. For starters, I am raucously loud. I have a distinct laugh that can be heard for a 10-mile radius. Everything about me is big and dramatic and overdone like a New Jersey boardwalk caricature. I’m from the suburbs of Philadelphia, so I say “fuck” almost as much as some other more genteel people say “please” or “thank you.” Which isn’t to say that I lack manners, that’s not it at all. But I do have a crippling flaw that I’ve recently come to grips with: I am a chronic complainer. Maybe in a relatable way. Definitely in a funny way. But I absolutely complain. All the time. Complaining gives me life. It is like I am verbally transferring the weight of my struggles to you, and you, and you. When we all share a slice of my struggle pie, I don’t feel obligated to eat the whole thing myself and then wallow in my shame.

You see, I feel this intrinsic need to complain. I feel that I must.

“Because,” I think to myself, “if I bottle all of this up, I am going to pop.”

The last time I guest-wrote (because Abby still graciously accepts me into her life, blog, and home), I complained. I complained to you guys about how lame being single is, and how lame dating apps are. I complained about how lame the last girl I dated was for breaking my heart.

Here we are, several months and a brand new year later, and the landscape of my life has changed slightly. I met a girl on that dating app I was complaining about, and we’ve been dating now for several months. I complain to her all the time, and like a fucking saint she listens to me and says sweet things like “I know” or “I understand.” She listens to me complain about my two jobs when she also works two jobs, and she listens to me complain about how I want an apartment together. She will read that I wrote this long complaint about complaining and offer nothing short of encouragement.

And you know what?

She never fucking complains. I have never seen someone work with such steadfast, quiet resolve. She buckles down and gets stuff done. While I’m winding up a good whine, she’s thinking about everything she’s gotta get done between tonight and tomorrow.

Here’s the thing I realized: it’s one thing to blow off some steam. It’s a totally different thing to let all of the water vapor evaporate, because that steam is the energy to power your engine.

As newly-minted adults, we’ve got a lot of shit to complain about: we’ve got jobs where we get treated like shit, or sometimes even actually have to clean up literal shit. We don’t make nearly as much as we expected to, or feel that we’re owed (especially when you have to clean up literal shit). Not to mention the seemingly insurmountable precipice of student loan debt threatening to avalanche in deferment and crush us at any moment we stop our frenetic work pace.

But take a hard look for a second: what’s your conversion ratio of complaint-to-action? Do you ever act on the things you complain about? Do you know who is at the source of your unhappiness? Who is actually in control of the how you look at the events in your life?

I’m not saying I meditated on a rooftop and emerged refreshed and swore off complaining and carbs and butter and instead plan to wish everyone “love and light” and eat a “raw” diet. That doesn’t work for me, and I’d complain about it. Instead, I want to try to complain less and do more. Make myself mindful of my complaints and then take whatever opportunity comes my way to turn things around, and in doing so, take action on the things I complain about.

So often, I paralyze myself in scenarios that are ultimately changeable. “I hate getting up for work, I hate going to work, I hate my job.” If that’s your internal mantra, listen to the complaint and then act on it. This job is not for you, and that’s okay. I’m not saying give up a reasonable, well-paying 9-5 to become a subway musician (or do it, I won’t stop you, you’re an adult), but try looking for a different job that allows you more flexible hours. Be willing to compromise with yourself, work harder to accommodate yourself, or accept the things you cannot change. Don’t sell yourself a hard life, because life is more than willing to throw lemons at you ALL. DAY. LONG.

It’s so easy to get caught up in a cycle of complaining. I would know; I literally wrote almost two pages about it. But this year, I plan to make it a year of action. I hope you choose to, too. A year of deliberate thought and purposeful verbiage, as opposed to a year of unleashing your verbal garbage upon the nearest person in some kind of drive-by-word-dumping. It’s okay to blow off steam, but save some to power your engine on to bigger and better things.

Lexy works hard so you don’t have to. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her Honda Civic, Hazel Grace.

 

 

Bitte Chocolate!

As most of these stories go, I met Mike Hoffman in college through friends of friends. Mike ended up graduating a couple years before me and moved to South Carolina to pursue his dreams. After working for a few years, he turned one of his hobbies of making his own chocolate into a budding business, Bitte Chocolate!

630

I’m always looking for things to fulfill my life; finding my passions and making them prevalent in my day to day life. I think it’s really brave that Mike has taken this leap of faith to follow his passion. Check out the interview with him below!

Tell me about Bitte Chocolate! Where did the name come from?

Bitte Chocolate started my senior year of college. My friend Sarah and I started messing around with making chocolate. Well… it was more like she was watching while I made it but nevertheless she was there. I I started out by using different kind of beans and  a small food chopper to chop up beans and sugar. I had a hard time with texture/grittiness because I was using a mortar and pestal. Professionally, this process (called conching) takes about two days. My chocolate was very gritty, almost like Modica Chocolate  where they do not conch and the sugar is still big and gritty. 

After graduation I moved down to Charleston, SC and didn’t  make much chocolate at the time. I worked for a French Chocolatier for 6 months but became bored doing the same things over and over again. In the beginning of 2014, I bought equipment to really make chocolate. At first, I  was just playing around when my boss encouraged me to turn it into a business. I was skeptical; I didn’t want to ruin my love for making chocolate by turning it into a business and having to do it all the time. So I took it slow and never let it overwhelm me. It has slowly formed into what you see today after a year of formula testing and packaging design.


The name was the hardest part of the entire process. I wanted something  strong, classy, and not cheesy. I came up with a hundred different names but couldn’t decide on one. I always pictured something  that was short, sweet and too the point but could never quite put my finger on it.  I would dream about it, wake up and write the word but nothing seemed to fit. After about 3 months of brainstorming, I was bouncing ideas off of my roommate and she recommended something like bittersweet. It was too cute and nice; it wasn’t me. Then a light bulb went off! Bitte (bit-tah) is the German word for ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘please’. After researching, testing the word on friends and chatting with a german exchange student from high school, I settled on the official name Bitte Chocolate.I find that the word Bitte is a perfect fit for my chocolate as I produce chocolate with strong flavors uninhibited by vanilla or other flavorings. 

What inspired you to start your own company? How have you broken into the market?

Ever since taking a chocolate class in college, I fell in love and  knew I wanted to be a chocolatier. I feel like most great pastry chefs are great at chocolates. Chocolatiers are always seem very confident. I think I started this company because I saw a void in the market here. Charleston has such a great food scene- it’s impossible to come across a bad meal.  I figured that if there was any time to do it, it was now! It was perfect- I love to make it and market needs it. I have had a very soft opening for the most part, and I am just starting to sell to local businesses.

Explain the chocolate making process. How long does the entire process take?

Once I receive the beans, I roast them. I make sure to test the beans by eating a couple to double check they are up to my standard. I then winnow/ grind them. Winnowing is the process of separating the bean from the skin.  After grinding them, I add cocoa butter, sugar and sometimes milk depending on the kind of chocolate I am making. After, I put the mixture in a melanger which are stone rollers that crush the sugar small enough so it creates a smooth mouth-feel. This part of the process takes about two days. Once the chocolate is ready, I temper** and mold them. I let them sit, wrapped in foil for about 3 weeks to mellow out a hard acidic flavor from the beans. Once they age, I package and sell them! So the entire process takes a little over three weeks.

633 634

(**Side note: tempering is the process of creating a balance in the chocolate so it hardens quickly, can resist slight changes in temperature and moisture, and keeps fat from rising to the surface on chocolate)

Where do you source your ingredients? Any particular reason you pick that location to source from?

I get my beans from Peru. I’ve tried dozens of different beans but prefer the ones from Peru called Criollo beans. Criollo beans make up 1% of  cocoa beans in the world, but have the best flavor! I also get beans called Tumbes.They have a malty fruity flavor that really helps bring out the chocolate flavor!

How did you get started in the industry? What keeps you passionate?

I don’t know exactly how I got into the industry but I think I can speculate. As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a chef besides the usual pipe dream of astronaut or baseball player. Being a chef was the first real job I wanted to do. I hear from my friends that they got into the industry because they loved making things with the mom/grandmother or something cheesy like that but I just had the love of food in me.. In high school, I had figured out that I liked baking more than cooking which eventually lead me to pick the four year pastry program at Johnson & Wales University.

What keeps me passionate? What doesn’t keep me passionate is the real question. I love everything I do. Everything about chocolate is amazing. I love that I can be artistic as well as scientific. It’s hard to put into words the way I feel about my craft. I commit so many hours to my job and it can really wear on you but it’s still amazing to be able to produce these lovely works of art.I was sitting at a chef’s table, watching the wonderful ballet that is a kitchen and my heirloom tomato came out. Before I took a spoon and destroyed it, I stopped and took a step back and admired it’s beauty. I took a bite and savored every moment of that delicious tomato. I thought about everything that it had been from the farm to mouth. I feel like people need to see that food isn’t just a way to survive.

What’re your future goals for Bitte Chocolate or otherwise?

My future goals are just to grow. Right now, I am just doing it in the back of the bakery but would like to open up my own place when the right time comes. I have a couple of ideas brewing at the moment. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself or give away any of my secrets!

I have noticed in my time making chocolates, that some people are afraid to admit milk chocolate is there favorite. Milk chocolate shouldn’t just be related to Hershey products or other products loaded with sugar and vanilla. I’m confident I have a milk chocolate bar that people won’t be afraid to say they like! My milk chocolate uses high volume cocoa liquor and milk to give it a high end taste and a less sugary taste.

If you are in Charleston,  you will start to notice Bitte Chocolate popping up in local shops! We hope to start shipping this fall. You can go to our website at bittechocolate.com or follow us on instagram bittechocolate or on Facebook!

632I hope you guys enjoyed another inside view into the industry! I wish Mike the best of luck and I can’t wait to order chocolate bars from him! Check back on Tuesday for a new post!

Allie Hale- Shack Shake Manager!

I met Allie on our first day in college in the communal bathroom both clumsily trying to figure out how to assemble our Brita water pitchers. After making a little bit of small talk trying to figure out how work those god damn things, I realized we would be fast friends living down the hall from one another. Allie was probably the exact opposite of someone I had been friends with in high school- she was always experimenting with crazy hair colors, went out to party on the week days and was full of mischief. Maybe opposites attract because we’ve been inseparable best friends since meeting.

Allie and I were roommates our senior year of college and then made the plunge to move to Boston over a year and a half ago. She’s absolutely my ride or die and I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished so far in her career. A company called Shake Shack did an introduction in one of our classrooms and she was immediately hooked on the personality of the company and the ideals they personify.

600Shake Shack started as a tiny hot dog cart in Madison Square park in 2001 and has since grown into a large and ever expanding quick service restaurant over the past 15 years. Allie and I both graduated with the same degree- Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management but we’ve gone two completely different routes with our degrees. Allie is currently a manager for the Dedham, MA branch and is looking to move to California within the next year to help open new storefronts.

I convinced Allie to let me interview her about her job to share some more insight about the vast world of food service with you guys! Check it out below!

Abby: Shake Shack has a huge following. How have you drank the Kool-aid? 

Allie: I think I drank the kool-aid the moment I realized what a great company Shake Shack is. The more I learned about them, the more I knew I wanted to work for them. In terms of their following, I’m surprised everyday about how enthusiastic people are about our food, our culture and our personality. I’m just happy to be a part of it.

Abby: What does your role as a manager entail? What are some daily struggles and rewards?

Allie: When most people think about a manager, they would think of someone who is behind the scenes and solves problems when they arise. I’ve learned that my role is much more. On a daily basis, I order all of our products from multiple vendors, make sure we are fully staffed, hire new team members, handle private events, coordinate volunteer opportunities in our community, work through issues between team members, organize training, payroll and facility issues but most importantly ensure guests have a great experience with us. Since working for Shake Shack, I’ve developed my skills as a friend, co-worker, boss, therapist, mom, parole officer, plumber and handyman but know that I make my Shack a better place day in and day out make it much easier.

Abby: Was going to Johnson & Wales University a good experience for you? Has your education added to your experience in your career?

Allie: Johnson & Wales definitely played a huge role in my position with Shake Shack. I never would’ve heard about Shake Shack until my area director came to one of my management classes. She sold me so hard on Shake Shack and I knew instantly that I wanted to work there. The networking at Johnson & Wales was readily available if I needed it. In terms of skills, I use pretty much zero of my baking degree which is fine with me. I definitely use some of the skills from my hospitality and management classes but are they things I could’ve learned on the job? Yeah for sure. I’ve learned so much more first-hand since graduation. Sometimes I do feel like I paid for a name and networking but so many people in the industry feel that way. Either way, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

Abby: What are your future goals with Shake Shack or with your career in general?

Allie: My future goals with Shake Shack currently are to move west in hopes of securing a regional training position. I definitely want to get my name in a new market and make a difference there. I’m so thankful my job can take me all over geographically. Not to mention all of the growth potential and skills I can learn along the way. I would love to be that person that travels to locations to help set up training infrastructures that helps make Shake Shack a better place. We shall see!

Abby: Why are you in the industry? Where does the drive come from?

Allie: I remember my chef in high school telling my classmates about some of the sacrifices you make for this industry: family, life, holidays, a social life, fully functioning knees by the time you’re 50… But the way I feel about the work I do and the differences I make with my team keep me coming back day after day. My confidence of knowing I’ve done a good job is irreplaceable. I love seeing the process from beginning to end: ringing a customer on cash and helping them to make a menu choice, hopping on bun to start an order, then onto expo to finish the order with my staff to finally watching a guest loving every minute of it… I know they’ll be back and that’s the best feeling in the world.

I hope you enjoyed another peek into the food service life! I find this industry so vast and interesting with an abundance of choices that I have to share! If you’ve never been to a Shake Shack- check it out! Their food is SO GOOD!

604

Netflix is one of the loves of my life next to my bed and food so come back on Tuesday to check out my Netflix documentary obsessions! Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Hay is for horses; Hai is for horsegirls

Lexy is one of my absolute best friends from high school and I think our relationship has only gotten closer despite the physical distance between us since college and post grad. She’s also the funniest person I know and ALWAYS knows how to make me laugh about any topic. She’s recently entered the world of OkCupid and has a few anecdotes of her own… Trust me, if there’s one post on my blog you should read, it’s this one! ENJOY!


I have had the distinct privilege of knowing Abby since we were in high school. Though we live farther apart now (I’m still holding it down in PA…sort of), when she calls me on the phone and tells me some of the stories she tells you guys, it’s goes a little something like this on my end:

image1 image2 image3 image4 image5

What’s cool about our friendship is that when we call each other in a foaming panic about how being an adult is so stressful and scary, we actually manage to re-center ourselves and not give in to the chaos. Everyone needs a person like that, ya’ll. Think Mere Grey and Cristina Yang.

Cristina_x_Meredith tumblr_ltrvv2iAhW1qhjicl

When I read Abby’s blog, there are so many things I can speak to. I teach high school, and while I love my kids and my job, there are times I want to crawl under my desk. I also work a second job in a big box retail store, and I have way too many stories of atrocities committed by the public against me/ other retail workers (Abby, invite me back so I can tell them about all the shit I’ve seen. WITNESS ME.)

Aside from work, I’m looking for a gal who’s down to pal. Abby got me on OkCupid, and we joke often about the weirdo messages we get. Women can be just as bizzare when behind the mask of the Internet. Most recently, I got a message from a girl that asked no less than forty questions in the same initial introduction message (After opening with, “hai, I like ur hair”). Among them, she asked how I felt about girls who played video games and did I like horses? That’s when I knew.

Allow me to introduce you, Abby’s blog readers, to the phenomenon known as “horse girls.” Horse girls are the even crazier sister of the crazy cat lady. They may own, work with, show, jump, or at their most excessive, just be an obsessive fan of horses without any actual contact with them in real life. How did I canter down such a twisted path? I’ll admit, I dated a horse girl in college once (or should it be spelled “horsegirl?” There’s no telling where the horse stops and the girl begins…)

The sister of the girl I was dating worked with horses. My then girlfriend referred to these two horses as her “horse nephews.” She bought them hats, and had several framed pictures of them in her room. Guys, I would have bailed on that haystack right there, except…she was hot. How are the hot ones always crazy? Nature is a cruel mistress.

After a year of knowing each other and six months of dating in a stable relationship, I was just about ready to make plans to move in with horsegirl when she abruptly dipset. She trotted off into the distance, and I never heard from her again. So before you think I’m stuck on my high horse, she was the one that galloped away into the sunset, leaving me in the dust.


Thanks, Abby, for inviting me to guest write on Young Adultlescence. If you want to read more from me now and again about dating disasters, retail lyfe, identity & adultlescence, let Abby know in the comments! It’d be mo’ better.

IMG_1050

The author of this article adventuring in the wilds of Colorado.

Lexy is a teacher, retail store supervisor, sometime-writer, and full-time pizza/craft beer enthusiast. She lives in Pennsylvania with her Honda Civic, Hazel Grace. 

Michelle Scurio- Cake Monstah

So as I mentioned when I relaunched my blog, I have some incredibly talented friends, most of whom I met in culinary school. Most of my friends and I have graduated with the same degree- a B.S in Baking & Pastry and Food Service Management, yet all of our jobs are so different from one another. Food service such a vast field; not everyone who goes to school for pastry works in a bakery like me! So therefore, I wanted to take a moment and brag about how great my friends are, okay?

So Michelle and I met my freshman year in college and were fast friends who lived down the hall from one another. Michelle’s a Boston native with a Boston attitude! She’s always down to have a good time whether it was having a night on the town or just playing Nancy Drew computer games in the dorm for a night. We spent a year living together and even traveled abroad with one another where we studied pastry at a French school called E’cole Nationale Superieure de la Patisserie (ENSP).

Even when we met, Michelle talked about having her own business called Cake Monstah. It was something she started in high school, doing business with her friends and family in the local community. It has blossomed into something much more after the years Michelle spent marketing herself. She has now been featured on The Knot which is basically the ultimate wedding website across the US with a magazine publication that debuts twice a year. With all of this attention, I had a ton of questions for Michelle!

232

A: So tell me about Cake Monstah! How’d you come up with that name?

M: I started Cake Monstah 6 years ago in high school making cakes for all occasions for my friends and family. All of the people in my family are interested in art in some way and cake became my medium. I wanted to have a name for my business that reflected my Boston attitude- nothing cutesy but something unique. Overall, it’s gotten a good amount of positive feedback!

A: So you’ve been featured in The Knot and you have a decent following on your Facebook page for Cake Monstah… That’s gotta feel pretty great! How has that changed how you do business? 

M: I’ve used The Knot to try and gain new clientele and expand my business. I also worked really hard to find my way into bridal shows and expos to set up a table and showcase my work to the guests. I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of new contacts and now I’m asked to work and fill in at all sorts of different shows when I have time. Having a certified wedding website like The Knot drummed up new and trusting clients. I’m booking up for dates quickly. I only focus on one wedding per day so each client knows that I’m working 100% to make their day special. My work is personalized and I think that’s why I have to turn people away. It also helps that people are filling out yelp reviews and reviews on wedding websites to get my name out there.

230A: I know your Mom plays a huge part in your business; what kinds of things does she help you out with?

M: My mom is my business partner. She helped me a lot when I was in college to fill orders on the weekends and she’s also a graphic designer which is great since we’re working on re-branding this year. My mom gave me $200 to start the business when I was in high school which was a huge boost in the beginning. Now I teach her how to bake off cakes and do some more of the intricate fondant work for fun. We conceptualize ideas together and then my mom helps put paper to the computer!

A: Was going to Johnson & Wales University a good experience for you? How has it helped your career?

M: While I feel like I probably paid too much for school, JWU’s name brand has really boosted my business and made me more marketable in the industry. It’s really hard to get accredited without having a degree these days so I knew I wanted to get my Bachelor’s in Baking and Pastry. Now that I’m a graduate, I can charge more for my cakes since my skill level has changed.

229A: So all in all, why do you do this? Why work in the food service industry?

M: First and foremost, I know I’ll always have a job and that the business is never ending. There’s always going to be someone who’s getting married that needs bridal shower cakes, grooms cakes, wedding cakes, etc. Then those people have kids and that generates a whole new set of business. Cake decorating is also my passion, my art form. I practically had a midlife crisis at the age of 17. I was going to go to Quinnepiac University for business but changed degrees and schools 2 months before going to college. I knew I wouldn’t be as happy doing something that would perhaps be more lucrative but rather I knew I had to follow my passion!

If you want to see more of Michelle’s work, click on the highlighted link here: Cake Monstah!

Like I said, I’m proud to have such talented friends and wanted to take some time to brag about them! The food service industry is filled with all sorts of different facets which is why I find it so interesting. Check back on Tuesday for another post about my post grad life!