When I started this interview/post, I only knew this zesty ball of energy virtually…yep, she’s my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram co-addict foodie friend. We’d talked by phone (you’ll have to read her post to see what that conversation was about!), so I had a voice with the face. But, we’d never met face-to-face until November 1st 2012! And, just how precisely did that happen? I mean we’re not talking EHarmony or Match.com! Christie, a well-traveled Army wife, became my right hand sous chef during the World Food Championships in Las Vegas…I knew I’d hit pay dirt when she agreed to help me…at first, she was going to come and cheer me on, then I thought, dang, why not have Christie there with me every step of the way…and, what a great decision that was…not only did we rock the WFC with our ‘High Roller’ sandwich, but we did what close treasured girlfriends do–we danced, we partied, we went to events, we shopped for food, we schlepped stuff to the event, and we cooked, side-by-side, like a pair of seamless calves skin gloves!
Christie’s obsessed with perfection. Yet, she’s not afraid to fail. In her world failure is simply…unplanned opportunity! That’s how this well-traveled foodie, and, yes, a real Army wife, who calls herself Zestuous describes herself–she says she’s a perfectionist who isn’t afraid to fail–sounds pretty darn paradoxical, but think about it for a second, read about this talented and traveled young woman, and I think you might just look at failure differently, too!
If there were a hidden camera following you, what would we see about you and your life?
As the oldest of three, I placed undue pressure upon myself to succeed. I guess it was my way of competing for my parent’s attention. My parents never demanded perfection. They just encouraged me to do the best I could do. But in the 6th grade, I brought home my first D on a paper. I was sacred they would be so disappointed, but they weren’t. They asked, “Did you do your best? Did you try your hardest?” The answer was obviously no. They simply said, “Well, that’s what happens when you don’t.” In the end, I was more upset with myself than they were.
I realized at that moment, that I had control of my success. I could soar to the top when I wanted to, and I could glide at an average pace at other times. When it came to school, I chose the glide path, but when it came to work and sports, I chose to soar.
What defines you as a person other than a kitchen/cooking and family?
I felt in control of my destiny. Until 2004…
That’s when my husband and I first got pregnant. The Army gave us orders to move to Korea together for two years, but with a baby on the way, we made the hard choice to leave me in the states and shorten my husband’s tour to one year, so we wouldn’t be apart from family for so long. Just as soon as the Army changed his orders and they couldn’t be changed back, I miscarried.
In my eyes, I had failed.
He went abroad, I quit my job and I moved closer to family. This was a soul-searching year for me. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend two months in Korea, learning the culture, enjoying the food and even volunteering for the Army and local schools.
While back in the states, I also developed as a person and a chef, standing side-by-side with my father-in-law in the kitchen, learning all of his (okay some of his) cooking tips. Tip number one: measuring cups are optional. Tip number two: you’ll never master “a little of this and a little of that” until you try, even if trying means failing.
My husband returned a year later, we moved to Mississippi, and we got pregnant again. But history repeated itself. We lost the baby, and he was again ordered to head overseas for a year, this time for Operation Iraqi Freedom. We tried IVF while he was home on R&R, but that wasn’t successful either.
Suddenly, a girl who felt so sure she could control her destiny couldn’t. I tried multiple fertility treatments, and I saw doctors around the states and even in Europe. But none could explain the problem. Without a defined problem, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t find a solution. After years of fertility treatments, endless shots and over-the-top hormones, I quit trying…but I didn’t quit persevering.
If you could give your 16 y/o self a few pieces of advice (knowing what you do now), what would that be?
When you think you have failed, don’t stop. Climb the brick wall, look over the top and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities that still lie ahead.
That’s what I finally did when I was 35. I stopped and looked around and said to myself, “I’m living in Europe with the love of my life. We are both very successful, and we have the freedom to travel this world together and make all of our other dreams come true.”
We did just that. We jetted off to Rome. We spent a weekend in a B&B Amsterdam. We took a hot air balloon ride over Bruges. Not only did we re-spark our marriage, but I rediscovered myself. My husband encouraged me to hop the bullet train to Paris to take some short courses at Le Cordon Bleu. I stayed in a small hotel with a view of the Eifel Tower, rode the metro around town and gained invaluable cooking knowledge. At the end of the courses, my husband drove to Paris to pick me up, so we could enjoy lunch and champagne together at our favorite restaurant at the Louvre.
It was after this experience in Europe that I started my blog Zestuous. I have been so fortunate as an Army wife. I’ve traveled to 44 states and 26 countries. I’ve eaten bulgogi while sitting on the floor in a Korean restaurant. I’ve enjoyed authentic Chinese dishes after climbing the Great Wall. I’ve devoured Spiessbraten in the hills of Germany and fish and chips on the banks of London. I’ve licked my fingers after a plate of Texas BBQ and licked my plate after some Mississippi chicken and waffles. I am forever fascinated and inspired by the many ways people around the world make food taste so dog gone good.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I’m kind of a hodgepodge kind of girl. Because my inspiration for cooking comes from all over the world, there wasn’t a word to describe my style. That’s why I came up with the word Zestuous. Zestuous is simply a harmony of bold flavor with subtle elegance that tickles your senses – it’s food that is both zesty and sumptuous.
Now, I live in Las Vegas, the home of Zestuous food where East meets West and soul food is served on fine china. I’m excited to learn and share even more with all of the Zesties out there who follow my blog.
What is the most valuable advice you can offer other would-be chefs?
Don’t be afraid to fail and you will naturally succeed. And when you’re successful, (and you will be) stay humble, and share your tips and praise with others.
Alright, Miss Christie, I’m dying to see your amazing couture creation just for this post! ‘Bohemian Apple Streudel‘! I’m just blown away that you put a ‘boho’ spin on this traditional sweet that’s just so special for the holidays! It totally looks and smells (well, I can imagine, right!) amazing!