In July 2009, I began my culinary adventure by enrolling in weekend classes at culinary school while maintaining my full-time role as an assistant project manager in an environmental lab. Fate had other plans for me, and in an unexpected turn of events, my employer encouraged me to pursue my culinary dreams and granted me the opportunity to focus on my education, even approving my unemployment benefits.
Thus began a new chapter in my life. I dedicated myself to my culinary education, culminating in my graduation in April 2010. Following that, in May 2010, I completed a 610-hour externship at A Voce Madison Ave in NYC under the mentorship of Chef Missy Robbins, who earned a Michelin star there, and Chef de Cuisine Hilary Sterling.
My culinary journey then led me to Trap Rock Brewery in Berkeley Heights, NJ, part of the Harvest Restaurant Group. I started as a garde manger and worked my way up to the grill station from October 2010 to February 2012. A brief stint at BMW corporate headquarters to explore the world of corporate cooking in February 2012 was followed by my return to Trap Rock, where I was honored as the first junior sous chef and remained until September 2013.
From there, I ventured to Ricaltons in South Orange in February 2014. During my time there, I embarked on a creative journey, crafting 100 unique burger creations that earned me a nomination for NJ specialty burgers, ranking 11th out of 100 participants.
However, I still sought a deeper sense of fulfillment. In July 2015, I began working part-time for a burgeoning meal prep company, eventually rising to the position of head chef, where I stayed until January 2017. My journey then led me to South+Pine in Morristown under the guidance of Leia Gaccione.
In April, I received a compelling offer to return to Clean Eats in June 2017, resuming my role as head chef. I continued there until 2019, when I transitioned to the role of Sous Chef for the Savory department at a French American Kosher bakery.
In the tumultuous year of 2020, amidst a global pandemic, I faced a significant career change. I was initially furloughed and later, in July 2020, faced a sudden job loss due to declining sales, resulting in the dissolution of my position. Instead of panic, I chose to embrace the opportunity to work for myself. My newfound passion for cooking with cannabis, coupled with the impending legalization in New Jersey, ignited a renewed sense of purpose within me.
With a logo created in June and a clear vision, I embraced my journey. My first pop-up with cannabis-infused edibles took place in April 2021, marking the beginning of a year filled with pushing my boundaries and venturing out of my comfort zone. Despite the challenges posed by new regulations in August 2021, I persevered in charting my unique path.
Today, I navigate the ever-evolving landscape of cannabis in New Jersey, carving out my own lane as the founder of Cultivated Affair. I host in-home infused dinner parties and bi-monthly gatherings, connecting with like-minded individuals who share an appreciation for the plant and its culinary possibilities. My journey continues to evolve as I follow my intuition and the signs I’m shown along my path.