Updated: May 29
From clothing to cooking Chantal Lascaris knows a little something about switching careers and finding your passion. This fashionista turned bestselling cookbook author recounts her journey to finding her thing and shares some valuable kitchen inspired tips on how you can do the same.
“Write a salad book,” my husband said. A salad book! Was he kidding? What the heck did I know about master salad making or being a chef or let alone creating recipes? Nothing.
Turns out, that’s the best place to start.
I was a clothing designer for many years. It’s all I knew, really. And I loved it. The pressure, the creativity, the awards, the travel – all of it. I worked downtown in End Street Johannesburg, where nobody in their right might would venture, unless you were serious about your business. And I was. Had somebody told me then, that 20 years later I’d be a cook and an author (a what?!) of the popular South African recipe series, All Sorts, I probably would have snapped my spindle in shock.
And that’s the thing about the thing, I’ve learnt. It’s not always evident in plain sight, and it doesn’t always unveil its need in us until someone calls it, or things go seriously wrong. And when it does, it gnaws at us. It repeats on us, like a heavily pepper-laced curry. It nags and nags and nags at us until we eventually decide to turn a page, get off our same-same and be brave enough to try something new.
That thing we are all looking for as women is our thing. That one thing we can call our own. Beyond being a wife, a career woman, a mom or even a tuckshop volunteer – we all want a thing. Or, maybe it’s a whole bunch of different things - all sorts are good too.
I never realised how much I was seeking ‘the thing’ until my husband called it. For a long while I was grumpy, uptight and always stressed – I was bored too, apparently. Life does that sometimes – it hits us with a bland plate of blah when we’re not looking. And our #COVID realities have delivered quite the same for so many of us: we’re feeling uninspired, relentlessly sad, demotivated and empty.
In pre-COVID times this “feeling” would have been coined “a mid-life crisis” – and no doubt would have seen us girls ditching the kids and hopping on a plane to Maldives with four of our girlfriends for sunset cruises that made us feel 20 years old again.
But here’s the good news: it’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s a mid-way turn. Your turn – to change things up, experiment outside of your dead spots, take a chance on something awesome – take a chance on yourself. And if that still includes Tulum, that’s cool too.
At 51 years old with a fashion degree, a few awards, a Pilates certification, a barn kitchen, a husband, some pear trees and a few good cookbooks under my apron strings, I can attest to many midway turns in my life - and it feels great. So here’s a few of my personal ‘kitchen’ tricks to apply to the process of finding that thing, that’s all gorgeous and all yours:
Start with nothing
No knowledge. No background. No qualification. We don’t need to have it all figured out before we find what we’re looking for. That’s half the thrill of finding it. Just because you only ever made amazing salads for your family on your vacations in the bush (because there was never electricity and resources were limited!), does not mean you can’t become a famed cookbook author. Just saying. Knowing nothing about your “thing” upfront leaves room for more possibility, and less expectation.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Finding your thing is a trial and error process; you must try a little to benefit a lot – and never be afraid to fail. The flop is, in fact, the fortune – there are great lessons in getting something wrong at the first go - it’s all part of the growing process.
Do a Salt Test
When you’re deciding if your new hobby, skills course or business is going to fulfil you, add some salt, and adjust for taste. Meaning, just because your daughter’s best friend’s mother has gone before you, and has done it this way for years, does not mean you need to do it her way. Quite the opposite. We are all unique, and some tastebuds need more flavour than others. So do it your way - keep tasting throughout your process, until it sits just right for you.
Add Chilli flakes
Okay, so I’m a self-confessed chilli flake gal. Nothing wrong with adding some heat to your mid-turn journey. Challenge yourself, get a little daring. Choose to step outside of the ‘mild’ version of yourself. Often, the results will surprise you.
Don’t add pressure to your life
I’ll never ask you to make your own basil pesto - when there’s such a wide variety of good ones available at our local stores. All Sorts of cooking is about experimenting with all sorts of ingredients and ready-made mixes too. Make your life easy. Don’t seek out a new project that’s only going to feel like a burden. Your ‘thing’ doesn’t need to be masterful; it has to be enjoyable. Big difference.
Own it, Love it, Share it
This is the O.L.S of any turning point. When you find something you love, you need to own it as your own. This is everything! Owning, loving and sharing your knowledge really is the best part of any new project or practice.
As women, we are never too young, too old, too busy, too bored or too unqualified to reinvent our own life’s recipe that’ll make us feel good again. We all need a thing - it’s what keeps us sane. For me, the outcome of my crises was the birth of my cookbooks - so finding ‘your thing’ is actually a wonderful crisis to have.
Incidentally, the word “crisis” stems from the Greek term “Krisis” meaning “to turn, to decide” – and what a gift it is in our lifetimes to have that choice and to know, we can.
Author: Chantal Lascaris
For more ‘recipes’ from South Africa’s most loved BFF in the kitchen, Chantal Lascaris, purchase your own copy of All Sorts of Salads and All Sorts of Tapas at Exclusive Books, Takealot, Loot or Readers Warehouse.