You could easily say my life has been more than like a box of chocolates, as Forrest would have stated. To my knowledge life was hard and that’s just that. You work to survive and your head stays down until payday. I did this for 11 years until I met Her. I met an angel who loved sweets and smoked cigarettes just like my old man. Her name was Julie.
Julie stood at an impactful 5’1. Julie had blonde hair that was styled into a powerful bun and very stiff, not a hair out of place. I could respect that. Julie walked into my life like a firecracker! She simply shook my life and momentarily made me laugh out loud.
“Hello my name is Deanna, i'll be your waitress tonight,How can I help you?” I asked
“Hello beautiful, i would like to order the grilled cheese add tomato please”
“Sure thing, anything to drink?”
“They told me I can't do that anymore, i’ll take an iced tea with splenda, thank you”
Julie ordered the grilled cheese with tomato, a diet coke and asked if we allowed smoking inside the establishment. I laughed because who says words like “establishment”? I kindly said
“No smoking allowed but the smoked salmon is pretty good this week”
We both chuckled and I grabbed her menu and proceeded to ring up her order. To my surprise Juilie had her hand raised in the air, as if we were in grade school. I chuckled to myself that I always get the weirdos at night while waitressing. Shaking my head, what could she possibly want?
Little did I know what this conversation with Julie would change my life for the better.
“I would like dessert as well, where is your dessert menu?”
“We don't have one, a dessert menu that is.”
“A diner without dessert? Ridiculous. Why?”
I stood there watching her talk, watching her mannerisms and could tell she came from a better side of life. I wanted to please her but ironically I couldn't think of how until….
“You mean there isn’t any dessert in this whole diner? Not even a cupcake?”
“Let me go double check and i’ll be right with you”
There was no sense in going back and forth, this woman was sure we had dessert so...I decided to make it happen. I remembered my grandma’s beloved 4 ingredient chocolate cake. I kept questioning myself and proceeded to bake anyway. I hadn't been in the kitchen to any capacity in years. The only cook here was so busy talking to his girlfriend all shift on his phone that he didn’t care that I was baking like a mad woman. The challenge was set. My passion had been ignited and my love of baking stirred. This customer wants chocolate cake, bet. This cake will knock her socks off, which she wasn’t wearing any socks to knock off but she was gonna get all this dessert smoke for sure. Pots and pans, I was fumbling with this, dropping that. Mind you it's 3 am! I did it though.
I love a good challenge.
I took a peak to see eif Julie was still there, she was out fronts The cake had been measured, mixed, and the bowl scrapped down before pouring the delicious batter into the flimsy baking pans I happened to find tucked away. Our diner had not sold dessert in years. The menu has not been changed in decades and the decor, well let’s just say that Gordon Ramsey himself wouldn't dine here. With no real chef/cook us waitresses have a lot to do to ensure we get paid and the customer is happy.
Julie was still eating her sandwich when I put the chocolate cake in the oven. I would need another hour to properly bake and dress the cake. Julie waited.
What was with this lady? Grilled cheese with tomato, waiting more than an hour for dessert! Who does that? I mean honestly who has that type of time to just sit and wait for a dessert. As the cake baked in the oven my curiosity grew. Who was this woman and why was it important to her? I thought about these questions until I heard the cake timer. Perfect, the cake was done, my shift was almost done and I was going to knock her socks off with the chocolate my grandmother was proud of. The cake had cooled, the cake had been frosted and now had been sliced as I proceeded to walk back to talk to Julie. Just by bringing Julie her slice of chocolate cake four other customers saw the cake and ordered one slice for themselves alone.
“Here you go I said a delicious slice of chocolate cake freshly made just for you”
“just for me?”she asked
“Of course! we don't have dessert on display, we don't have a dessert menu either. This was a special request for a very special customer” I said with a smile..
I placed the Frosted chocolate cake in front of her, I watched as her eyes grew.
“ You made this cake?” she questioned
“Yes I did it's a family recipe that hasn't been used in years I actually had fun making this cake to be honest with you”
I watched as she broke into the cake ever so gently with her fork. I watched as the cake crumbled softly onto the plate and she cleaned it up with her 4 fingers.
“That cake was Finger Licking Good” Julie exclaimed. though I didn't see her lick her fingers I did see her grab crumbs.
“No way you made this cake yourself! No way you were hiding this delicious moist chocolatey cake all to yourself! no way I had to wait an hour for this cake!” it was so worth it she stated. After explaining how I made the cake such as the ingredients of the cake etc. We began talking personally. Turns out Julie was a recovering alcoholic and sweet treats were her reprieve. Julie explained that after the death of her small daughter she became heavily addicted to alcohol. haven't lived in a bottle for 2 years after the death of her small daughter she sobered up and went to AA meetings. It was there at those meetings that she was introduced to desserts of all kinds such as Donuts, croissants, Danishes and cakes of all kinds. After listening to a story I truly respected her strength and her determination to better her life. I gave her my condolences for her child that had passed.
We hugged and enjoyed the rest of our coffee and cake slices. I couldn't believe a piece of chocolate cake could connect two people just that easily. Julie decided to take the other half of the cake home with her in a to-go box. I was so flattered.
As I gathered the silverware and cups for the dishwasher Julie turned to me and asked me if I had ever gone to school for culinary arts. I looked at her dumbfounded. Me, enrolled in school ? how could I even afford it I thought. I kind of told her no that I wouldn't be able to afford that in this life or the next based on where I was financially but that was always a dream of mine deep down inside . I always dreamt of having my own restaurant or Bistro. How did she know that? my explanation wasn't acceptable to her yet she accepted that anyway.
We hugged one last time and parted ways. I proceeded to go to the back and get myself ready for my shift to be over. I grabbed the kitchen towel and the broom and proceeded to clean off my area. I felt overall accomplished. That day it wasn't an ordinary day, I actually made chocolate cake.
Julie walked out the door of our Diner and I went to the back to grab my purse and went home. What I thought would be the end of a crazy shift, turned out to be just the beginning of everything I ever wanted in life. I will find out about two weeks later that Julie was a multi-millionaire restaurant developer. Julie had written a check with my name on it addressed to the culinary arts department of my local Community College. My jaw dropped. My heart dropped and I felt sweat on my forehead. This was unreal.
Julie had been scouting out the diner and other properties along that area to offer it's owner’s a deal so that she could turn a few buildings into another franchise opportunity. It had just been my luck that she was my customer. N my diner. On my shift. My jaw dropped when I found out the news. This whole time I had been baking for a multi-millionaire.
The same day that I found out Julie was a multi-millionaire was the same day other envelope arrived for me addressed with my name on it. A check for a full 2 year’s tuition towards a bright culinary degree. I was beyond tears. My knees gave out and I found myself falling down to the ground. My heart had swell up from this generosity, my head was spinning from the sudden news and all I wanted was to thank this woman who saw in me something great, that I had yet to even see.
I never saw Julie again, unfortunately. A part of me knows that her generosity and good deed was put to good use. Every test that I aced was to say thank you! Ii am now an apprentice for a world famous chef and have traveled to multiple countries just to cook and absorb culinary techniques. I am blessed. I know that now. Julie knew it too, from the first piece of chocolate cake.
And that's how my culinary career started…. with a slice of chocolate cake. That one evening of unexpected baking changed my life for the better.