“How do you make eggs fluffy,” I asked.
I didn’t know if this was interesting to anyone. But I just really wanted to know.
In the past 20 years I’ve only cooked 3x. And one of those times a grease fire broke out. And I was interviewing someone who used to know nothing about cooking, too.
Allison Task was in the dot-com industry for a decade before becoming a chef. People would always ask what kind of business she wanted to start. Because that was the culture in tech.
She said, “I spent a decent amount of time thinking about the company I wanted to start. And I was like it’s not a tech company. I love starting things. I love entrepreneurship. I’m just not a dot-com girl. This isn’t my thing. But I realized I was a good businessperson.”
She also realized she was a bad cook. She was 29 going on 30, ready to settle down and start a family.
“But I didn’t have domestic skills and I knew it. I couldn’t cook,” she said.
So she went to school. And this was the beginning of her personal revolution…
“I came from a place where people had big visions and started things,” she said. “You don’t just get a job, you start a company. So this was going to be my thing. And that’s why I went to school.”
“Were you passionate about cooking before you went to culinary school,” I asked.
“I was passionate about my inability to cook. I was not so different from you today, James.”
“I saw a need in the market. I saw demand. I saw a hole. I didn’t just want to learn to cook. I wanted to help teach others. And I wanted to take cooking and make it really simple for people.”
She wanted to know the essence of cooking. And that’s why I asked her about eggs. Because if there was anyone who could tell me simple instructions about how to scramble an egg, she’d be the one to tell me.
She even told me how to cook salmon without burning my apartment down. She also told me about her network.
And how she used timing to her advantage.
It seemed like Allison was always in the right place, at the right time. And she always seemed to know her next move.
“I tend to have very prescient timing,” she said.
She got her start in the dot-com industry just before the boom. And she went to culinary school in 2000 when “The Food Channel” was brand new. Rachel Ray wasn’t even a thing yet.
“So how did you get a cooking show,” I asked.
“I went to work for Martha Stewart because if I was going to learn domesticity, she was going to teach me. I wasn’t going to buy her magazine. I was going to work for the woman.”
And, weirdly, this was the same exact time when talks about Martha Stewart’s lawsuit were circling.
“And because she was going to jail, they were trying to groom people from within Martha Stewart to start getting on camera.”
Again right place, right time. She wasn’t there just to cook, she was learning other skills, like being on a TV set day-to-day. And she soon had an opportunity to set up and get on camera.
“Everyday Food” (the magazine) was launching a TV show. And they wanted people within the organization, instead of Martha. She was heading other places.
“I was getting media trained to be on the show. I was handpicked from inside to be one of the hosts. And I was trained. And I was taught. And I had been working on a set for over a year. So I knew the mechanics of production from behind the scenes. Now it was my turn to step into the light. So I did it.”
I still couldn’t believe she started in tech. And made this transition to a creative career, in front of the camera cooking. It takes a special type of bravery to leave what your used to for something unknown.
And that’s why I liked her book title so much, “Personal Revolution.”
It might seem like Allison’s success came easy for her. Like all these opportunities fell into her lap. But it wasn’t like she just snapped her fingers and was working for a top dot-com company. And then snapped her fingers again and suddenly working for Martha Stewart.
“Oh hell no,” she said.
It’s not just about the work you put in to learning your skills. And focusing on being positive, even though it’s all connected. There’s a lot of work that needs to be put into building your network. And this is what Allison did.
She figured out how to grow a network. And how to do it constantly. It’s a never ending, evolving skill that everyone needs, even if you’re someone who’s already at the top.
I spent maybe 30 minutes on the topic with her. And Allison covers a lot of it in her book, too. But this was my chance to address my own personal revolution.
And I hope this podcast is a chance for you to address yours.
Links and Resources
You Can Trust a Skinny Cook by Allison Fishman
Cooking Light Lighten Up, America!: Favorite American Foods Made Guilt-Free by Allison Fishman Task
Choose Yourself by James Altucher
The Power of No by James Altucher