Tag Archives: birthday

Today is not only my birthday…

Standing in the corner for being a brat on my birthday

I was born on this day in 1977.  July 14 is not only my birthday, it has actual historical significance.

In France, this is their biggest national holiday…Bastille Day, or French National Day.  It is the day that, in 1789, the French people stormed the fortress Bastille in protest against their monarchy, starting the French revolution.  One year later, as this part of the revolution was coming to an end, a massive feast was held on July 14 to celebrate the establishment of a Constitutional Monarchy, which they believed was the perfect hybrid of rule by both the public and the monarchy.  (This didn’t last long…the revolution continued until the reign of Napoleon in 1799.)

July 14 also holds historical significance here in the US.  It is on this day in 1881 that Billy the Kid was shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  That passage of time has, for most people, turned Billy the Kid into a fictional character from the movies.  But he existed.  And he was incarcerated in the jail in Lincoln, New Mexico after being convicted in court for the murder of Sheriff William Brady during the Lincoln County War in 1878.  Two weeks before he was scheduled to hang, The Kid killed both guards in the jail and escaped on a horse, singing at the top of his lungs as he rode out of town.  (The stolen horse came back to town a few days later.)  Two months later, Pat Garrett tracked The Kid to his hideout in Ft. Sumner and supposedly shot him to death.  (Though rumors state that Garrett, who had a long history of both friendship and rivalry with The Kid, actually allowed him to escape and reported his death falsely.)

I like having my birthday on this day.  I adore France, and Lincoln County, NM has been a vacation camping spot for my family since I was a child.

Today I turned 36, and my dear friend Michael Chen wrote a very sweet blog about our friendship, which I’d like to share with you.  It begins:

This post is to celebrate the birthday of one of my absolute dearest friends, Ben Starr.

Around this time two summers ago, I was doing what a typical kid does in his post-high school, pre-college summer: a whole lotta nothing. Naturally, I filled my time with watching a lot of shows on Hulu. One of the shows I started following closely was a cooking show that I had only paid attention to briefly in its inaugural season: MasterChef. The one character on that show that had more charisma and attracted my attention more than any of the other contestants (including Jennifer, who won), was none other than Ben Starr. He was by FAR the most entertaining character. Having just learned the ropes on how to use twitter (at that time on my old account @michaeljcchen), I followed him and a few of the other MC2 contestants and quickly saw how approachable he was as well. Regularly responding to fans’ questions (I asked a couple myself), meeting with fans and posting pictures with them, and just overall interacting with him. I still viewed him as a big time celebrity, and yet….he didn’t carry himself like one. One day, as I was sitting around dilly-dallying in my summer doldrums, I came across a tweet saying that he was going to be at BBQ Outfitters in Austin the next day at 1 pm. Purely on a whim, I asked him if he minded me stopping by and saying hi while he was there, and in typical Ben Starr fashion, he extended his welcoming (cyber) arms and told me to come on down. I didn’t think much of it, thinking that he either said it out of politeness or that there were going to be so many people there that I would barely catch a glimpse of him. I went to bed and didn’t give it a second thought.

The next day I woke up and settled into my usual routine of boredom (who hasn’t been there in the summers as a high school student??). All of a sudden, I remembered the interactions with Ben Starr, and did a quick google search of where BBQ outfitters was. Surprise, it was only roughly 10 minutes from my house. I looked at the clock: 12:00 noon. I figured that I might as well give it a shot. Went downstairs, had lunch, grabbed my motorcycle helmet, and told my mom I was going to meet a cooking celebrity before waltzing out the door.

Finish reading it here!

Thanks to everyone for all the well wishes, and here’s to a great year!

Birthday Musings

Today I turned 34. Birthdays are usually introspective for me. When I think back on the past year, of course, it is completely dominated by MasterChef…which has taken up almost every bit of time and brainpower since late Fall.

While I fully plan on delving into the changes I’ve undergone from MasterChef after the show has ended, the most important impact I notice is this vast new family I’ve gained, from the contestants to the production crew…even down to Gordon Ramsay. No, we don’t talk on the phone or trade emails or anything, but when I talk to the producers, they always tell me that he has mentioned me to them recently, or said for them to tell me hello. It’s kinda fun to know that.

But the people who really made an impact on me are my fellow contestants and people from production who I lived with for weeks and weeks. Food and cooking have always been an important part of my life, but now my culinary life has BLOSSOMED thanks to the relationships I maintain with these people. I laugh and cry when I hear from them or think about them.

MasterChef also caused me to turn the microscope inward and ask hard questions, like “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I know it sounds silly for a 34 year old to ask a question like that, but deep down inside, I think it’s unusual for people in their 30s, 40s, even older, to NOT be asking that question. Our country is so work-oriented that we often are rushed into a career, either because it’s lucrative, or it’s what our family expected of us, or it’s the only career we could find…and we wake up years or decades later, wondering what we did with our lives and why we made those decisions.

MasterChef has taught me that the LAST THING ON EARTH I want to be is a chef! Ironic, huh? But a chef is stuck in the back of a commercial kitchen, turning out plate after plate, not having a clue WHO he is cooking for. To me, that’s a lifeless, joyless task. I cook because I love PEOPLE. So perhaps the inner voice that has always told me I need to have a B&B or a chalkboard café is the voice that has been right all along.

I also can’t help but maintain a perspective on my 30s, compared to my 20s. I was ferociously depressed when I turned 30. “My life is OVER!” I thought. “The good times are long gone, and it’s all down hill from here.”

How much more wrong could I have been? My 30s have been light-years better than my 20s. My pseudo-TV career started with Rachael Ray the year I turned 30. I’ve taken some amazing trips with amazing people. The most prolific publishing period of my life began when I turned 31 and got a semi-staff position as a travel writer with the Seattle Times. My relationship with my partner Christian, which began almost 9 years ago, gets better and better. We have a wonderful house that I’ve had the pleasure of renovating from top to bottom, learning how to become a handyman in the process. We got our puppy, Oliver, who has completely changed my life and brings overwhelming joy and love to my heart literally every time I look at his scruffy face. A new neighbor, Sharon Moore, moved in next door to me and has become an incredible combination of second mom and best friend.

Yes…my 30s have been incredibly good to me. Particularly age 33. I am so blessed to have an amazing group of people in my life. Thanks to ALL of you for making me the happiest person I know!

May 34 be even better!