Chef Lauri Carter began feeling pain in her wrist that would not subside. After 20 years in the industry heading many kitchens, including her time as chef de cuisine at Harvest Vine, co-owner of bygone Queen Anne restaurant Moxie, and as executive chef at Lecosho, the pain in her wrist was no longer confined to work hours.
Photo by Geoffrey Smith
It was when she started feeling too much pain to hold a coffee cup, or place her hand on a steering wheel when driving, that she knew she had a difficult decision to make. As Marjorie's interim chef, Carter is down to working two days a week, and with her time numbered in the kitchen, preparing to take on a completely different career.
How did you injure your wrist? Is it one hand or both?
It's just one. I think it's that repetitive motion of sautéing. I mean I've been cooking for 20 years, so I think that there's only so many sautés that you can do before your wrist just quits.
Why did you make the transition from Lecosho to Marjorie?
Well, I think the biggest thing was my wrist and knowing that I couldn't keep doing it full time. So I was unemployed for four days, and [I got] a call from Donna [Moodie] saying, "Hey, I'm in this transition with my staff and I wanted to see if you can take over temporarily as our interim chef." So I did that and I think I was full time here for over a month while I went to school for real estate. I cut back, went to school for real estate, got my license, and now, I'm down to two days a week in the kitchen. I work Monday and Tuesday nights, slower nights, which is nice for my wrist. I'll just be going until my business ramps up, which I think it's going pretty well so far. It's kind of disappointing that [Donna and I] met at this point in my career. Her energy is awesome and I think we would've made a very awesome team. I'm sad that we didn't get to work together prior to this. But it's been so fun to just come in and do one last stint in the kitchen. Then I think I'll start making the transition, and it'll be scary that I won't be making a living from cooking anymore.
How did you land on real estate?
I think it was because my really good friend Jenny had been doing it for so long that to me, it seemed similar to restaurants where if you work your tail off, you can be very successful. If you're lazy, you're going to fail. I think it's a very good fit. I like people, I like providing customer service. That's something that I think good agents do and bad agents don't deliver on that. Just in speaking with her, I started asking about the business and whether she thinks it'll be a good fit and I think it will be. It's running your own business and I love that about it because good or bad, I'm responsible for my clients. It's great because I can be as control freak-y as I want. I really like people and I'm open to answering questions via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've been cooking for so long that it's all I've ever done so it is kind of terrifying, the idea of kind of starting over at age 40. Holy moly, who does that? But in going through this transition, I have talked to so many people who had switched jobs. Gone are the times in my mother's era where you work 30, 40, 50 years at one job. We really have to reinvent ourselves, and move forward that way.
Is there a sense of heartbreak for you having to leave cooking behind?
Yes, I've definitely shed some tears. It's scary, and it was my first love. I truly love cooking so much that I'm going to miss it. However, I'm cooking at home more than I have because I'm free a lot of nights. It is kind of nice. It's not that I have to stop cooking. It's that I have to stop doing it professionally so that my body just can't do it anymore. That means I can just have very awesome dinner parties and have my friends over.
There's always that kind of question on what chefs move on to after cooking professionally. Many move on to consulting, food styling, or cooking classes. How come you never considered those options?
You're absolutely right. You know, there are a lot of options like sitting at a desk doing data entry and being a clipboard chef. Anyone who knows me knows that that's not just me. I am a working chef. I want to be on the line. I want to be expediting tickets. I want to be on the wheel. I want the glory! But that's what's exciting to me is that very high stress kind of situation. I think I would do well in a lot of high stress situations, and because I do handle stress very well, I think real estate is going to be perfect.
Is there an official end date ahead?
I'm giving myself until the end of December, end of the year. Unless I just start feeling myself getting super busy and just feel that it's necessary to phase out a lot sooner than that. Already, it's a real juggling act but I live for that stuff. I'm going to give myself until then and then go full force into it.
Do you feel like it was a wise decision to have been part of a career that ends sooner than you'd like it to?
You know, I don't regret a thing. My mom was really worried about me growing up because I was such a perfectionist that drove her insane wondering if I was ever going to find a career that jives with those kinds of problems. I mean, I almost needed counseling! So it was a great fit for me. I know real estate is a lot of hard work and hours, but the hours to me, coming from a chefs hours perspective, is kind of ideal. I love working during the days and in the mornings. It's great. It's a whole new thing. My husband is going to get to see me once in a while! Chefs do have that perfectionism control freak tendencies, maybe a little OCD in there too, but I think that's good for us, so I don't regret it. I've had a great time in this industry and it's been good to me. I just loved it and treated it with the respect it deserves.