"I was a lawyer for 8 years and one day I got offered this big promotion at work, that led me to start analysing whether I was happy with my life. That's when I decided to quit my job as a lawyer to go study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I was going to buy a house and be a lawyer forever and instead I decided to take my life savings to try and find a different life".
It's very rare in life you meet someone who has truly followed their passion. Someone who proclaims "I love every minute of my job, it's what I've always wanted to do." It's so rare in fact that when we do meet that person, someone who has truly gone wholeheartedly into their life's calling and followed a dream, we often feel envious, even resentful, as most of us deep within hold our own dreams, dreams that too often in life remain un-realised.
However, meeting Rachel Quigley from Australia, a person who has done just this, you feel only admiration. For the past two and a half years Rachel has immersed herself in the world of food, all part of her personal quest to quit her steady life and well paid job in the city and follow her dreams.
Rachel went from earning good money working for a financial legal firm in London to committing herself to learning as much about food as she could. She travelled to Paris and enrolled in the famous gastronomic school, Le Cordon Bleu, a place that boasts training chefs such as Nathalie Dupree, Dione Lucas and Julia Child.
From Paris Rachel went on to work with Brett Graham at the two Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury in London. She then hoped over the pond back to her native Australia to work at the Quay in Sydney. She has basically spent the past two and a half years of her life and her entire life savings learning everything she can about food.
"My average day as a lawyer would be get into the office at nine - work, meetings phone calls and drafting. On a bad day I wouldn't leave the office at all", she tells me as she explains her decision. "An average day didn't exist in France, everyday was different, sometimes we'd spend 12 hours in the class room or taking practical cooking courses. I also spent a lot of time eating, the french culture is entirely based around food".
It all seems so easy when you speak with Rachel, she didn't over think the decision and didn't allow herself to be weighed down by the modern constraints imposed on us all by the capitalist mindset. "I remember phoning my mum to talk about it before I had made my decision and she said if that's what will make you happy then just go for it".
Rachel has harbored her passion for food throughout life, I ask her about her first memory in the kicthen and she tells me with a smile "I remember making Cupcakes in 1986. I was awkwardly ahead of the trend there but I was content just siting in front of the oven watching them rise, contorting my tongue around the beater. It must have seemed even more strange when our oven light stopped working and I still sat there staring into the dark. I was sporting an optical eye patch at the time (skin toned, not pirate black before you ask) so it was definitely odd not cute".
But it's these fond memories and an urge to be in the kitchen that led Rachel to adopt the 'all or nothing' school of thought. "You need to throw yourself into it and make it work for you. If you really want to change your profession you have to give it a go, don't just dip your toe in the water - go for it! If it doesn't work you can always go back to what you where doing before".
And this mindset has certainly payed dividends for Rachel who now spends her time as a culinary events director to the restaurant industry, writes her own blog and spends any spare time developing new recipes in the kitchen. She explains that she never started this with the intention of making lots of money, just to follow her passion for food.
Nearing the end of our interview, one obvious question remains. Does she think it's payed off ? "It's strange because I don't really think about my other life now, I spend my time dealing with food everyday and for me that is a pay off". There's a noticeable difference in Rachel when she talks about her new life, a noticeable excitement and laughter in her voice, proof that following your dream can work and that taking the dreaded plunge can make you happier.
It was the famous scientist and author, Douglas H Everett, who said “There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other". And Rachel is certainly someone who has managed to stitch their dreams into reality.
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