My parents have always said to me, success comes to those bold enough to chase it and dreams stop dead in their tracks unless you run as fast as you can toward them. Growing up I think I let those words, preached to me from the front seat of our station wagon, enter one ear and leave the other. Over time they must have (thankfully) stuck because I usually have to remind myself of the message daily. Lauren Smith must have had parents preaching to her as well, because she encapsulates the phrase "go-getter."
“I remember driving on the freeway wondering if I should turn back,” she says about her move to LA for culinary school two years ago. Lauren had a year left in Bible College and worked as a supervisor at the dining hall on campus. After getting a small taste of the kitchen through that job she knew she wanted more. She asked around to those she thought would support her and got mixed advice.
“I was told I couldn’t do it. I was told I was a sheltered, white, Christian girl who couldn’t handle it. Here I am, two years later, handling the catering for three parties in one weekend.”
Lauren immediately got to work in culinary school, taking jobs at bakeries and restaurants to pay her way and gain as much wisdom and experience as possible. She found herself walking into a prestigious LA restaurant on her birthday to dine, and walking out with a new job as a line cook. She says it was a dream realized and while there she learned and grew both personally and professionally. But after a while, she realized something was missing.
“The people eating my food were just tickets on a line. I didn’t know them, and I wanted to,” she says when reflecting on her time in that kitchen. Lauren cooks because she wants to be the connecting force between food and people. She wants to teach others through her meals. So, she quit her supposed dream job, and left a place she thought she might be for a long time.
It wasn’t until she found catering through Valleybrink Road that she truly realized the impact she could have with food. Now, Lauren goes into home kitchens all over LA to prepare meals for others. She caters small parties and gatherings for celebrations. She gets to meet the people she’s cooking for, and more than a smile or a wave, she gets to know who they are. She explains where the ingredients for their meal comes from, why she uses goat cheese instead of Gouda, how to assemble the perfect summer salad. She’s teaching, sharing and creating an experience for the people eating her food. The most important element of eating, the interaction, is present and alive again.
“One of the reasons I love what I do is because it brings people to the table. For just a moment in our busy lives, we are all together for one reason. Food has a power to connect people that I believe is greater than social media. Food can bring you back to a moment; bring you back to a place. If I get to be a part of that in someone’s life just once, all my work is worth it.”
Lauren has a dream job, but she’s not distracted by what could happen or where she could go. She’s focused on right now. She’s even got a tattoo (opposite the whisk on her forearm) that reads ‘be still’, a reminder to stay present — to focus on getting better, on learning, and on doing her best.
“I cook because I love food. I cook to take advantage of the abundance we have been given. Have you ever looked at a farmer's market? Even from far away it's incredible. Seeing a tomato grow, or a bush of rosemary flourish, or a leaf a basil perfectly fall and curl. That's a gift. A gift that I hope our generation won't take advantage of.”
*Click here to download a PDF version of this recipe!
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cut cauliflower florets into small pieces — this will help add texture to the cauliflower by allowing them to get toasted and crispy. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roughly chopped sage. Roast in the oven until golden brown — about 30 minutes.
- Whisk together eggs, adding enough cream or milk to thicken the mixture — about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Season this mixture with salt and pepper.
- Begin heating a cast iron pan, you want this to make sure this is evenly hot so don't afraid to give it some time.
- Cut the shallot in half length wise and slice, add about half a tablespoon of butter and spread around the pan. Saute shallots at medium heat until soft. Add the chopped mushroom and cook down until they are soft and begin to caramelize.
- Add the now roasted cauliflower to the mushroom and shallot mixture in the cast iron. Mix until combined. Don't be afraid to add more butter if needed. Season the mixture with a bit more salt and pepper.
- Turn your heat down to low and pour in egg mixture slowly. Sprinkle in chives and allow the outer edges to cook. Take another half tablespoon of butter and coat the remaining outer edges of the pan to keep from sticking.
- Place cast iron pan into the oven and cook for about 15 minutes until eggs are set and the top is begins to lightly brown. With about 2 minutes left, sprinkle as much or as little goat cheese as you like on top. Remove from oven, serve warm with fresh arugula and lemon juice on top.
*Lauren is admittedly not a recipe follower, and says not to be afraid to stray from recipes. This particular dish can be prepared to fit your taste. For example, if you're not a big mushroom fan you could use 1/2 pound instead of a full pound.