I am not a chef. My name is Megan Dunn and I live in the Chicago area with my husband and son. I once thought I wanted to be a chef. When I was 17 and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself after high school, I came up with the idea of culinary school. It made perfect sense for me: I watched the Frugal Gourmet, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, and Yan Can Cook whenever the shows were on. Never mind that my sole cooking experience up until that point had been perfecting the art of perfectly preparing Ramen in the microwave, or skillfully browning ground beef for Hamburger Helper- I was going to be a chef!
I was thrilled to have decided what I wanted to do with my life and proudly announced my plans to my grandfather- a man known as Papa. He quickly responded with “You want to be a chef? You’ll get fat”. Well that right there was enough to change the mind of my short, lean, 17 year old self. After all, at 5’2”, 120 pounds, I was already starting to see the daily Ramen intake forming a nice layer of stored energy on my hips. So the idea of culinary school was out the window, and I’m glad that’s where it went. Now when I think of a chef I see someone who is an expert at preparing the same dish 20 times per night, night after night, for 20 years. A technician in the kitchen. A food scientist. Things I am not, and do not want to be.
I ended up going to school for art (sculpture) and psychology- the art to foster my creativity and the psychology so I could hopefully find a job that would pay the bills once I graduated. Over time, the art turned into a hobby and after a Master’s Degree and PhD, what started off as a career in psychology turned into a career in Health Science Research. Time for art was set aside to make way for more school and family. However, I was still able to find time to cook. I was also able to find time to continuously annoy my husband by only ever watching the Food Network, Cooking Channel, Mexico One Plate at a Time, or America’s Test Kitchen (or Cook’s Country– really, why are these two separate shows?).
Cooking became my artistic outlet. It was a way for me to leave the science at work and bring the sculpture into the kitchen. I could have my creativity time and compose edible works of art under the guise of making my family dinner. Ree Drummond once said on her show “Pioneer Women”, in reference to a pie crust she was pinching, “This is sort of like sculpting. Expect you get to eat the sculpture when you’re done.” I agree, and I hope you all enjoy my chili sculptures as much as my family and I do!