it all started with a wish, part 1.

{ myself & sarah copeland in the food network test kitchens on my wish day. granted by the make-a-wish foundation, december 2009 }

This summer I interned for the single person I look up to most (besides my parents and sister), Sarah Copeland. Sarah is a recipe developer, cookbook author, food writer, recipe tester, culinary instructor, urban gardener, and many other admirable things. I have known Sarah for a few years now, and how we met is certainly an interesting and special story.

It was a chilly winter day in December 2009 and my mother and I were in New York City together. The Make-A-Wish foundation had flown us up from sunny Florida and granted my one wish to visit the Food Network Kitchens, & to also meet and watch my favorite FN chef at the time, Clare Robinson, on the set of her show, 5 Ingredient Fix. At this point, I had been in remission of my Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma for a little over a year. I had also developed an extreme passion for baking, cooking, and earned my “foodie” title. After 6 sessions of chemotherapy, 15 or so blood and platelet transfusions, multiple trips to the ER, temporary inability to taste, hair loss, complete absence of physical strength, and many other health complications, I was ready for a truly magical experience that I would never forget. And that is exactly what I got.

I could go into detail about our entire stay in NYC, but what I will do instead is zero in on one important (and little did I know, life changing) 15 minute increment of time. My mom and I were being given a tour of the Food Network, discreetly located above Chelsea Market, and in particular the test kitchens, by the head publicist at FN during that time, Michelle Betrock (we have developed a friendship over the years and she often asks me to help her with different food and wine events and other food media related jobs). Michelle truly made our experience what it was. I actually remember all of the wonder and magic I felt walking around this culinary kingdom that I had once dreamt about. Michelle directed us  to the back end of the kitchens where multiple waffle recipes were being developed, tested, and cross tested (something I now thoroughly understand, and at the time just simply thought everything looked and smelled amazing). As strawberries were bursting in balsamic, and bananas and butter were caramelizing in brown sugar I caught eyes with a beautiful woman dressed in all white chef attire. She had blonde hair like me, but hers was long and healthy (someday mine would be again too) and she had a smile that lit up the room. She was the leader, conducting the syrup symphony and organic ingredient orchestra. It was admiration at first sight.

Michelle realized the significance of the situation right away and quickly introduced me, had I known that she would be my future boss someday is completely beyond me. Sarah’s warmth and generous spirit was contagious. I am sure she could tell  how taken aback I was by her profession. At the time, I believe she was all things pastry, and her miniature office and filled but organized desk were stacked tall with binders of hundreds, maybe thousands of recipes she had developed (or was in the process of developing). She showed me with pride the “cookie family tree” she had recently invented for Food Network Magazine, a publication I still get starry eyed buying. One thing led to another and we became friends on Facebook (a huge positive of the deceptively addicting and sometimes problematic social media site). To make another long but lovely story short, the rest of my day was absolutely above and beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I had a blast on the set of 5 Ingredient fix, and I still remember the exact taste of the white pizza that Clare Robinson carried off camera directly to my hand for the first taste.

Fast forward to April 2012. I am 21 years old and I am living in Coral Gables, FL and a creative writing major at the University of Miami. It is spring break and I have decided to do the complete opposite of all of my other friends. I book a solo trip to New York City. My plan is to eat great food and just get lost in the city that never sleeps. Before I fly up, I decide to shout out to Sarah Copeland via Facebook message. I ask if she would be able to meet (my hopes are very high, but I understand how busy she has been building her company, & her family). She responds yes! And so we meet. We sample white wine and talk about our lives, our relationships, and our love and passion for food. I hand her my resume on a whim, and a Levain chocolate chip walnut cookie for good measure. We wave goodbye, and I enjoy the rest of my spring break vacation, while also dreaming of working for such an accomplishment woman.

The next thing you know, I am back in south Florida reading an email that says,

“…Lily, you are so talented and I adore your energy, and I feel like there are so many wonderful opportunities to work together and to have you contribute valuable, meaningful (for me and you) ideas to Edible Living! For starters, I would love, love to have you a part of the testing team for my new book. Especially since you’re a sincere vegetarian and have such great taste!…”
To be continued, in part 2!

One thought on “it all started with a wish, part 1.

  1. Lily I just love your stories, descriptions of foods and most of all reading about your fabulous life!!

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