Perseverance: Striving For Work-Life Balance

My story begins with a very humbled and “normal” background. I am all that you may have seen in media and on the screen.
October 19, 2022

I am also so much more as a daughter, sister, mother, nana, girlfriend, and a few other labels that are used to define me. Getting here to this station in my life is a journey that I really wouldn’t change. Oh, the experiences and the knowledge earned from those bumps and stumbles along the way!

I am the third of four children born to my parents in the western suburbs of Chicago. Both parents were very good cooks. We had a garden in our backyard, and we would go pick our own fruits and vegetables on weekends. Yeah, I hated it! I’d much rather have been riding bikes with friends, but once we got there it was fun. We’d travel to Southern Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. We were “foraging “ before it was cool. Then once we got home we were pickling, parboiling, canning and freezing so that we would have fresh food year-round!

I was a home economics major in high school because the phrase “culinary arts” was never introduced to me until I was graduated and pursuing a career in it. Of course there are great restaurants and culinary schools in Chicago, I just never imagined that as a career opportunity — neither did any of my teachers and counselors.

I grew up surrounded by strong women who modeled great work ethic. My mom graduated college at 50 years of age. She would take at least one class each year while raising her four kids and working full time. Our minister and assistant ministers were all female. Dad worked two jobs until at the age of 44 when he died of a massive heart attack.

So yes, with these examples in my life I am a firm believer in work-life balance!

I’ve received tremendous support and inspiration from my family throughout my life and career. My bunk-bed mate and sister is a United States Navy Retired Commander. My baby brother has been holding down the Front of House forever! My son, Brock, and daughter, Bianca, also share my entrepreneurial spirit and love of food. Brock was four months old when I took him to his first American Culinary Federation conference! I wasn’t leaving my baby, but as the chapter President, I knew I needed to attend. I started noticing more babies at conferences and conventions after that year.

Sometimes it’s not our bloodlines, but our ride-or-die buddies that help keep us motivated and moving forward. Who is your tribe? Who are your allies? What does your village of support look like?

It seems like women just give and do so much. In order to give you have to receive! What are you doing to fill the well of your soul, your spirit?

Maybe the unconditional love from your 4-legged babies is what keeps you stable and sane. I know watching my 18-month old Grand Joy, Genevieve Rose, keeps me centered on what matters and how to be the best I can be.

JUST LIKE ANY OTHER VESSEL, YOU HAVE TO PUT SOMETHING IN IT TO ENSURE YOU CAN POUR FROM IT!

Put the mask on yourself before assisting others. A friend recommended I read four books a day, ten minutes each. I’m a little hardheaded and I read maybe two until done. But the point is to keep learning and growing. Keep feeding yourself good and positive motivational ideas and thoughts. My car is sometimes my library. I must listen to positive things and people for my own sanity. I am an admitted news junkie! I also know that feeding my subconscious positive vibes is a healthy practice that will garner positive results. 

Thoughts are things. I wrote the book, “Here I Am,” because I was always asked the question, ‘Where are all the female and minority chefs?.’ I knew a few, but not many. I really wanted to meet others like me and gain the support and friendship I so needed. Social media has helped with this, but nothing beats those in-person interactions! I was honored to be a part of the book, “Real Women, Real Leaders.” It tells the stories of 17 successful women of all backgrounds and ages and gives some very interesting stats on women in leadership.

I’ll never forget one study that said if there was a job posting with ten qualifications and a guy had six and the woman had eight she would pass it up because she only had eight! The guy would go for it and figure it out afterwards.

I have a history of being the first. Something I wasn’t trying to be, it just was. When you’re sick and tired of not being represented or heard, do something. When you feel like you have no say in the direction of your career or the association you belong to and believe in, say something. Stand up and lean in! Grab a seat at the table. Be the change you want to see! Don’t leave your happiness and future in someone else’s hands. And when you have the opportunity to step forward to make a difference, bring someone, or two, with you. Open the doors and continue to shatter those ceilings!

If it is to be, it is up to me. I was taught this affirmation as a child in Sunday school. I firmly believe it. I do so receive it. I’m honored to have been named:

• The first African American woman graduated from my ACF Apprenticeship, El Centro College, Dallas Texas. 

• The first African American woman inducted into the Honor Society of the ACF, the American Academy of Chefs. 

• The first and only African American CEPC in South Carolina.

• The first African American woman voted onto the Board of Directors as the Southeast Vice President.

• The first African American, first woman and first Certified Executive Pastry Chef voted as The National President of the American Culinary Federation going into its 94th year.

Learn what qualifications you need to get to the next level, the next opportunity. Know the path to make it happen. Stay the course and set yourself up for success! The race is given to those who endure to the end. Fellas, we need your help, we need your allyship. Ladies, Let’s Go Be Great Together!

Kimberly Brock Brown, CEPC, CCA, ACE, AAC

Executive Chef
Culinary Concepts, LLC
Summerville, SC
President
American Culinary Federation


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