There is so much interest these days in cooking and dining. Chefs have become celebrities with cable TV shows and product lines; they host cruises and festivals; they live that celebrity life.
Thousands of women and men who make the food that we eat every day, however, spend their days and nights in a stainless steel landscape.
I have been a chef for over 30 years, working for large restaurant companies and in soup kitchens. My passion has always been to feed people. For the past 11 years, I have been the chef instructor in the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's hospitality and tourism management program offered at the Universities at Shady Grove, in Rockville, Md.
Feeding people translates easily to a visual artist, feeding the same senses with the beauty I see in a kitchen and in offering meals. I have exhibited my artwork for over 10 years nationally and internationally. Working in academia and working as an artist support one another. Being organized and structured is key to success as a chef and a teacher. Being a chef is creative fodder for my work developed in the studio. Both need a structured and organized individual.
This summer, I fulfilled a dream as a visual artist - a solo show of 22 works was exhibited for two months at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, Ore. My husband and I vacation on the Washington and Oregon coast every summer, and I have made it a point to get to know the Latimer center.
The textiles I created were inspired by photographs taken in my kitchen and in my son's restaurant, which were manipulated into black and white screen prints, hand painted and completed with a quilting stitch.
To come up with this exhibit, I asked myself a simple question: Who am I?
My feet throb and knees ache. There is a shooting pain that radiates from my lower back. My neck aches from bending over to make the 500th, perfectly styled meal to be delivered to its guest.
My fingers are nicked from the strip of steel that releases the plastic wrap. My arms are speckled with burns from lifting hot pans out of the oven.
I am a universally the same person, yet you do not see me. I am behind the line putting plates in the window. I am NO CELEBRITY.
I am all ages, I work in fine dining establishments and casual bistros; I own food trucks and or work in hotels. I feed children and your grandparents. I work nights, weekends and holidays.
I love to feed people; I love the crew I work with. I love seeing the smiles of hungry children and empty plates from satisfied customers.
My workplace has never been a fancy office, but is a stainless steel cage with flames and steam. I am one of thousands of cooks and chefs who prepare your food, I prepare millions of meals every day. I am NO CELEBRITY.
This collection honors the lives and careers of all the chefs who are not celebrities with the beauty of their tools and their craft.
Susan Callahan is working on a book highlighting her art work along with telling the story of fellow chefs.