Chef Fred Eliot: A Homecoming to French Cuisine

I sat down with Fred Eliot, Head Chef at the James Beard-nominated restaurant, Petite Jacqueline in Portland, Maine. In the interview, Fred opens up about balancing his dream of going to culinary school at French Culinary Institute in the evenings while working days in tech and then later honing his chops at such world-renowned institutions as Le Cirque, The Oak Room, and Prune.

Fred recounts what Sunday dinners were like growing up in Normandy, France, and lists his industry influences and inspirations. He also shares his secrets for bliss and his favorite dishes and dining spots (hint: he has a soft spot for American Chinese cuisine). 

Listen to the unscripted interview in full, below.

A Rebel's Guide to Astrology: In Conversation with Astrologist + Crystal Healer Heather Nichols

Ritual and magic creates the most transformation. The way I see it is we recognize all these things except for our spirit. We deal with things on a psychological level, we deal with things on a mental level, but then there’s this whole other level that’s kind of getting lost. And in order to honor that level you want to bring in a ceremony – nature, just something fun.

Read More

It's Okay to Not Be Happy All The Time

We live in a culture that attributes happiness to be the pinnacle of emotions that we must always be striving toward. So much so that when our circumstances prevent us from feeling happy, we feel as if we’ve failed at life. It’s as if we can’t measure up to these ideal feelings and that it is nobody’s fault but our own.

True happiness doesn’t operate like that. Rather, the most authentic happiness is best felt when complemented with a wide range of other emotions: sadness, anger, boredom, love, excitement. The most satisfying state of happiness is like the dessert at the end of a meal or a hot shower after coming in from the cold. Conversely, while being sad is an uncomfortable state, it's a genuine and necessary emotion. Sidestepping and choosing to ignore these melancholy feelings (or anger, boredom, or any negative emotion) can cause it to build inside and then explode unexpectedly. 

For me, the aftermath of ending a significant relationship resulted in a long spell of sadness. There were moments when I’d burst into tears unexpectedly in the car, in my office, or at a restaurant with a friend. Although it was painful to feel this way, a part of me relished it, too, because I knew I was allowing the emotion to flow through my body. 

Being the one to end the relationship, there were moments that I questioned the grief. No matter the catalyst, ending a relationship of any kind after many years is akin to death, which no Band-Aid or happy pill can quickly ameliorate. 

Meanwhile, other aspects of my life were amazing - I had moved to a new city, I went on some trips to some incredible places, I was making new friends, and I was writing and publishing on top of looking for a new job. I was becoming who I was supposed to be. And all the meanwhile, a cloud of sadness loomed over me. And you know what? I allowed the sun to shine and the rain to fall simultaneously. When I felt like crying, I did. When I felt like laughing I did that too. On days that I felt like going to work sans makeup, I did. And if all I wanted was cereal for dinner, I let myself. 

Slowly, the tears began to dry up, the fatigue was replaced by bursts of energy, and my sugar cravings dissipated. Now, happiness feels different than it ever felt before. It feels earned, and simultaneously authentic, vivid, and prismatic. More importantly, having experienced that intense sadness, I’ve realized how the depth of emotion can be both an agent for self-betterment and a catalyst for developing enhanced compassion for others. 

It is okay to not be happy all the time; in fact, it’s normal not to be happy all the time.

More importantly, experiencing the depths and range of all of our emotions makes us more creative and innovative. It ultimately makes us better workers, lovers, and citizens of the world. 

As Khalil Gibran said, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” So, just remember: it’s okay to have cloudy days – the sun will shine again.

[A version of this article appeared on Career Contessa.]

Dealing with the Playground Mentality at Work


Much like the days of our youth, every workplace has its own playground. It includes opportunities for making friends, advancing your career, and at times, the usual playground gossip and cliques. Because of this, the workplace—much like the first time you step foot on the playground in grade school—can seem an intimidating maze, especially if you don't know how to navigate it properly.

Who knew that our childhood playground would serve as a microcosm for our future workplace? While workplace play varies based on the company culture, size, and the people contained within it, developing a basic set of tools to help you navigate will give you the dexterity and, ultimately, the stamina you need to climb to the top of the proverbial jungle gym. 

Having worked at three different companies since graduating from college, I have learned that the playground landscapes vary drastically based on the size and the specialty of the company, and perhaps most fundamentally the players within it. So, perhaps the most important tool to develop is an understanding of your company culture first and foremost.

My first job out of college was at a boutique law firm, which, at any given time, had at most eight people working there. At 21, I was the youngest employee by no fewer than 20 years. And, because the two partners comprised a quarter of the firm with no one my equal until one of the partners hired his son-in-law, navigating the playground meant forming a close bond with the longstanding office manager and maintaining more formal relationships with my other coworkers, who were largely superiors.

After graduate school, I began working at a mid-size consulting firm, where socializing was strained and awkward, likely because of the high utilization rate required of the firm's associates. Here, everyone had their own office and there were very few areas to congregate and partake in water-cooler chitchat. What little socializing that happened was often one-on-one conversation in associates' offices, sometimes resulting in negative gossiping that could be overheard from connecting offices.

Often, I overheard tidbits—sometimes positive, sometimes negative—about my coworkers, about the company, and on occasion, about me. Being privy to such conversation was entertaining, and at the same time, anxiety-inducing. I quickly learned who I could develop bonds with and who I couldn't. At the same time, I knew that being friendly and appropriately bubbly to everyone—particularly in a work environment that wasn't particularly social or warm, played an important role in improving the company's social landscape.

By the time I began working at my current company I was amazed, almost baffled, at how sociable everyone was. People actually said hello when you passed them in the hallway; they stopped by to say good morning and ask about your weekend; they invited you to get coffee. In my current position, making friends is easy and simultaneously expected. For example, even if sometimes my preference is to take a walk alone during my lunch break, I know that inviting my coworker to join me is important to consistently contribute to the kindly company culture that's been manifested. 

Are you learning how to navigate your own workplace playground? Here are three primary skills to help you start:


Who are the primary players and who are the bystanders? What sorts of games are played on the playground? Pay attention, take notes, and comport yourself according to the company culture. This will vary based on the social landscape as well as the company's size.


Cliques don't dissolve after high school, and they are not necessarily a bad thing. {Click to tweet} They are everywhere, because most people are comfortable socializing in smaller groups. Find and associate yourself with groups that you identify with. If you're true to you, you'll find friends and groups who suit your social and career needs.


While it varies from office to office, some amount of gossip is a natural part of the corporate fabric. In cases of negative gossip, know that people are eventually seen for who they are—it's not your responsibility to call them out for it. The most effective way to navigate office gossip is to take the high road by engaging in conversation in a genuinely positive manner, while cautiously side-stepping irrelevant negative chitchat. Also, beware of associating with the office’s Negative Nancys.  

Developing these skills will allow you to properly navigate the office “playground” while also granting you the all-access pass to enjoy all that it has to offer—while minimizing risk for bumps and bruises.  

Originally published on Career Contessa.

The Roadmap to Switching Careers


There was a time when people were offered a job and stayed with the company, from the time they entered the workforce to the time they retired. While this has since changed, there still exists a tendency to stay in the same or similar industry for the span of one’s working life, either (a) because one finds the right industry fit from the get-go (lucky them!), or (b) because of the overwhelming anticipated obstacles from changing fields.

But life is an ocean of opportunity and should not be lived merely treading its vast waters. To remain in a career or field that is unsatisfying is akin to staying in the wrong relationship just because you don’t want to go to bed alone at night.

When I got my MA in English during the height of the recession, I was fortunate to get a job offer from an environmental consulting firm, which I accepted. Working in the capacity of a project coordinator enabled me to put my writing and research skills to good use, in addition to scoring my own office, business cards, and a phone extension. So what if my writing consisted of analyzing oxygen levels and describing powerhouses? I was still writing, right?

I maintained a sense of gratitude for my job until a breakup and move to a new city made me face the fact that I was bored writing and analyzing O2 levels and dam dimensions. I was grateful that I was putting my writing and research skills to work, but I also had a burning desire to do something more creative, more people-oriented, more right-brained.

Whether by freelance writing and blogging, attending webinars in marketing, enrolling in a nutrition program, or embarking on a new venture working with individuals as a life and wellness coach, I have always kept busy moonlighting. I’ve done this because it’s critical for me to be self-actualized and growing every day, if not at my day job, then in my side pursuits.

My transformative life changes pushed me to explore career opportunities that fed me in the same manner that my hobbies and side jobs did. And it was these efforts that helped me land my dream job.

But switching careers after five years of working in a niche industry is not so simple, and it took me some time to develop a road map to success.

Here is what I have learned along the way:

Don’t be intimidated by a job posting in a field or industry different than your own; focus on your passion or excitement instead. 

Focus on whether you have a genuine interest in the position, which will shine through when you apply for the job. I have had an interest in marketing for several years, so I sought marketing-oriented positions that contained an element of writing and creativity and went after those.

Likewise, when you see a job posting that appeals to you, study the description and reflect on how your skills might match up with the qualifications. 

This is an important exercise because it will help you determine when the job is even worth applying for. It will also serve as a firm foundation for developing a new resume.

Prepare a solid base resume knowing that you should tweak it accordingly for every job you apply for. 

Essentially, be prepared to develop a new resume for each job application you send, even if is just slightly modified from your base resume. Scrutinize your resume for typos and formatting glitches and have a friend peer-review it for you.

A good cover letter is king. 

When you feel passionately about the position you’re applying for, the cover letter is your opportunity to convey that. The resume serves the purpose of outlining your qualifications, but the cover letter is your time to craft your story, to convince a hiring manager that you’re interesting, engaging, and worthy of being shortlisted for an interview.

You never know who you’re going to meet, so be open, be friendly, and be candid about your interest in pursuing new employment opportunities. 

Opportunities are everywhere. I met someone on a red-eye flight recently who told me about an upcoming position at his company, encouraging me to apply. While I wound up accepting an offer from a different company, I still applied and interviewed with the company. If I hadn’t been open to networking on that late-night flight, I may not have otherwise learned about that opportunity.

The stuff you do outside of work is just as important as the stuff you do at work. 

It not only demonstrates that you’re interesting and unique, but that you also have a kind of drive that isn’t just limited to your day job. In addition, your hobbies and side jobs may very well demonstrate that you have useful skills beyond just what you do at your existing company. {Click to tweet}

Life changes—even and especially the negative ones—can catapult you forward in ways you may not expect. 

Use them to your advantage. Sure, they can throw us for a tailspin in the beginning as we acclimate to our new life, but in time these changes present you with various opportunities for bettering yourself. They also push you out of your safety zone, and that is a good thing!

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try (and try!) again. 

It takes time to find the right fit—both for the companies and for you. Know that for every job posting you read and for every position you apply for, you’re getting closer to your goal of doing work that you love—this is important momentum. It will happen when the time is right; trust in that and keep pushing forward.

* * *

Changing your career or gaining entry into a new field is no easy feat, but it has and can be done—my own success is proof of that.

Be patient, take your time, and be committed to landing the job of your dreams by following these key steps.  

This article originally appeared on Career Contessa.