216. Journalist-Chef’s Experiences Lead to Stories She Is Meant to Write
Phyllis Gillis is the founder and CEO of FoodPaths®, Inc., serial storytelling connecting farmers with families at the crossroads of food. An award-winning writer and photojournalist, Phyllis brings behind-the-scenes authenticity to the stories of people who grow our food, and what we eat. Her diverse and successful career spans the worlds of journalism, business, and the culinary arts. She is formerly a contributing editor of Parents Magazine, and the author of three books.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
From early in her childhood, Phyllis was clear about her abilities. “There are two things I can do and do well. One of them is that I can write. The other thing is that I can cook. I learned how to cook from my grandmother, hanging around in her kitchen. My first article was published when I was ten years old. I wrote a story about my brother that my mother sent to the Cleveland Press, which had a children’s section. Much to my shock and awe, they published it. So that was my very first article.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
Phyllis was well into her career handling communications for a major law firm. After a brief check-in phone call with her mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, she realized how completely bored with her work she had become. “I walked to work, got into the elevator and went up to my office on the 31st floor, and I couldn’t get off. I absolutely couldn’t get off. I pushed the button to go back to the ground floor, got off the elevator, went home, called in sick and three days later I resigned and enrolled in culinary school.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
Always have a backup plan. You may be going for the higher end job, but things happen. Recessions, political party changes, and so forth. “I think having a a backup plan is always a good thing to keep in your back pocket. I always knew that I could get a job in a kitchen, and I have done when needed. You learn from each of those experiences.”
Steps to Success from Phyllis Gillis
1. Never burn a bridge. At some point things turn around. You never know what those turns will be.
2. Diversify. Don’t put all your psychic energy into just one skill.
3. Take something you love and see if it might be a way of making a living.
4. Always have a backup plan.
On Her Bookshelf
Phyllis Gillis’ third book, Days Like This, about a young mother working the night shift in a restaurant kitchen while spending her days in court fighting for custody of her child, is based on the author’s own life. This book made the New York Times “Best Books of the Year.”
Connecting With Phyllis Gillis
Twitter: @FoodPaths; @phyllisgillis
Facebook: FoodPaths; Phyllis Gillis
LinkedIn: Phyllis Gillis
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