Monday, 28 October 2013

This is what a hero looks like: MJ bakes!

Five years ago, my best friend MJ left cooking.

She was good at it. In fact, she was great. She made her way up to Executive Chef status by her twenties, and all that without a formal education. But she was tired of working in male-dominated kitchens where sexual harassment and homophobia was the norm. She was tired of getting passed up for promotions, paid a sub-standard wage, and never getting a long enough leash to do her best creative work.

So she left, and took a somewhat less prestigious job--though ironically, better-paid--as a barrista. We supported her in this decision, because she was burnt out and didn't love cooking anymore. But we kept her in the kitchen at a positive way. We encouraged her endless baking of key lime pies, coconut macaroons, meringue eggs, and truffles.

Slowly, the love returned, and a desire to fulfill her passion was rekindled. So MJ enrolled in the bakery program at college. There, she has been kicking ass for the last three months.

Recently, MJ had a project to do: make an outgoing voicemail message for your future self, in five years' time. It was a Business Communications assignment, but it was also an assignment in self-affirmation. Because after years of being beaten down and made to feel less than awesome, MJ recorded this as her 'dream' outgoing message:

You have reached Mission: Bake It So, aboard the International Space Station. We are currently somewhere over Europe, travelling in excess of 17,000mph, and can't take your call right now, but we'd love for you to send us an email at _____, or you can learn more about us online at Bake It So: literally as close to heaven as you can get.

Me (left) and MJ (right).
I should probably have mentioned, MJ is an uber-nerd. For both the written and recorded 'future self' assingments, all of her science was verifiably accurate. This message is not a joke: if MJ had a genie, she would wish to be baking on the International Space Station doing science and food wizardry.

MJ is my hero. She makes me believe that you can be true to yourself and succeed in your goals. Make your own music, sing your own song, and soon the whole world will be singing along.

Tuition is tight and there's a long road ahead of MJ before she reaches her goal of universal baking domination. But we, her family and chosen family, stand behind her. In a way, a win for MJ is a win for all of us.

(And of course, I can't help but put it out there that if you, too, want to support MJ, you can like her Bake It So facebook page in preparation for when it really gets going, and if I knew how to set up a scholarship fund for her, I'd do that too. I don't, but on the off-chance there's a rich and powerful benefactor out there looking for a place for their money to go, they can email me.)

MJ is my hero in many ways, not just baking and goal-setting. She is the only person who knows exactly who I am, exactly how I think, and exactly what I want when I'm having a meltdown. She is an unwavering friend to all her loved ones, and a daily good Samaritan. These things all make her great. But her ability to say, "I'm a grrl, and a world-class baker, and these things can co-exist!" makes her my hero today. Her straight-A grades don't hurt, either.

Comment below to say congrats! 


  1. Go MJ!!!
    ahhh.... Aren't those space dudes eating stuff out of tubes?
    Don't go, MJ. The world needs you and your culinary talent!
    Wow. : )

  2. Go nerd girl! Go nerd girl! GO! :)

  3. This girl is an awesome Lemon/Key Lime Pie Goddess and must be bowed to should you be fortunate enough to be in her presence. Any bakery that is fortunate enough to have Michele in their employee will be truly blessed. (Is that enough to get a lemon pie?) You rock girl!

  4. You are all so amazing and supportive, my mind is blown... thank you!!!! Bill, you've definitely earned a pie :) Jordan, you get bakes for life :)

  5. Wow! Loved reading this :)


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