I have always preferred sundresses to shorts in hot weather. The first fly-fishing lodge I worked in was off the grid. It had a half a dozen huge solar powered batteries with a back-up propane generator. The summer of 2009 was unseasonably hot for Northwestern Montana hovering around one hundred degrees for several weeks straight. The lodge had a small kitchen and no air conditioning. I started wearing my sundresses to cook, serve and help with shuttles.
Each evening at the exclusive lodge where I worked for the 2010 fishing season, I would personally serve appetizers and mingle with guests prior to dinner. I loved socializing with clients. A number of clients had been once or twice yearly guests for ten to as many as twenty years. Quite a few of the guests were extremely wealthy and may not have given me the time of day out in the real world, yet here in this setting, fly-fishers from all walks of life, toss away any difference in status or ostentatious attitude, for the solidarity of purpose found in fishing for Montana’s trophy trout and a well-earned escape from their all too real world of work.
It was my job to wow guests with my culinary talents. This I did more for the pleasure of pleasing than for the money. Most of the clients spent more for their once or twice yearly fly-fishing vacations than I made in the entire five month season. At this time in my life, I find doing what I love to do for a living, rather than working just to make a living, to be “really living”! The added perk that helped me make it through the sixteen hour days without a break, for weeks at a time, was the occasional gratis day of drift boat fishing and fly-casting lessons. What lodge clients paid top dollar for, I would get to do for free. A luxury, I would otherwise have never been able to afford. Also, unlike owning a restaurant, there was an end in sight to the long days. A “light at the end of the tunnel” which was “October”. Typically leaving a good, solid month of spectacular Montana Indian Summer fishing to look forward to
I was the first woman chef, to work at this well-renowned lodge in the twenty-six years it had been in business. I was an admired anomaly by clients that had more to do with my creativity and style, and very little to do with my being a woman in a luxury lodge predominated by men. I think however, more than anything else that won hearts and made friends, was that unlike many chefs working in up-scale lodges, I am a down to earth, non egotistical, small town Montana gal at heart, who likes to be silly, loves what she does, can talk fly-fishing, and truly likes people.
As a finale to the four course dinner, I would always serve the first dessert plate and answer questions about each evening’s meal. I had an order of appearance for my entrees and desserts. Like the movie “Jaws” I built up a crescendo of culinary anticipation with each meal being more elaborate or unique than the prior had been. Usually by day three or four anticipation for the next evening’s round of gastronomical indulgences, would make the topic of conversation on the river be more about food than fishing, and it would be time to exchange my chef coat for a dress. I would have my long blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail, along with bright pink lip gloss and eye makeup on, that I refer to as my “street camo”.
At six feet tall, blending in has always been out of the question. I decided years ago, perhaps God made me to stand out in a crowd for a reason, and it was time to outgrow my insecurities, and work on trying to figure out why. I can only attribute the opportunity I had to work in this fun yet demanding business, that virtually fell in my lap, to be a hard-earned blessing, enabling me to realize my true calling in life.