From the Editor; Ah, to be on Road to Dream Fulfillment
I met Ariana Feygin because my downstairs neighbor needed my oven. Alexis Walsko (founder of Lola Red PR) had placed the winning bid on Adriana’s charity auction item of a home-cooked dinner for six, and an hour before guests were due to arrive, Alexis’s oven refused to heat up.
When Alexis brought Ariana upstairs to introduce her, I thought perhaps she was the daughter of Alexis’s chef, but as it turned out, the middle schooler was the personal chef.
Ariana ran between the two kitchens and three floors, and when I arrived home a couple of hours later, she had cleaned the kitchen and left behind a plate of steak, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and a thank you note. I knew at the time that Ariana was special. I’d say I wish I had had her poise and drive at 13, but the truth is I wish I had it at my current undisclosed age.
Ariana is fresh off her performance on "MasterChef Junior," which is currently airing on Fox TV Friday evenings. Ariana wouldn’t divulge where she placed in the competition—at 13 she already understands binding contracts and nondisclosure agreements—but she loved the experience enough to form her own company, Ariana’s Kitchen. You can get the beginning of her story in this issue, but for the ending, we all have to wait about nine more weeks. But in the meantime, tune in and cheer her on.
The story on Alejandro "Alex" Cortez also started with a personal introduction. Nancy Hope, the talented designer who did the creative for the Charlies, had run into Alex and was so impressed with his excitement at opening his own restaurant after years of working for a chain, that she passed his contact information on to me.
When I talked to Alex, it was right after President Trump made the disparaging comment about certain countries that had everyone outraged. Because Alex was born in Mexico and came here illegally (he is now legal), I was curious for his take on the brouhaha—I love that word because even though it has "haha" in the spelling, it's often used to describe things that aren't funny.
Alex's response was thoughtful and not the least bit reactionary. If anything he was sad to have had to hear the reference.
At just 27, he seems to have it all together. Not that 27 is young. It's not like he formed his own company at 13—he waited until he was 15 to earn money and his was to support his infant daughter—but he has a type of wisdom that comes from a life of struggles. His father taught him that action comes with consequences. Alex and his girlfriend married and he refers to her as his best friend.
So here we have two immigrant stories, Ariana's parents were political refugees, just as Alex's were economic refugees.
When I used to go on trade missions with our sister publication, Franchise Times, I was always struck with how lucky those of us born in the U.S. are for that accident of birth. Sometimes we forget that. It takes hearing the stories of people who sacrificed to come here for us to remember that this country is filled with remarkable people with remarkable stories. We just can't rest on our laurels.
So long, Charlies,
The final event of the Charlies trifecta, the VIP dinner, was put to rest last month (a few days before this deadline), and I'm worried I've forgotten to thank someone.
It took an amazing amount of heart, man (and woman) power and organizing to pull it off. I think the main players have been lauded, at least I hope so, but I wanted to mention two behind-the-scenes people who did an amazing amount of organizing while also planning two other events for our sister publications, Franchise Times and Food On Demand — Gayle Strawn and Abbi Nawrocki. Thank you!
We only gave the winners one minute to make their thank yous from stage, but I now see their dilemma. Once you remember one person it reminds you of another, which reminds you of another, which reminds you that you forgot to thank your mother and father. And what about your spouse and children? (Thanks, Mom and Dad)
So suffice it to say, that it takes a village, and I'd be an idiot if I thought I could name everyone who stepped up to help make the celebration of the Twin Cities food and beverage community two nights to remember.
And to prove I'm not an idiot, I'd like to thank all the sponsors one more time.