Caitlin Gunther was studying abroad in France during her second year of law school at Cornell when a visit to a restaurant changed her life. She loved the meal so much that she contacted the chef via e-mail and asked to intern at his kitchen.
He replied with an invitation to work and learn in his kitchen a day before Caitlin landed back in the states. With her flight home already booked, Caitlin coordinated a return trip for her spring break later in the school year. She put down her law books and spent two and a half weeks learning the art of French cooking. She was deep in her law degree, but she realized her true passion was cuisine.
After graduation Caitlin took a corporate law job, but couldn’t get over her abroad experience. After spending two years as a lawyer, she took a huge leap of faith and followed her dreams. She quit her job and took on a six-month cooking internship (or stage, as they are called there) in Basque country. Fascinated with the art of Spanish cooking, Caitlin embarked on an adventure that she hoped would become a way of life.
In a male-dominated industry in a foreign country, she rolled up her sleeves (literally) and immersed herself in a delicious world of romesco, paella, and croquettes. Six months turned into a year, and Caitlin spent time at two of Spain’s Michelin-starred restaurants (Mina and Nerua) as well as took classes at the Basque Culinary Institute.
I am particularly grateful that she returned to the states. In her sun-soaked Williamsburg loft overlooking McCarren Park, Caitlin made me this fantastic lunch and told me how pursuing her passion against all odds led her food blog. Her experience could provide millennials with similar dreams some valuable insight:
“Being abroad can allow you to see things in a vacuum — to pursue your passions and clarify your goals with laser focus — free from the influence of family, friends and the pressure of making it in a huge city,” Caitlin said.
“That said, working and saving for 18 months at a big firm in NY enabled me to afford to pay 300 euros a month for an apartment in Bilbao while working an unpaid internship. And I was able to do that and come back to the corporate world in New York while still pursuing creative projects.”
Since her return, Caitlin has shared dozens of recipes on her blog, contributed to a number of food publications and worked in some of New York’s best restaurants. Now she’s hoping to publish a book. Tenacity has truly helped her find balance in a city that can make that a particularly difficult thing to tackle.
“So I would say to anyone considering a leap to not fear that once you go in one direction you can never come back. With tenacity you can figure something out and find a balance,” Caitlin said.
If I learned anything from lunch with Caitlin (besides that I really like romesco sauce) it’s that being flexible and open-minded about how your dreams come to fruition is the most diplomatic approach to watching them manifest. Caitlin really put it best:
You never ‘arrive’ so enjoy the hustle. When you do have a big success, take a second to enjoy it and then focus on your next goal.
Need some recommendations in the city? Caitlin shared her top picks for delicious and authentic Spanish restaurants (because who would know better than she would?). She suggests dining at Boqueria, El Born, or Txikito for some authentic and delicious food.
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