My life is a story of going beyond superficial differences that often separates people and discovering the deep human connection we all share. It begins with a childhood as a military brat. Born in Germany and raised on military bases in the US, I learned early on how to move in and out of different communities.
After 10 years working in fashion merchandising in San Francisco, at the ripe old age of 30, I felt the itch for more adventure as well as more meaning, and joined the Peace Corps. It was a move that changed my life. While living in Benin, West Africa for 3 years, I found a new love – a love of living among locals, working in a different culture and language, and being exposed to different perspectives. This led to a second chapter of my life as an international development worker specializing in inclusive development and disability for over 20 years. During that time, I lived and worked in more than 15 countries, including Sierra Leone, Libya and most recently, Kabul, Afghanistan.
I found a new love – a love of living among locals, working in a different culture and language, and being exposed to different perspectives.
While living in Kabul…
I developed a love of two things: gardening and cooking. I planted a vegetable garden – including collard greens – behind the high walls and razor wire of my compound. Cooking for friends using produce from the garden turned into a monthly vegan pop–up, bringing together Afghans and expatriates from around the world. Eating in the homes of Afghans showed me that it didn’t matter that I was a black American woman and they were Afghan – we were simply human beings sharing a meal.
In a war zone, I had inadvertently created a gathering space for people from diverse backgrounds to enjoy a delicious meal, promote healing, and form friendships in the process.
I had found my mission: To use food as a way to bridge our differences and facilitate genuine human connection.
The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan as well as a desire to be closer to family led me to return to the United States in the fall of 2014. Following my newfound love of gardening and a growing interest in farming, I applied for, and was accepted to, the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz. I also received my certification as a Gourmet Raw Food Chef and Culinary Instructor at Living Light Culinary Institute in Ft. Bragg, California.
In April 2016, I moved to Charleston with a desire to reconnect to family and my southern roots. During an event at the Gaillard Center commemorating the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church, Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., issued a challenge to the Charleston community to fight hate by making meaningful efforts to really understand and love one another, despite all sort of would-be dividing factors – such as race, ethnicity, religion, national origin.
Inspired by her statements about our need to get intimate with each other, I launched Transformation Table in November 2016, at the home of Kendrick and Ashley Vaughns in West Ashley, Charleston.
Thus far, we’ve held dinners in homes in West Ashley, downtown Charleston, North Charleston, and Mt. Pleasant. Our chefs shared their own food stories by preparing Vietnamese, Afghan, Gullah, Moroccan, Persian and American Southern cuisine. Future dinners include Johns Island and Goose Creek. The cost to attend includes the unique experience, delicious food and (BONUS) nine new friends!
Away from the Table
In addition to Transformation Table, I work at Joseph Fields Farms on Johns Island and am a volunteer Culinary Instructor for Cooking Matters, a program that teaches healthy eating to low income communities.
My favorite pastime is kayaking around Charleston!
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