I believe you can learn something from every person you meet, whether they are a CEO of an international corporation or a college freshman trying to find their way. There are many fascinating people on the Thought of the Day distribution list, and Liz’s THD Reader Feature is a way to share that wisdom.
1. How did you get on the Thought of the Day distribution list?
I was forwarded a few THDs by my fellow lifelong Mt. Lookout resident, Michele Hanlon. I grew up with the Keating family, enjoying a long friendship with a few of the kids, in particular, Susie Keating Lame. I really wish I would have known her brother, Bill, better. Now, through THD, I know how much I missed.
2. What is your favorite Thought of the Day and why?
I wish I could point out just one. I cannot count how many times I read the email and said “thank you Bill – or Liz! – just what I needed today to get my day started on the right foot!” I wrote this one down early in the La Soupe journey:
“Think of what you want to do and then just do it. It’s your life! Live it with a sense of urgency.” – Lanre Dahunsi
It recently was posted on THD and I thought, “WOW!” The quote was on my nightstand for quite a long time.
3. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
4. What is your life’s purpose?
I am beyond blessed to have found my purpose. For years I was fortunate to have found my passion – creating beautiful meals with the bounty with which we have access. When that passion started to wane, I needed to give a lot of thought on how to rekindle my passion. I am beyond grateful that my PURPOSE became apparent BECAUSE of my PASSION. I just needed to switch my clientele. I began to cook for those who simply needed a good nutritious meal. Well, the stars aligned.
5. (Besides marriage/having kids/etc.) What are you most proud of in your life?
I am most proud of remaining a relevant voice in the very competitive restaurant world for over 30 years. As Chef and co-owner of La Petite Pierre for 25 years, I had the honor and privilege of cooking for many prominent Cincinnatians. We also cooked for Presidents on both side of the aisle, Bruce Springsteen, Julia Child, and many other national celebrities. I now have the honor of cooking for those who simply need a good, home-cooked meal. Our Community Kitchen Program provides meals for the food insecure AND gives business to my friends in the industry, both of whom are struggling in these challenging times.
6. How do you define success?
I define success by being able to say, “I found my purpose.” Not everybody will be given this opportunity, and I am grateful every day that I was able to find mine.
7. What do you believe in?
I believe there is a time and a season for everything. If I would have attempted to launch La Soupe 15 years ago, it most likely would have failed. We now have the technology (an app we use, Food Rescue US), the national awareness of food waste and hunger, and the Cincinnati community who remains faithful in helping us with our mission.
8. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
That is rather hard to answer. It is not like I dreamed of becoming a chef. I come from a long line of chefs in the family. Unfortunately, my father (the 5-Star Maisonette Chef, Pierre Adrian) died when I was just 13 years old. In many ways, subconsciously, I wanted to make my Dad and my Papa Schmidt (my Mom’s Dad and chef of the Union Club NYC) proud of me from above. I have often said “I have the genetic disorder” to become a chef. I say that because the life of a working chef is a very hard, hard life. A life of heavy lifting, standing over a hot stove, loading in and loading out, giving up a normal social life with friends, and the stress of making every meal as close to perfect as you can – every single time, every single day, every single event. The margin of error is very unforgiving. It is not a life that I believe I chose, it is a life that was chosen by my genes
9. What is the one thing you need to do every day to get ready to take on the day?
I meditate every morning. I do my best to exercise everyday. I am a Peloton Cycling addict and try to get a ride in every day! And my morning coffee routine has become almost a ritual.
10. What are you currently doing to positively impact your community and why?
I started La Soupe in 2014 to make a difference for not only the food insecure in our community, but also to make use of the vast amount of perfectly good perishables that head to the landfill. When you can use your 30 years of professional experience to make someone’s life better, it is simply the best feeling! Food waste had just started to become a national topic of discussion. When I learned that Cincinnati was second to Detroit in kids living with food insecurity, I found my calling.
11. What was the most important decision you made to get to where you are today?
The most difficult decision I ever made was to leave a company I started over 28 years earlier. How do I end my life as Chef and Owner of La Petite Pierre, but still allow the team to continue in their jobs? Every decision I was making had a direct impact on others’ lives. But, through the work of a great therapist, I realized I had the right to chase a dream, I had the right to choose a new path, and nobody but me would be able to make the change in my life I knew I needed. I was in a state of total work burnout and knew that physically I would not be able to continue much longer. The life of a working chef is physically and mentally exhausting. I needed to forge a new path
12. What small decision in your life had much larger consequences?
The smallest decision I ever made was to enter the Grand Marnier Chefs Regional Ski Competition in Boyne, Michigan in the late 80s. I was a very novice skier but they had the “Best Dressed Chef” category – which I won with my blinking lights and Grand Marnier plastered everywhere! The winner was flown to the National Finals, in Taos, New Mexico.
On the bus from Albuquerque to Taos, an older gentleman sat down next to me. He looked at my name tag and said, “Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, you must be Pierre Adrian’s daughter!” This man was Pierre Franey, an accomplished Chef and Food Editor of The New York Times. That bus ride to the ski resort put me on a trajectory that changed my life. Pierre and I talked about many things, but mostly about this – If I was serious about becoming a chef, I should use my French heritage to work in France. He offered to help me when I was ready in my life.
I soon called Pierre at The New York Times and told him I received my French passport and was ready to study in France. He put me on hold, and after a few minutes he said, “you may report to work at L’Auberge d’Ill in October. This was a Michelin 3 star restaurant in my dad’s province of Alsace, France. That was the start of 10 months in France and London – working, learning, and developing my palette. My career is because of that chance encounter – or was it chance?
13. If you could change one thing in your personal or professional past, what would it be?
I do not believe I would change anything in my life. I have always said I try to learn and takeaway a positive in even the most difficult situations.
Personally, I did not marry until later in life (36). My first serious boyfriend – and first love – was an avid road cyclist. Although my heart was broken, I am grateful to the introduction to cycling, which I still enjoy. Another longterm relationship put me on skis for the first time. This was a sport I enjoyed for many years thereafter.
Professionally, I left my first chef gig at the National Exemplar to take a position for a new concept. I owe everything to Ken Pendery and his belief in me, and for 4 years it was an awesome environment and l learned so much. But, the man who lured me away with the hope of the “perfect job” was a con man. The restaurant never opened and I had to file a lawsuit to get my money. I used that money to go to France for the following 10 months to learn and work.The best decision I was able to make ONLY because of the WORST decision I ever made.
14. How do you find fulfillment and balance in your life?
I have learned so much in the past six years. My role as the working chef and owner is no longer. I spend most days on the computer, on phone calls, in meetings, etc. and not behind the stove. So, my family Sunday Supper can be extra special. I really enjoy going to a Farmers Market or Findley Market to shop and create. I have really been into making different types of homemade pasta dishes. Since I am no longer cycling outside (awaiting a new hip), I have started the new hobby of foraging. Just being outside for extended time is something I have always loved. So, I am discovering the amazing trails and parks around our city, with my eyes peeled to the ground in hopes of bringing home supper!
15. When was the last time you took a leap of faith?
Undoubtedly, the start of La Soupe was the largest leap of faith I have ever made. I was being CALLED to start La Soupe. It was a whisper in my heart, but as I allowed myself the time to listen, it became louder and louder. And then, it became a SHOUT! Following this calling would mean losing the financial stability I had created, the loss of health insurance, and the possible loss of family and friends. It certainly was not the easy route and full of uncertainties. My boys were just starting college and as my oldest pointed out, “isn’t this the most expensive time in our lives? Is this the best timing?” HA! All I could say to him is I trust that this is a calling and I am listening.
16. What do you want your legacy to be?
Undoubtedly, I hope my legacy will be La Soupe. We have worked hard on creating a different system of food distribution and I believe the pandemic has shown our timing could not have been better. The old systems were no longer enough to meet the growing need. We needed a serious overhaul in the restaurant business, as well as in how we deal with food insecurity, food access, and food distribution. We provide fresh nutritious food, prepared by the best chefs in our city, utilizing the ridiculous excesses in the supply chain. This system is a solution in 3 ways: we are keeping perishables from the landfill, we are helping to stabilize the income of faltering restaurants, and we are getting good, nutritious food to those who need it most.
Suzy DeYoung rides in a parade with the Keatings.
Back seat from left: Susie Keating Lame, Congressman Bill Keating, Sr., Suzy DeYoung, and Tom Keating.
Front seat from left: Dan Keating and Mike Keating
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