Boss Lady

Boss Lady


Judy Kolk 5 

As a chef, your “street cred” is very important.  If you don’t tweet about being at the hottest spots on your day off or know the name of the guy who sells those amazing weird mushrooms at the farmer’s market, or have one of those beastly expensive but uber trendy canvas aprons you are not cool.  End of story.  I think the story of my dramatic entrance in to this world gives me enough chef street cred to keep me cool until I’m at least 38 3/4.  I was born during thanksgiving dinner.  No joke.  My sweet mother and the subject of this post was cooking thanksgiving dinner for her friends when I started to give off the vibe I was ready to meet the world.  You have to understand that my mother is one tough cookie, so she stayed at home until transition {if you don’t know what that is ask someone don’t google it} , and then told my dad it was time to fly and left her guests at her house to eat the turkey.  Naturally my dad like a good husband drove to the wrong hospital.  So by the time the arrived I was damn near escaping.  As told by my mother on the elevator ride to the maternity wing she was panting with the “hold that baby in until we reach the right floor” desperation that only a mother knows while the nurse and my father cheered her on.  In the corner of this very small elevator was a very unlucky businessman who had plastered himself as close to the wall and as far away from this hectic scene as possible with a look of complete and utter terror on his face.  I’m sure he went home and told his wife they were never having kids.  Needless to say I think I owe my mother a dinner to make up for the one she missed while bringing me “earthside”.  Now enough about me…

The woman I need to start my four post series with is my mother Judy.  She is by far the most inspiring woman I know.  By a long shot.  When she interviews people she asks them to describe themselves in one word, the word she chose for herself is “Intentional”.  I think she picked the perfect word.  She is intentional in everything she does, work, relationships, life, faith.  I believe this is why people love and trust her.  Because she works hard at every relationship she has and is intentional in her interactions.

When you become a mother I think it really solidifies your relationship with your own mom.  Also makes you feel like a real ass if you were a child anything like I was.  I can’t count the number of times I have said “sorry” to my mom after dealing with the hard parts of motherhood because I know she put up with that exact same thing with me.  Like the time my sister and I got our butts hauled down to the cop shop for stealing lawn gnomes and I had to call her to bail us out.  {Yes small town Alberta RCMP are hardcore}  When I was born she was 1900 km from her nearest family, and we lived in a little wood burning stove house on a lake with no wheels while my dad was at work.  She told me a story once of when the walls around the wood burning stove caught on fire when I was a little baby and the water pipes were frozen so she had to put the fire out with huge chunks of snow she hauled in the house with a large towel.  Now that is impressive.  And inspiring.

All the memories I have of my mother from childhood until today have been a testament to her strength and endurance.  I think what gives a person the kind of resilience needed to endure is making the choice to be strong every single day.  Never giving up and saying “No more, I can’t”.

Judy is not just a mother but a businesswoman.  My father and her own a big and quite complicated business that has 40+ seasonal employees most of whom are new at the beginning of each season.  She is the one who does all of the hiring and HR management of these seasonal employees and has become excellent at it.  Also I am pretty sure that if she ever wanted a career change she could be private detective.  Not a word of a lie, she has a sign above her desk that says “Do not ever underestimate my ability to find shit out”.


And every word is true.  I have seen her uncover the BS that applicants have thought {very naively} that they could hide.  Like the guy who when asked about the gap in his resume for an entire summer first says he couldn’t remember” {Oh man, good one} and then when pressed he said he did “community service and volunteering” out of the “goodness of his heart”.  So of course because this story stunk to high heaven she made a few phone calls and figured out the kid was on mandatory community service by a judge after being convicted of some kind of crime.  And this folks is why you don’t lie in interviews.  At this point I think most people would just dismiss the kid as a pain and a waste of time, but the kid got a nice dose of life advice from Judy.  She does that.  Tells people who really shit the bed a little freebie life advice on how to pull it together.  Not in a mean way, but in a very real way.  Too many kids these days {see I AM old!} are used to the new model of parenting where everyone is a winner.  And when they enter the work force they are in for the shock of a lifetime.  One day Judy and I are going to write a book about all of the ridiculous stories we have from years of having employees.  {I for one hope we start the book with the story of the teenage girl who said to me “I would kill myself if I didn’t have a thigh gap”.  I almost threw my hamburger at her.  But that is a story for another time.}

My parents raised us very differently than that “everyone is a winner” system.  And I know for a fact we are better because of it.  That is part of her intentionality is being very honest with herself and us about what her weaknesses and strengths are.  I remember as a young teenager being frustrated and upset about the mean girls in my class at school.  They were making fun of me because I sucked at sports.  {They were not wrong; I really do suck at sports.  My husband cheers if I catch something}  My mother didn’t just tell me it would be ok, she told me that school was just one part of my life.  And that I had much more value than just what one group of girls or one school activity proved.  So I suck at volleyball, I have many other talents and worth.  But none of those points of worth come without persistence, effort and patience.  She teaches me that every day I work for her.  She makes me do things I do not want to do and now I am stronger and better at my job because of it.  Even if I do complain bitterly about it, and demand cake for my efforts.

As I write this and reflect on my memories of my mother I have one that keeps rising up in me.  A memory that is hard and painful but is such a testament to the kind of woman, mother, teacher and friend she is.  When I lived abroad I had a bad experience.  A very bad one that I don’t talk about.  I didn’t even tell my own mother about.    Recently I was cleaning out my old room in my parent’s house and I found the journal I kept from that time.  I flipped through it and found the journal entry from that day.  When my mom found me I was crying and staring at the book.  I told her we had something to burn.  Instead of pressing me, or flipping out she grabbed a lighter and walked with me to the fire pit and in the truest and most selfless way of supporting a loved one, she stood and hurt with me.

We burned the whole book.   Burned it until it and the hurt were gone.

But my mother is not just serious and strong.  She is also one of the most witty and hilarious people I know.  The last email I received from her was signed

Your loving and faithful servant


She cracks me up.

One last area I need to touch on is faith.  Judy has inspired me in my faith especially in the last few years.  She has shown me though example the kind of raw faith that is unapologetic and cuts through all of the “churchy” stuff that pushes so many people from the Church.  Every day she speaks to God, and does not pray loudly with big words or repeated verses, she speaks to him when she needs him, when she is happy, when she is grateful.  Always saying something, never trying to hide.  Once after a long and very hard day she slumped into her chair, muttered “f#$%” and put her head in her hands.  After a while she looked up and said “That’s praying right?”.  You may think she is irreverent.  I think she is amazing.   Because of all of the people in the world to have a fake relationship with God should be the last.  He knows.

I will finish all of these posts with what I would make each of these inspiring women is they came to my home.  I would make my mother a cheese board with applewood smoked cheddar, double crème camabert, Soft goats cheese and a sliced baguette.  I would make her a fig compote to eat with her cheese as well.  And wine.  Lots of wine.

Fig Compote:

2 cups dried figs {you can halve them for a chunky compote or cube them small for smoother texture}

The zest of one orange

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots sliced very thin {If your knife skills are less than fabulous use a mandolin}

½ cup honey

1 sprig fresh rosemary

A splash of whatever wine you are drinking while you cook {For best results with all of my recipes please drink wine while making and eating them.  Also my blog is funnier after a few glasses}


Add the oil to a hot pan and drop shallots in.  Sweat them a bit {This means cook them until they are a bit clear looking, not make them do push ups until they sweat}.  Then add your splash of wine, vinegar, honey, orange, figs, and rosemary.  I suggest putting the whole sprig of rosemary in and letting it simmer then removing it before serving.  But some people really dig the taste of rosemary so if that’s you chop it up and leave it in.  Let the whole thing simmer and bubble for a while until it smells wonderful.  Then taste it, add some salt and pepper and let it cool.  {If you feel like it is too thick and not spreadable you can add a splash of apple juice to thin it out}

Spread it on your baguettes, top with cheese and eat!

I will finish with the advice for you that she gave me.

Wake up.

Kick ass.


– Stephanie Parker

2 Comment

  1. Jessica Schaufele says: Reply

    Well done Steph! *sniff* That’s such a beautiful and true portrait of your mom. I love you both more because of this!


  2. Jessica Schaufele says: Reply

    Well done Steph! *sniff* That’s such a beautiful and true portrait of your mom. I love you both more because of this!


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