A Gastronomic Quest - My Exodus to Ireland (Part 2) "Who Am I Anyway? Am I My Resume?"
I remember the first time I went to a live show, The Musical, “A Chorus Line”. It was 1978, in New York. I was 7-years-old and had not yet uttered a word in my life as of yet, (for personal traumatic reasons). They called it hyper muteness, if memory serves correctly... Now, it may have not been the most appropriate show to bring a child to, but still it was a defining moment in my life.
I fell in and out of sleep mode throughout the show. After-all, it wasn’t Star Wars for sure! However, the one vivid memory of the show I do have is when the stage darkened and this young man sadly looked out beyond the audience and began singing, “Who am I Anyway? Am I My Resume? That is a picture of a person I don’t know.....” I really didn’t relate immediately to the character, but later that night in the hotel, the lyrics kept playing over and over in my mind... I think this was the first time I became self-aware. I didn’t know who I was; then again, what 7-year-old does? It did however, gave me a burning desire to find out, “Who am I?”
I remember feeling the need to grow up fast! I so wanted to by-pass childhood and move on to the “Interesting years.” Obviously, I didn’t have the appropriate engineering skills or blue print specs for a time machine, so I decided to make time work to my advantage. Yes, in some ways I was your typical kid... I had every Star Wars Figure, Ship and Toy you could think of... I think the Executives of Kenner could’ve retired on all the purchases of my collection... But Life wasn’t Star Wars... Although I did feel like Luke Skywalker stuck on Tatooine, always looking toward the future! Never keeping my mind on where I was, or what I was doing! But I wasn’t Reckless; I was simply... “different”.
Be that as it may, at the mere age of 7, I did find my direction. Music! What truly sealed the deal for me was in February 1979, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the famous Conductor of of the Boston Pops, Arthur Feidler. Not only a musician and conductor; Maestro Feidler also knew how to motivate the youth. Shortly after, in early May of ’79 Arthur Feidler passed away... From that moment I dedicated my life to the pursuit of music. And in a way, I found my voice for the time being.
I started with the piano and swiftly found my hand at classical music composition. Later I picked up the Violin & Cello. It was not long after that I found my real voice as the music within inspired me to begin talking! Since then, people who know me will tell you, I’ve never shut up since! With a new voice to communicate with, I felt unstoppable!
Upon entering high school, a new set of mentors entered my life... Sue Byo & Cheryl Long, my Chorus and Vocal instructors.
So in my adolescent years I pursued classical vocal training after being inspired by Ms. Byo, who led me to my private vocal teacher Mrs. Long. I entered many competitions and festivals performing throughout the United States at this time. Music was my escape from the rough times I would have at home.
Don’t get me wrong... My life at home wasn’t horrible. So many had it worse off than I. My mother, Mary, from Birr, Co. Offaly, Ireland, was a total saint and completely supported my plight to pursue my dreams in music. But my Dad, Leo was the antithesis of support. And the reason I found the need for escape. Leo (Dad), was your typical Republican, Card Carrying NRA member, Ex-Brigadier Army General, and Alcoholic Air Traffic Controller. My mom held the role of the subservient, dutiful, Irish housewife with a side business - a cleaning company. Cleaning was her escape! And to date - still is...
She protected me from his verbal and sometimes physical abuse, rage, and anger as much as she could taking the brunt of it herself. I vowed that one day I would take her away from all this, and give her what she truly deserved a good life back in her home country, Ireland! For you see, Leo would never let her return, not even for holiday! She was given City boundaries like a child; and being who she was, she adhered to his orders devoutly.
Nonetheless, against Leo’s wishes my Mother would always make sure I would make all my lessons, practices, rehearsals and performances in secret and covering me from Leo’s wrath!
At the age of 16, I was forced out of my home by Leo when I chose to defend my mother from his abuse for the last time. I was met to being pushed to the floor and a gun pointed at my head. “Do it”, I said... “Shoot me if you have the guts to do so.” Distracted by my mother’s pleading I struck him and ran out of the house! I immediately went to the police... But being that Leo was a respected member of the Sunrise Community when the police arrived, I was just viewed as a troubled teen! My mother had no choice, but to keep quiet. She had never been on her own and was afraid, plus deep down she knew she could help me from afar. Which of course, she did... I never blamed her for her silence that night...
Promptly after high school, with nowhere else to go, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy and later became an Officer becoming part of an elite unit. The highlight of my Naval career was the 527 days in combat in the Persian Gulf in 1990-91. But it wasn’t ALL war mongering! The Navy gave me such opportunity to not only gain discipline, insight and focus; it gave me a chance to get a literal taste of the World as we traveled port to port, country to country! When my shipmates were off at the bars, pubs and exotic clubs, I was out on the streets, getting to know the locals and getting to know the food. And this is where I gained my first knowledge and love of food!
I concluded my final 2 years of U.S. Naval Service in Chile on a cushy assignment, 2 hours of duty a day. I simultaneously served and also attended the University of Chile's Conservatory of Music. After my medical discharge from the Navy in 1996, I remained in Chile to complete my studies in music education with an emphasis on voice and composition receiving my Masters in Music, Ed. While in living Chile, I also had intensive Culinary training under the late Master Chef Maria Castro-Reveco, where I earned my certification as an Executive Chef.
Upon returning to the U.S., I took up residency in South Beach Miami, Florida. I began taking on Voice Students, and had a few conducting posts in South Florida with local Choruses and Orchestras. In late 1997, I combined my musical, directorial, creative and leadership talents into video & film production. Together with my business partner, a renown South Beach Make-up Artist, Cristina Gutierrez. We founded a Video/ Film production company and became a "Full Service" production company in South Florida performing all production services “in house”. Casting, Filming, Creating Musical Tracks, Editing Footage, and Authoring DVDs. With no formal production training I learned every facet of my skill craft and mastered it over a period of 12 years.
Still there was something missing from my life... Food! So in the off seasons of my production schedule, I’d go back to the professional kitchen... (Read Part 1 “Awakenings”) I went on to be a restaurant consultant for newly opening establishments, and bringing back and improving failing ones.
Long before the economical demise here in Ireland, America was facing their own financial demise. Foreclosure rates were through the roof! Our great and newly elected President, Barack Obama had such a mess to clean up! He was doing all he could, but of course, like all government politicians he faced opposition at every turn for change. We were optimistic change was on its way! But it didn’t come fast enough for us, and we faced our worse year ever...
The Time For Change in MY House Was NOW!!!
So Now, at the age of 40, I’ve taken on the most exciting challenge of my life embarking on a great adventure! So one January 2010 morning when everyone woke up I announced we were moving to Ireland!! Needless to say the whole family was in shock!
We packed it all up... 40 years of personal effects, knick knacks, brick-a-brac and what have you... We sold pretty much everything we owned, and condensed our lives into a 4’x4’x6’ palette and 2 duffels per family member.... We left our home that’s been in my family for over 40 years, and came back to our Motherland, Ireland. Along, with me I brought my partner, Cristina, My 11-year-old son, Solan, and of course I kept my promise to myself returning with Mary Quigley (My Mother). My mother hasn't returned to Ireland in 38 years, it was time for her to come home.
Now, in Ireland, me, my family and crew have set on an endeavor to create an innovative new TV series melding all our talents collectively into an original and amazing TV series.
My Creation, “P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E” ... The series - Is best described as a culinary, satyrical, comedy, musical show, as seen through the eyes of a documentary lens. This single-camera musical "docucom" series takes you through all of Ireland, teaching others in Ireland and audiences the world-wide "What we do here in Ireland to get it right!" The series promotes and proves that in today’s world: Ireland is the “Gastronomic Superpower” and further creates Ireland as the number one must-stop foodie destination not only for other countries world-wide, but the series encourages the Irish here at home to go on “Stay-cations.” for Holiday.
The comic edge of the series comes from the clips of satyrical comical quips and commentary “interview style” to the audience (camera) by myself, crew and members of the show as they editorialize about the footage seen. The show creates a new era of "FUN dining" while bringing back the old practices of promoting local commerce, and buying fresh and local to your own region to create a foodie utopia world-wide. In every show, you'll enjoy a musical act. most would be, parody songs that has the lyrics spun, promoting food.
So here I am now... In Cork, Ireland doing what I do best and everyday saying, “Yes We Can!” I guess I’ve led a life of many paths that eventually merged into a super-highway of novel ingenuity and creativity. Being born into an Irish household, I learned that the discipline of hard work at an early age will indeed somehow, some way pay off.
So as the final lines of that Chorus Line Song Says, “So many faces all around so here I go.... I need this job.... Oh, God I need this show!”
We’ll Talk Again Soon... Until then...
Chef Bryce Collins
Image Credit- http://hotelbeam.blogspot.in/2010/03/ireland-foods.html