Growing up in the Midwest I was so inspired by Dana Plato - the young actress on the television show Different Strokes. She played Kimberly, the daughter to Mr. Drummond and sister to Arnold and Willis. Dana was a kid actor like me, but she was famous. She was on a soundstage, getting paid to act, and being celebrated as a professional. From the time I was in second grade until I graduated from high school, I was involved in at least two theatre productions at a time - one in school and one in our community theatre. Sometimes I was even in three shows at once stretching myself to the neighboring town community theatre as well. I was a happy kid, living a life full of opportunities and incredible experiences, but I wanted what Dana Plato had.
I never got jealous of her opportunities, I just chalked it up to geography. She lived in Los Angeles and I lived in Carterville, MO. I was just as talented as she was, but you don't get paid to be a kid actor in Carterville, MO. But I knew wherever I was, LA or MO, I would still be ME, Lisa Adams. No one else could be me, so I might as well be the best me possible in my own hometown.
Now that I live in New York, my life is full of incredible opportunities and experiences. Perhaps my life is enviable to friends and family back home or in places that don't have the obvious shine of the big city. Geography. But life is shiny whatever town you live in because you're there. You're part of the shine!
One of the cool things about my life in NYC is that some of my friends are famous. I love them and they're incredibly special, but they're no different than my friends back home. Geography. I mean if I wasn't hanging out with these recognizable pals in NYC, I'd be back home trying to fit myself into the busy schedules of Meg and Jason or Shaun and Christy. Equally famous in my mind and heart, just 1,243 miles away. Geography.
A few weeks ago I was given an incredible chance to assist and food style on a project for the award-winning celebrity chef Ellie Krieger. Ellie is the neighbor of my (famous) friend Paige Davis. She's been a guest at parties I've catered for Paige. I even shot my YouTube videos in Paige's kitchen and when we needed some spice we borrowed it from Ellie. Ellie and I follow one another on Instagram. It's a very sweet, but small connection. Surprisingly, when this project came up, Ellie chose me to be part of it!
Ellie was hosting a satellite media tour for the North American Olive Oil Association. I've been cooking and assisting for almost 20 years, but was a newbie to the SMT world. We were in a fancy studio in Times Square shooting live via satellite to radio and television stations all over the United States. I'd never done this kind of thing before.
It was a packed schedule with back to back interviews. I shopped and cooked all the food for Ellie's recipes. I dressed the set, styled the food, and helped make the food component of the day go smoothly. For one amazing day, I was a magic elf in food television that makes freshly made food appear and swaps out dishes that begin to wilt under hot lights in the set kitchen. (Or sprays the radishes with a water bottle so they'll look shiny.)
I was nervous. I obviously wanted to do a good job for the olive oil client, the production team, the public relations team who hired me, the director, the owner of the studio... Most of all, I wanted to do well for Ellie and that meant doing well for Paige too!
As I was getting ready for the event and trying to diminish my nerves and stress, I thought about Dana Plato and geography. I was getting this special opportunity with this special person because of my life in NYC. I was afforded this experience because of the geography of where I am and what is happening here.
Ellie asked for Lisa Adams to do the job, so I had no choice but to show up and be the best me I could be! And part of being the best ME is not letting mySELF down. The rest would take care of itself. There would be no other Lisa Adams' on set that day. I kept my ears and eyes open, trusted the people around me, learned a great deal, and I did a great job. Hooray!
No matter where you live or how celebrated you are or how famous the people you work with are, do well and try to please others, but most importantly, don't let yourself down. Remember you're the only one that will bring the special sauce of what you do to your job. So show up, keep your eyes and ears open, trust the people around you, and learn how to be even better at what you do. Take pride in your geography and be part of the shine of that place.
Here are Ellie's recipes from that day.
Savory Yogurt Plate (or Bowl) with Roasted Radishes, Cucumber and Mint
- 1 bunch medium radishes (about 10) trimmed, with 1⁄2 inch of the stem left on, and halved 1 tablespoon pure olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 lemon
- 1 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (low-fat or full-fat)
- 1⁄4 large English cucumber, thinly sliced into half moons 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 20 small or 10 large fresh mint leaves, torn if large
- 1⁄4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the radishes in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish and toss with the pure olive oil and fine salt to coat. Place in the oven and roast until tender and browned, tossing once or twice, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile use a vegetable peeler to remove three strips of zest from the lemon, each about 2- inch long and 1⁄2-inch wide. Be careful not to get any of the white pith. Slice each strip lengthwise as thinly as possible. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of lemon juice from the lemon and reserve the rest for another use. Drizzle the radishes with the lemon juice.
- Spread 1/3 cup of the yogurt onto each of four small serving plates OR Place 1/3 cup of yogurt into each of four small serving bowls. Scatter the radishes and cucumber slices on top, then drizzle each with a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish each with strips of lemon zest and mint leaves, then sprinkle with the course sea salt.
- Makes 4 servings
Serving Size: 1 plate or bowl
Farro and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Herbs
- 1 cup uncooked farro
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 small red onion
- 1 tablespoon pure olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the farro according to the directions on the package. Drain any excess water and allow to cool to room temperature. You should have about 2 cups of cooked farro.
- Slice the zucchini lengthwise into ¼ inch thick planks. Slice the onion into ¼ inch thick rounds.
- Brush both sides of the zucchini and onion with the olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the salt.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. Grill the zucchini and onion until they are tender and grill marks have formed, about 4 minutes per side. Allow to cool. (The farro and grilled vegetables may be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.)
- Cut the zucchini and onion into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a large bowl with the farro, tomatoes, dill, parsley, extra-virgin olive oil lemon juice, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Toss to combine. Serve as a side dish or top with grilled salmon or chicken as a main course. Makes 4 servings. Serving size: 1 heaping cup