It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, but when's the last time you really, truly enjoyed it.
For local chef Ken Durbin, owner of The At Home Chef, his motto is "Enjoy Life." But what does that mean? Is it spending time with family, laughing with a friend, walking along the shore in the mornings, listening to a song that brings you to tears, buying nice things?
"In my life, I have seen a lot of emotions: happy, sad, frustrated, and scared," says Durbin. "I’ve seen them all in a mirror staring back at me. A life which has had its ups and downs. Through it all, I have tried to enjoy my life. Even when I was lonely and had $20 to my name, I found a way."
Durbin says that when he was going through some of his most difficult times, he would listen to songs that touched his soul and gave him hope, or he would call a friend who knew how to make him smile. Eventually, he began recalling recipes and time spent in the kitchen with his grandma, which led to rediscovering his love for cooking and starting his private chef services.
"Her tiny kitchen was the first place I learned to love food. It was the place where I watched my grandmother cook with her bare hands," he recalls. "It was where I learned how local, fresh ingredients could change a meal. Where I would watch in amazement at her ability to create beautiful food and have fun doing it, no matter the circumstances."
Durbin says he loves cooking for others because he not only gets to do what he loves to do, but he also gets to help others enjoy their life and special moments even more.
"I've cooked for dinner parties, date nights, and engagements - bubbly, happy moments - but also celebrations of life and hard times like that where I observe people focusing on the good in the midst of bad," he says. "Life sucks sometimes. In fact, it sucks the majority of the time. But even when it is grim, we still have to find ways to fill ourselves with joy. We have to enjoy life."
For Durbin, joy and fulfillment are the two keys to enjoying life. "We need to fill our hearts with joy and serve others to find fulfillment," he explains. "The kind of fulfillment that will transform you in a way that nothing bought can bring you. If you are feeling sad or unhappy, it’s probably because you aren’t fulfilling your purpose to the world. Everyone has a purpose, everyone has the ability to change the world in a way that can’t be challenged."
In a world where it seems like we’re all living through the filtered lens of social media and only sharing the positive things in our lives, Durbin says enjoying life is a state of mind, not a destination.
"You can’t say, 'Well, once I do this or go there, or get that job, or meet this person, well then I will enjoy my life,'" he says. "It’s important to enjoy our lives now, where we are and doing what we’re doing. It’s free to you, but you have to be brave enough to embrace it and take ownership of the enjoyment of your life."
Durbin says people often feel selfish or guilty for soaking in something that makes them happy. “Not to be somber, but life waits for no one and tomorrow isn’t promised," he says. "So don’t feel guilty to enjoy life, and don’t feel like you have time to wait. You don’t want to be at the end of your life wondering why you never took time to enjoy your life."
The enjoyment from creating custom dinners is what inspires Durbin to do more than just "cook meals" for his clients. "I am more than just a private chef," he says. “I want to recreate that feeling of my grandmother’s kitchen - this time, in your home. It’s my goal to create an intimate epicurean experience that combines your love for food with restaurant-quality precision.”
Since he first started cooking dinners at the homes of his clients in 2014, Durbin has never repeated a menu. “I print it out, and they get to keep it,” he says. “Everything is unique to the client, and their needs and wants. The one-of-a-kind menu, focusing on what the client likes and enjoys, really differentiates me."
Durbin says his motto to "Enjoy Life" has taken on a new meaning since the pandemic. "I've always had that tagline, and it's a personal mantra I really believe in," he shares. "Now, after a year of not getting to be around people we care about, I love that my work allows people to get together, celebrate again, enjoy life, just soak it all in even more. You are here to love, cry, serve and give. You are here to enjoy life."