It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post, but you know this. What you don’t know is all that has happened in the time since I last wrote. So, where to begin. The start would be the most logical place I think. But, as I often do I will shy away from logic and start closer to the end…well, not the end. Closer to where I am now. This also brings up an important question, two in fact. Where am I now? Why am I writing again? Let us begin…

I, dear reader am in Portugal. Yeah, it’s pretty bad ass. In all honesty it is incredible beautiful and ancient here. Words can not describe this place, though it is my job to try and use words to do just that.

Why am I writing again? Well, because the adventure has begun again. Yeah, life is an adventure and so the adventure never really stopped. I know this but the real adventure has begun again.

Now, I’m not going to crazy and write a book on my first post back. I just wanted to let you all know to expect some stories and some pictures, some laughs, and some beers…or tears, either way.
Stay tuned for all the awesomely wonderful details!
Until next time!

I have been absent from this blog for sometime now. In fact, I wasn’t even going to write this post. At the insistence of my sister Cassie, and her boyfriend Chris, I am writing what maybe my last post on this blog. Why stop? Well, I’m home. I am back in Nova Scotia. “But wait?” you say. “Your last post was all about you moving to Vancouver and now you are living back in Nova Scotia. How did that happen?” Well, I’m going to tell you. As well, I am going to review my 2013 with all it’s up and downs.

This past year has been one with many good times and bad. At the beginning of this year I was living in Montreal and really quite enjoying myself. I was Sous Chef at a restaurant I loved, and everything was still very new to me. But, as we all know, things change. This year, more so than any other year in my life, has brought so much change. Some good, some bad.

On this day, one year ago I met Suzanne. She has been such a big part of my life since that day. I can’t even imagine how different this year would have been without her. Yes, as in any relationship we have had our problems, but the good very much outweigh the bad. We have had the opportunity to do and see some incredible things together, and there is no one I would rather have had by my side for all those adventures. Be it, The Paddle Boat Saga, The Dawson City Salmon Crisis , or any number of other adventures we embarked on, we were together and to me, that is what truly made those times memorable. Now, we again are on a new adventure. Living, or at least trying to live in Nova Scotia together.

In the last 365 days, I have moved from Montreal to Whitehorse, Whitehorse to Vancouver, and after being unable to find work, Vancouver to Halifax. I have lost my mother, and tried to work through the pain and sense of loss that comes with that. I have cooked for the governor general of Canada, and the future prime minister. I have been to Alaska, and seen some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever had the privilege of seeing. I was attacked by a bird that looked like a cross between a pigeon and a seagull. I saw wild horses, bears, herds of Elk, more bald eagles than I can count, midnight sun, and northern lights. I have been to places I only read about and dreamed about as a child, holding on to a hope that I would someday go there, but believing deep down that I never would. I have fallen in love over and over again with the same person, and made some truly great friends. I got my Red Seal! I have felt more pain than I hope to ever feel again, but also more joy than I ever have before.

So, why am I home? Why am I back in Nova Scotia? Well, there are a few answers to that question. First off, I had a really hard time finding work in Vancouver, and because of that started applying in other places, one of them being Halifax. Oddly enough, Halifax was the first place I got a job. The second reason being that Suze and I both really missed Nova Scotia, we both wanted to come home. The third and final reason, and one of the most important, is that I wanted to spend my first Christmas without my mother with my family. It wasn’t practical for me to come home for Christmas and then go back to BC where I didn’t have a job. My choices were to stay there and keep trying, or come home where I had a job if I wanted it, and spend Christmas with my family. Obviously, I chose to come home. I say I chose, but Suze and I chose together. It wasn’t any easy decision, in fact there was even a cancelled flight involved, but in the end we both decided that coming home was what we wanted. So, here we are.

As for the future of this blog, I don’t know if I will continue writing or not. I am home now. The whole point of this blog was to keep my friends and family informed of what was going on in my life and to tell them stories of the things I had been doing while I was away. I guess I will leave the
future of this blog in you, my readers hands. Let me know, either through the comments on here, or on facebook if you think I should continue. I honestly don’t know if I should or not, so that is why I leave it up to you.

I have been writing this blog for almost a year and a half. A look through the posts brings back so many memories. I am truly honored that so many people have read, enjoyed, and shared in my experiences. If this is to be my last post, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading and being there as an outlet. Thank you for your support. Thank you for letting me share with all of you. I truly appreciate all of you. This blog has meant more to me than I think any of you know. I have neglected it at times, but it has always been there. Thank you.

Well, I guess that’s it. My future, the future of this blog, as all of your futures, are yet to be determined. No one knows what the future has in store, and the pages and posts of this blog prove that. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thanks again, and let me know if you think I should keep going.

In the words of fatboy slim; “We’ve come a long, long way together, through the hard times and the good. I have to celebrate you baby, I have to praise you like I should.”

Happy New Year!

Benjamin Kelly.

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It has been seven months that I have been in the Yukon. Tomorrow I will board a plane and fly 2400 km south to Vancouver where I will spend the next five or six months. It is exciting to start again in a new city, figuring out how to get around, where things are, the little things that make a place what it is. Although, I am very excited to begin a new adventure, and to see Suze, I can’t help but think back on my time here. I have had the opportunity to see and do so many amazing things, which if not for coming here, I would never have had. This post, being my last one from the Yukon, is all about my time here. Here we go!

I remember when I first got here. Getting off the plane at somewhat uncertain times in my life. I had just lost my mother, I had no job, and I was heading to a place I had only read about in old poems. It was romance that brought me here. Not just romance as in my love life, but the romance of the place itself. The call of the north. A call for something completely different than anything I had ever experienced. Having just gone through some truly difficult and trying times, something completely out of my comfort zone seemed like the best idea. So, on a plane I got, and then, after a brief visit with my grandmother in Victoria, I was here.

As I stepped out of the airport on that first night I remember the blast of cold air that hit me. It was -35 outside and I had just left 18 degree weather, shocking does not describe it. I remember feeling nervous and uncertain about my decision. My relationship with Suze was still very new, and my life had just undergone some very difficult changes. Suze, to her credit, made me feel comfortable and as though I was meant to be here. We stayed in a hotel downtown that first night and I can still remember how foreign and different everything that is so familiar to me now seemed then.

From that first night I knew I had come some place different and special. That thought would stay with me throughout my time here and would prove true time and time again. I will not go so far as to say that this place is without its frustrations. Being so isolated has its downside, but the good outweighs the bad ten to one. Any place where in one day you can see a heard of wild horses, wild elk, shooting stars, and northern lights is absolutely special. I am excited to move on, to do something new, and to get out of the cold, but I will always value my time here. Be it going south to Skagway, Alaska, or north to Dawson City. Going to museums, or finding remnants of a long forgotten town. There is magic in the air here, there truly is something special about this place, it is like no where else.

I have met some great people here, people who I am thankful to call my friends. Some of them I have worked side by side with, be it cooking for the governor general, the future prime minister, or just a regular night at the restaurant. Some of them I have met through Suze and am glad I did. From these people, and this place, I have learned a lot. A lot about life, love, cooking, and myself. I believe that every person is a student and a teacher and hope that I have given as much as I have taken.

I have discovered over the last year and a half since I first left Halifax that every place has unique characteristics that make it what it is. The people always have there own way of doing things, but have more in common than anyone would care to admit. Every place has its own special things to offer if you are open and willing. It is with this in mind that I look and move forward. There will be new experiences, new people, new friends, new difficulties, new solutions, new everything. With that, let the adventure begin.

Thank you for joining me on my Yukon adventure. Being able to share my experiences make them all that more worthwhile.

Until Next Time.

The snow has come down from the mountains, covering the city in a thick, dense white blanket. Everywhere you look it is painfully obvious that winter is here. Even the turbulent waters of the mighty Yukon river have begun to yield to the cold, as ice fingers reach out from the shore line taking the last reminder of the world beyond winter in it’s frigid grasp. The air is bitter, freezing and biting at your skin. There is no reprise, there is no solace. The temperature is minus twenty-five degrees celsius and dropping like a lead weight. This, is winter in the Yukon.

At first glance it appears that we are surrounded by a desolate wasteland. The snow and the cold accompanied by an eerie silence. The truth is though, that despite first appearances, the frozen world, is not dead, it is very much alive. Herds of bison and elk roam the frozen valleys. Sheep scale the jagged cliffs and mountains. The people, the people like the animals, continue to go about their business. The people of the Yukon, just like the animals of the Yukon are rugged and prepared for the long cold winter. I, I am not.

In the cold of the seemingly perpetual night it is hard not to think of the early settlers that came here in search of gold and pelts. How fierce these people must have been in those early days. I cannot imagine spending a winter here in an un-insulated shack with only a small fire to keep you warm and a bottle of whiskey to keep you sane. Or, to think of the natives who have been here for thousands of years. How they survived I will never know.

My time here is drawing to close for which I am thankful. Not because I don’t like it up here, I do. It is a beautiful place with many hidden wonders. I am thankful however, because I do not have to stay here through the worst of it. I will not be here for the minus forty temperatures and the twenty-two hours of darkness. As you can only imagine it eventually gets slightly depressing.

I am going to leave on that note. Sometimes it is best just to keep it short and I feel like this is one of those times. Thanks, as always for reading.

Until Next Time.

Yesterday was an emotional day for me. After years of cooking, months and months of studying, and with tremendous support from my friends, family and loving girlfriend, I became a Red Seal Cook. What does this mean? What is a Red Seal Cook? How did I do it? All these and many more questions will be answered in the following paragraphs. So sit down (if you’re not already sitting which you likely are), strap in, and come for a ride with me. This is how I got my Red Seal.

First off, for those of you that don’t know what a Red Seal is I will tell you. In Canada we have a certification for trades called The Inter-provincial Red Seal Program. It is a way of standardizing trades and making sure that everyone in the industry is up to snuff.

There are two ways to go about getting a Red Seal. You can do a three year apprenticeship, each year doing a different “block” or phase, all culminating in a final two part test. One part being written and one part being practical (a cooking test). The other way to go about getting it is to challenge the exam, which is what I did. In challenging the exam I am saying that I know what I am talking about and I am ready to write the exam. Though that is the jest of it, it isn’t quite that simple. I had to prove that I have worked over 6000 hours in restaurants which would have taught me the type of things I would need to know. I also had to pay to write the exam once I was approved. Interestingly enough, if I wanted to challenge and write my exam in Nova Scotia it would have cost me $719.20. This seems utterly ridiculous as here in the Yukon it cost me a bank breaking $15.00. I guess trades are more important here than back home. Anyway, as I was challenging I didn’t have to do a cooking test, I simply had to write a 150 multiple choice question test within four hours and receive a mark equal to or greater than 70% (if I had of gotten only 69% I would have been “Yukon Certified”. No one knows what that means, that is just how the Yukon works.”

Monday morning I woke up very early. I had a nervous calm about me. I had some breakfast, and a coffee, and I headed towards the place I was to write my exam. After waiting for a few minutes we (myself and other people writing exams) were ushered into a board room which would be our exam room. After some more waiting we were given our exams and told to begin. Up until this point, despite the knots in my stomach, everything was going pretty well. Pencil in hand, I opened my booklet and began to write my test. It only took me one question to realize that my booklet had all the answers checked off in it. I know some people who would have been thrilled and would have just gone with it. I on the other hand had worked really hard to get to that point and I wasn’t about to take the easy way out. I put up my hand, explained the situation, and within ten minutes had a different book, containing a different test, and I was writing. An hour and twenty minutes later I packed up my stuff, handed in my test, went out side, and lit a cigarette. I had no idea how I had done. In my mind at that moment I could have gotten 80% or I could have gotten 10%, I really had no idea.

After a very stressful day, night, and morning of waiting, I got the phone call telling me that I had in-fact passed. Hearing those words lifted a giant weight off my shoulders. As soon as I got off the phone I was over come with emotion. I have no shame in admitting that I fought really hard not to just weep. There are two main reasons why this was so emotional for me. First off, I have worked very hard for this. I didn’t go to culinary school. I worked my way up, and I worked very hard absorbing as much as I could. This is not just a Red Seal to me, it is validation. It means that the last thirteen years of my life have not just been for nothing. The other reason I was so over come with emotion is because as happy as I was in that moment there was something missing. The one person I wanted to tell more than anyone, the one person who would have been happier than anyone else, wasn’t there to tell. As happy as I am that I now have my Seal I am deeply saddened by the fact that my mother is no longer around to share this with me. My mother is responsible for my love of cooking, and this, my Seal, would have meant just as much to her as it means to me. That is hard.

So, now what do I do? Well, I have my Seal (which I have said about 100 times in this post, and which I still can’t entirely believe), now I move to Vancouver with Suze. Now, I look forward to the next chapter of my life. Other than that, only time will tell.

Thank you to everyone reading this for being there and allowing me to share this with you. It truly means a lot to me.

Until Next Time.

The Yukon is a beautiful place. For some, it is shrouded in mystery and adventure. For others, it is simply a place to the north full of unexplored wilderness. For me, for the last seven months it has been home. I have seen and experienced some incredible things while I have been here; from the northern lights, to wild horses, to midnight sun. No matter what your opinion of the Yukon, or even if you don’t have an opinion of the Yukon, one thing holds true, the Yukon is a very unique place not just within Canada but in the world.

Simply driving around for a few hours you get a feel for the vastness of the wilderness and the diversity of species that still roam free in the north. You see mountains, rivers, lakes, unique cloud formations, sunsets like no others, and abundant wildlife. This truly is a beautiful and unique place steeped in history and lore. If you have not been here, like so many others, I highly recommend making it a destination… in the summer.

Now, summer is gone. Fall is rapidly fading giving way to the long and frigid winter. Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, which is where I live, is surrounded by mountains. Though beautiful, they offer a glimpse into the near future. The mountains, which are not snow capped in the summer, are now and have been for a while showing signs of the impending winter. Everyday more and more snow appears on the peaks moving further down the mountains giving warning that all too soon, that snow will not just be surrounding us, but will be upon us. With temperatures rapidly decreasing and now consistently below zero it is just a matter of time.

I am not a sour dough. A sour dough depending on who you ask is someone who has spent one to three winters in the Yukon. I came here in early April, and though the temperature upon my arrival was a balmy minus thirty five degrees Celsius it doesn’t count. Having not spent a winter here I don’t know what people do during that period. I know some ski and snowboard, some snowshoe, others race dog sleds as in the Yukon quest, but that’s about all I know. I will not be spending this winter here so I will not find out, and though I am interested, not being here for the winter is all right by me. The plan is for me to move to Vancouver at the end of November. I will not miss the cold.

So, with the impending winter nipping at my heals, and the call of a warmer climate in my ears, I look forward as I often do. I look forward towards what the future has to offer. Though, I have plans, plans often change. Only time will tell what the future has in store.

With that said I should get back to studying. My red seal exam is rapidly approaching and I want to be fully prepared.

Until next time!

So, as you know it has been quite a while since I lasted posted. A lot has happened since then. I’m not going to make excuses for my absence from this blog I am just going to say that little time, and other things have gotten in the way. Having said that, I am back. So, let’s see what has been going on.

Since I lasted posted Suze and I went to Nova Scotia, Suze moved to Vancouver, I worked a month straight with only one day off, and I have been studying for my red seal every chance I have, and of course, over a year has passed since I started this blog. In a nut shell that is it. Of course there are details which I am about to get into. I think though, I may keep this post fairly short, I have to ease back into it. Anyway, here we go…

Let’s start with home. Anyone who reads this blog regularly, or who has gone back through my archives will know that in March I lost my mother. Knowing that, you must also realize that going back home for the first time since that happened wasn’t easy. I was actually kind of dreading going home, knowing that my mother wouldn’t be there and not knowing how I would handle that. Thankfully, I have a great family, great friends, and an amazing girlfriend who really made dealing with it all much easier. Of course, it was still pretty difficult, especially being at her house and every once in a while expecting her to walk around the corner, or to hear her laugh from another room. But all in all it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be.

It was good to be back in Nova Scotia again though, it is amazing how quickly a place that I have always called home and a place that I love dearly, becomes less of a home and more of a place to visit. It really didn’t feel like home to me. Maybe because my mom isn’t there anymore, or maybe because I have been away long enough, I don’t know. I just know how it felt and it wasn’t what I expected.

After a visit to Cape Breton to meet Suze’s dad and step-mom, a night out with my friends, a night in with our friends, and visits with all sides of my family, Suze left. She had to get to Vancouver to start school. Three days later I was on a plane heading towards Montreal.

It was a year to the day when I had gotten off a plane in Montreal with nowhere to go, no friends, no job, no place to live. It was much different this time. I knew where I was going, I knew how to get there, and I knew who I was going to see. I was excited, but it was different than the excitement I felt the year before. There was no fear, or terror mixed in with my excitement. I had purpose and direction this time. After a bus ride and a few subway cars later I walked into Bistro Olivieri (my old work) every face was the same, and every face was glad to see me. When I left work in march I left in a hurry. My mom was sick and I needed to get home as fast as I could. I didn’t get to say goodbye to the people I had grown to call friends. This was my chance. I sat at the Bistro from before they opened to way after they closed. Talking, drinking, joking, and eating. I was reconnected with people I honestly never thought I would see again and it was a great feeling. When it all become too much, me, more than a little drunk, I headed up the back stairs to my hotel room, slept the night and flew back to Whitehorse the next day.

Since I have been back I have mostly just worked. I have either been working at the restaurant or studying for my red seal. All this is fine with me. Suze is gone and I need a distraction. I am happy to say though, that she is coming home tomorrow for thanksgiving. I am so excited to see her. It has only been about six weeks since I have seen her but it feels like much, much longer. She is here for four days then goes back to Vancouver. Then, at the end of November I will be joining her. We will be together in Vancouver until the end of the school year and then, we will go where ever the wind takes us.

So, a lot has happened. I went home, went to Montreal, Suze is in Vancouver, a year has passed both since I started writing this blog and since I left Nova Scotia for Montreal. Looking back over the last year of my life it has been a bit of a whirlwind. A year ago I could not have imagined everything that has happened. I would have never guessed that I would be living in Whitehorse. I would have never imagined I would lose my mother.

When I got on the plane in Halifax this year headed to Montreal, I thought about the person who had made the exact same journey the year before. He and I are so different now. I have grown and had so many experiences I never thought I would have. It is incredible the effect one year can have on a person.

Now, what is next? Well, I write and pass my red seal, move to Vancouver for a few months and after that… I guess you, like me, will just have to wait and see.

Thanks everyone for sticking with me over the last year, through happiness, loneliness, loss, and love. Having an outlet like this has meant more to me than any of you could ever understand. I know I have been neglecting it over the past while, but I’m getting back in the saddle.

Until Next Time!