It has been one year to the date since the biggest tragedy of my life. After these past twelve months of professional therapy and rehabilitation, I am able to tell you the tale of my rise and fall. Hello group, my name is Ashley and I am a recovering chocoholic.
I had moved to New York City not too long before this occurrence. My life consisted of the same schedule day after day. I would wake up in the morning, grab a sesame seed bagel and hazelnut coffee from the little shop around the corner. I would enjoy my sit on the subway, staring at the same advertisement for a good half hour and wondering when it would end. After departing from the subway car, I walked a few minutes to a sixty-five story building. This is the point where I realized how depressing my life was. I would pause for a moment, look up towards the top of the building, let out a heavy sigh, and walk through the revolving doors. After nine hours of staring at paper and computer screens, I’d come home to a cat, watch the news, and fall asleep wishing for better things to come along.
A friend had come to visit me over the weekend so when I woke up this Monday morning, I was actually smiling for once and decided I should do something different. The television in the kitchen had been left on the food network channel and it was an early morning episode of a show entitled “Chocolate with Jacques Torres”. I listened and half watched as I got dressed. I heard an announcer’s voice talking about his recently opened restaurant, Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, which was located on Hudson Street near my office. I figured since I was in a good mood, I should stop by for lunch and check it out. So later on that day I walked over.
It was an interesting walk. I found a lottery ticket worth five dollars lying on the ground outside of a souvenir shop. A man handing out flyers gave me a gift certificate to his store. I was across the street from the store now, waiting for the walk sign to light up, and I stared at the little shop with a smile on my face. It looked so cozy and comforting inside. The light seemed to be taking forever to change, so I glanced at the sights around me. On the ground there in front of me was a tiny copper image of Abraham Lincoln. I bent down and picked it up. The first thought to cross my mind was that I had just acquired a lucky penny. Then I realized I didn’t believe in that sort of thing. But I put it in my pocket anyways and crossed the street.
As I entered the shop, a little bell chimed at the door. You could taste the chocolate almost instantly from the heavy aroma that filled the air. I stood in line and gazed at the menu. Since it was my first time there, I had no idea what to order. I got to the counter and the cashier asked for my order. I asked her what a favorite item was since I had never tried any of these before. A tall handsome gentleman emerged from the kitchen doorway. He suggested that I try the white chocolate soup with a side of graham sticks. I ordered just that. I had sat down and begun to eat when the man took a seat across from me. He asked me how the food was. I told him it was the best thing I had ever tasted before in my life. He then introduced himself as Jacques Torres. My jaw almost dropped in disbelief. I remembered the name from the television that morning, but I had been too busy to look up and see a face. I introduced myself and told him how I had seen the show earlier. He then proceeded to ask me a question that was probably the strangest I had ever been asked. Jacques asked me if I would like to be his partner and trainee for the next year as he competed in chocolate competitions around the world. I was hesitant. I mean, I only met this man a few minutes ago and he was a world renowned pastry chef. He handed me a chocolate dipped fortune cookie as he waited for my response. I opened it up and the slip inside read, “Great things lie ahead for you in the next year.” Realizing this might be the escape from the boring life I seemed to be stuck in, I told him I would accept his offer. We arranged a time to meet the next day to further discuss what we would be doing. Before I left, I asked him why he thought I would be a good enough partner for him since I had never cooked food before. Jacques said there seemed to be something unexplainable he felt when I had walked in. We left it at that, and I went back to work.
Two months later we were deep into a heavy chocolate sculpting competition. I had spent time with Jacques each day either at his home or in his shop learning the tricks of the trade. It was strange yet fascinating how easily I was able to learn the necessary skills. As with the previous competition, Jacques and I swept our opponents. Two gold medals now hung on the wall of the tiny shop on Hudson Street. We were sitting down to lunch one day, and I was trying so hard to understand how I could be this talented and not have noticed it earlier in my life. Jacques handed me another one of the fortune cookies I had eaten the first day we met. I wasn’t sure if things had become clearer or more confusing. The slip inside read, “Your success is recent, but will not last forever. Enjoy it while it exists.”
Months passed by and I was happier than ever. Since Jacques and I were so successful as a team, I had quit my job at the office and started working at the shop helping to prepare food for customers. During the downtime, I would work on creating elegant sculptures to display in the front windows. It was also an opportunity to practice for our competitions. I still had never broken a sculpture or had difficulty creating any of the works. Jacques didn’t understand it either but as long as business was successful and we were winning as a team, he had no reasons to worry. I think his only hope was that I didn’t become bigger than him. Pastry art was his life and he didn’t know what he would do if someone ever took that away from him.
We were in our final small competition of the year and things were going great as usual. Other teams came up with some brilliant ideas of how to use the chocolate, but Jacques and I always came back with something more amazing. It was nerve wrecking knowing that at any moment your chocolate sculpture could break. Pieces could solidify wrong, or not fast enough. They could break as you tried to bond them with others. For seventeen competitions now, we had not had a single problem.
It was in our worldwide debut as a team in which things took a sharp turn for the worse. It was exactly one year from the day Jacques and I had met. We were in Paris, France for the Chocolate Fantasy Challenge hosted by Food Network. There were pairs from all around the world here to compete. I had already shown up late for the setup which was a first. I had always been on time, if not early, for everything. As we were scurrying around to make sure we had everything we needed, I paused. The smell of chocolate had never been so sweet. There was so much of it filling the room. I had so much emotion and temptation filling my mind. Jacques asked if I was ok. I nodded and went back to work trying not to think so much of it. We had three hours until the challenge was to start, so Jacques and I headed towards our rooms to make sure we were rested for the upcoming six hours for which we would need to be alert as ever. We had agreed to meet outside of the kitchen doors precisely thirty minutes before we were to begin.
Five hours later we were deep in battle. These were top teams from all over the world competing for the gold medal and honor of the title Pastry Team of the Year. Things were slipping for Jacques and me. Our base, which we were allowed to prepare ahead of time, had split and was not sticking back together. Our chocolate was either too frozen or not frozen enough. Neither of us really knew what to do because we had never run in to any problems in the past. The officials had just announced that there was one hour left in competition. Jacques was running around trying to bring everything together. What was I doing you ask? Well this would be the point in my journey of success where failure became more dominant. Something inside of me snapped. This past year I was around chocolate so much. I turned it into art. I perfected it. All this time and I had never really sat down to appreciate it for its pure simplicity. So, I was taking the time to do that now.
The rest of what happened is a blur to me it was all so hectic. From what I was told, it goes something like this. I started to eat little scraps of chocolate I was finding around our work station. Then I started eating pieces we needed for the sculpture. Before long, I had been attacking and eating the sculpture itself. Jacques was trying to pry me away from his work, seeming not to know whether to sob or yell. With such little time left, there would be no chances of rebuilding his claim to fame. Other contestants barricaded their pieces in fear that I would move on to them once I had finished my own. The last thing I remember was grabbing for one of those fortune cookies. As my vision started to blur, I made out the words, “Success was your failure. You must work for what you receive.” Then I blacked out.
After I made it out of the hospital and prison, for which I was in due to “unruly and obscene public behavior,” I wanted to find Jacques and apologize. After a few hours of hunting down his location, I found him. I figured I would apologize for my actions and let him continue on his way without me. Little did I know I was in for a much bigger awakening. Jacques proceeded to scream in French and I wasn’t able to understand a word. A translator told me that Jacques wanted nothing more to do with me for the rest of his life. He was claiming I have ruined his career and disgraced both him and the world of pastry sculpting. His final words forever banned me from France and any of his chocolate shops worldwide.
The following weeks I was obsessed with chocolate. It was all I could eat, drink, or even think about. I was told to seek help and I did. Now I sit here with you, people who share my same uncontrollable habits of life, due to recommendation from several doctors. I leave you with this, “Success is power. Beware its effects.” Excerpted from the last fortune cookie I will ever have eaten.