The Story Behind The Extreme Chefs – An Interview With Chris Parke and Jenny Hardy

It is said that there is nothing new under the sun and some people just get busy developing a better approach. I’ve had the chance to speak with two such folks of the latter ilk, Chris and Jenny, as they gave me an exclusive look into the establishment of their brand “The Extreme Chefs”. It was quite an encouraging reminder, especially in the new year, that having the dedication to succeed can make a lot of difference in any endeavour, whether it's a brand, business, or burgeoning life-long romance. It is this dedication that has led these bright, young, and fun twosomes to the successful establishment of “The Extreme Chefs” into an international, innovative, and inspiring brand that sets itself apart from the herd in the otherwise saturated age-old food industry. Below are extracts of my conservation with the them:

Gbenga: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up choosing the field.

Chris: I took after my mother, who grew up in an Italian household, whose traditional foodieness she brought to her own family, including my father, me and three other hungry boys. She spoiled us with so many worldly iterations of what otherwise would have just been years of mundane meals, that when I moved out of home for college to carve my own path professional snowboarding that I started to develop my own appreciation for bringing whatever great part of the world I wanted to my table with food. My appreciation got even deeper when I was injured and couldn't go anywhere other than my own table. Now we try to share that appreciation with "The Extreme Chefs" in as quality, affordable, and fun a way as possible!

Gbenga: What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

Chris: Cheffing is an extremely high-stress environment. For years whilst I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and make professional snowboarding work I worked in the service industry under other Chefs as a line-cook or grill-master, or sometimes just a prep cook shucking oysters for 12 hours a day. When I could get away with it I added my own flair to the recipes. The other cooks and the clients loved it, but the head Chefs would often get frustrated and it always led to me going back to what they needed. However, after garnering a bit of a name for myself, I was approached by a high-end referral company about a celebrity client coming to town who was looking for a private chef to come into his home and cook three 5-course meals for his family during his stay. The client enjoyed the dishes, requested for my business card, and wanted to know more about my company. His comment came as a tremendous boost to my confidence, as well as a reminder that success comes from dedication. That led Jenny and I to dedicate ourselves to developing our own brand where we can focus on sharing what we do best i.e. curating quality, affordable, fun experiences and we like to make the old exciting again. So, now every time someone or something difficult happens, we just remember that success takes dedication and keep on figuring things out, as what else good is there to do? It also helps that we have an extreme business, so it is kind of hard to forget to push through the hurdles.

Gbenga: How do you personally define success? What does it mean to you?

Jenny: Success is doing something mutually beneficial for the world healthily, passionately, and uniquely. Sometimes it may seem success is a nice car or a fancy house, but for me, it is simply finding my place in the world - somewhere I do good and am good. Kind of like Emerson said, "To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.". There is so much good that we can do if we just work collaboratively, strategically, and impactfully. Thus, with "The Extreme Chefs" we try to play off one another's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of our partners and clients, which isn't always easy, but 110% worth it.

Gbenga: What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?

Chris: I had to deal with a lot of negativity from a lot of people in my life, sometimes people who I looked up to as role models and even idols. At some point, I realized that no one else knows me the way that I know myself and that much of my own personal doubt came from outside influences. I know these people sometimes even loved me, but people aren't perfect, and it was not always the best way to exhibit that love, which is a communication issue, looking back, where I also take responsibility. So, when I started filtering the outside noise, clarified constructive feedback, and focused on what I could do, everything got a lot better. Now with Jenny by my side, as my greatest supporter, success feels not only achievable, but sustainable.

Gbenga: What do you do to recharge when you are feeling drained?

Chris: When I am feeling drained it’s usually just a head-game. By pushing through that feeling of being drained, focusing on gratitude, and finding more success, even small, I’ve realized that I can handle almost anything mental. For example, when I’m in the backcountry climbing and riding mountains that sometimes take 12 or 14 hours, I almost always feel drained to some degree, but my body can handle it, if my mind can. Whether or not I listen to the initial "give-up" feeling from my body is my choice. If I am taking care of the needs of my body, it completely becomes a challenge of the mind and the more I push the more I feel charged up and full of energy. At the end of some of my longest days I can barely stand to take a shower, but by the next day, my mind and my muscles are stronger than before, as well as ready for more. In the kitchen, it is the same. Sometimes I feel like I can't go on any further like I’ve hit a wall too thick to break through. Sometimes I burn myself or my feet start to ache, and I just want to quit it all and give up. But I pull power from past experiences, check my physical health, and "mind over matter" myself. Then at the end of the day when all is said and done, and the dishes are being washed I often find myself laughing at myself because I knew I had it in me all along. Suddenly, it seems so silly that I doubted myself even a little bit.

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