Don't listen to the Nay-Sayers!

Don’t listen to the Nay-Sayers!

In Soul, Spirit by Melani Marx

My son, Jay is a thoughtful, deep, individual and deliberate man.

He lives on an island and is a cherished part of his community.

He has very strong values and lives them.

He has a kind word for most everyone. For those he doesn’t, he examines himself closely endeavoring to see his own ignorance and for what he might be missing.

Everywhere my eldest son has gone since he was a small boy, he has captured the hearts, friendship and admiration of almost everyone he connects with. 

Jay has been my teacher in the best of ways. He has helped me to open my eyes, my heart, to loosen up and drop my ideas about what is right or safe or common. He causes me to look at things differently. He has supported me in becoming a truer version of my own self.

When Jay was in sixth grade his deeply rooted sense of who he was becoming – a free-thinking, curious, sensitive, experimental, edgy creative came crashing into the status quo mainstream sensibilities of not only the structures that held him – he also faced ridicule and ostracization from his childhood buddies. He went from being well liked, buoyant and included to depressed and an outsider.

Although he was deeply challenged as he moved through this, he did not compromise his own sense of who he was becoming, what he believed in or felt was true for him. He kept showing up the way that was most right – to him.

As I sit here today I wonder what would have happened if he had compromised his own deeper sense of who he is?

What if he had caved to the pressure to conform? Or listened to the voices outside telling him his way was weird? The wrong way?

That very next summer we moved to a new and rather conservative community to be closer to my parents.

Jay dyed his hair blue and grew a very tall mohawk. At twelve years old he was six foot one. He definitely stood out. In our small town everyone knew who he was. The vast majority of his peers at that time had barber trimmed hair and were wearing polo shirts and khakis to school. Jay wore chains and studs. He listened to outlier, anarchic music. He ripped his clothes apart and restitched them differently to make them his own.

Around this time he decided he wanted learn to play the guitar. I got him one for Christmas. He hardly ever put it down. He played and practiced every moment he had –  and honestly in the beginning he was not really very good. He did not have natural talent. He worked hard for every single bit of expertise he gained.

Despite this, Jay was determined to master the guitar. He had a vision. He began to play with bands, got more instruments and never stopped. He wrote music and a wonderful, outside-the-box genius was expressed as his creative energies flowed in this way.

Jay became a powerful and catalytic force on his surroundings. This was a young man who wanted to be in service to something bigger than himself, to shift the prevailing perspective. Live fully into his ever emerging understanding and clear eyed perspective of the possibilities of a just, equitable and inclusive world. He wanted music to be his vehicle for this.

I – his mother – complete with a whole passel of unexamined beliefs that were part of my familial legacy was afraid of the disappointment he would face. I believed, though never voiced, that he would never be a “rock-star,” never fulfill that big dream. That he shouldn’t even try. That it was dangerous to even want it. That doing that was like a bird throwing itself against a window again and again. Failure would be so painful. Wanting was fruitless.

What if he had bought  into my fears that he would not be safe enough?  Get to much attention? Be too visible? Get hurt?

What if he had given up?

I am happy to say, despite my maternal worry he never abandoned his dreams or the visions that have always beckoned him forward. He always found a way to get where he knew he needed to go.

Jay moved to Seattle at sixteen to attend an alternative hi-school more closely aligned to his values and passions, to fully absorb and be a part of the music scene. He lived the city life, graduated, worked as a bike messenger for a number of years, had lots of adventures and then left the city to go “home” for a while to Orcas island.

One thing leading to another – Jay began to work with a local organic farmer, where his greater passion turned to growing food and feeding people. He and his now business partner and organic farmer John Stewart began having pizza feeds on the farm. After a time this inspired them to start a small restaurant in a tiny old pie shop on the edge of the town of Eastsound. They named it Hogstone’s Wood Oven – a place where they could not only grow the food, they could also prepare it and share it with others. This was five years ago this month.

Jay and John were farmers. They had no experience as restaurateurs. Zip.

The only real cooking Jay had done prior was for himself and his friends. He never went to culinary school. He never apprenticed in a kitchen. What they DID have was a vision, passion, a desire to share and the willingness to do the hard work to make that vision a reality.

They began with pizza, salad from the fields and then completely made it up from there as they went along – always following inner inspiration, creative impulse and taking that next step driven by the fire inside and the vision out in front.

With the same single minded focus I had observed Jay learn to play guitar, ride a bike and anything else he has put his mind to – he learned about food. He devoured everything written he could get his hands on. He asked questions of those that knew more than he. He learned. He experimented. He played. He failed. He started again.

Jay did not listen to the nay-sayers – and there were many, even in his own family that wanted him to take the safe and known road. He simply kept going, following his own way forward. Always trusting that what he envisioned was possible.

Jay and John began to raise animals. Jay started to gather from the forests, beaches and fields all over the island he calls home. Jay plays with ways to incorporate this bounty into his dishes. He only serves what is in season and almost exclusively what is available near at hand and on the island.

He learned about the wines and wine makers all over the world that are aligned to the values and principles by which he chooses to focus his work. He has created a wine list that is perfect with his food and one of the most unusual you will ever find.

Jay and John continued reaching and people started to notice what they were doing in their tiny little corner of the world.

Last week was big one for Jay. Not only did he enter into the last year of his twenties – he was recognized as one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2017. A huge honor. Which he had to keep secret until he was literally on his way to New York with his lady love, Jocelyn who is also the dining room and catering manager at Hogstone for meetings, photo shoots and festivities.

He shared the amazing news when he sent a text to a whole bunch of us right before they closed the doors on his flight.  In it he apologized for all the crazy and ill thought up lies he told those close to him the last several weeks because he couldn’t share what was going on. He really hated doing that. He said what was happening was crazy and beyond belief. He had no idea how it happened. He was seriously blown away.

Jared shared that he does know with certainty that he did not do this by himself and that each of us receiving the text were part of how he came to this moment as were his entire team. He marveled that he would be shaking hands and eating snacks with some of the most respected and innovative chefs in the country.

When Jay and I spoke on the phone we laughed and marvelled that neither of us, ever in a million years thought that Life would lead him to this juncture. He didn’t set out to be famous, be recognized or even be a chef. He just kept listening inside, being his unique self, following the pull of inspiration and taking that next step – doing what was his to do. Endeavoring to be of service in the way he has been called to. Doing what he has passion for. What brings him fulfillment and joy.

I imagine he will continue to do just that.

I share this story with you for two reasons –

One – I am just so damned proud of him and who he is. He is my son after all. I adore him.

Second – None of this would have come to be if Jay had not so devotedly listened to his inner knowing and uncompromisingly been the person he truly is.  This did not make it simple or always easy for him or for me as his mother in those early years. It stretched me to trust more deeply in my own unique expression of being as I watched him leap and trust in his own path.

His story, his way of moving through the world truly inspires and informs me.

I hope it inspires you as well.

To keep listening to that wise and quiet voice inside and taking that next small step.

To keep showing up in all the ways that only you can, bringing your unique flavor to the Whole.

Allowing yourself to follow the passion, the enthusiasm and the joy that wants to be expressed from the depths of your being – regardless of the naysayers inside or out.

Because we need you. We want you. All of you.


Want to know more of the story about Jay, John, Hogstone’s and the crew?

Jay is a three time semi-finalist for James Beard “Rising Star Chef” of the year – 2015 – 2017. He and Hogstone’s have been included in many publications including Sunset, Travel and Leisure and Zagat’s Seattle 30 and Under.

Below are  links that tell more of the story’s unfolding.

This is part of the first article in 2014 in the Seattle Times.

This is the Hogstone website.

This is a short film made almost two years ago.  I must confess – I cry every time I watch it.

P.S. I am so excited! I get to have dinner with both of my amazing sons tonight! Jay left Orcas early this morning on the “red-eye”  ferry to drive 10 hours to my home in Southern Oregon. He generously offered, in the midst of his wildly busy life to load up his work van full of boxes to cart to my new home up north in the islands. It’s a fast trip – he leaves again in the morning to drive another ten hours to the north east corner of my state for a week of vacation and play before heading back home to Orcas. I am a very rich and fortunate woman, indeed.