Addicted to Hospitality - How it All Began

In honor of Tuesday and #tbt, I am throwing it back… way back! In my About Me section, I give a one-line shout out to a wonderful (very short) woman. Well, that woman’s name is Cyd Hendrickson and she owns an incredible business called Cyd’s Gourmet Kitchen, Café + Catering. Cyd deserves so much more than just one line in my story. This amazing businesswoman mentored me and encouraged me to peruse a career in hospitality.  She taught me that anything was possible if I just believed in myself and worked (really) hard!   

As I sat down to write this blog post, I encountered a bit of writer's block.  My hands felt paralyzed as I tried to describe how much of an impact Cyd has had in my life and what it was like to be 16 years old and feel so certain about pursuing a career in hospitality.  While struggling to find the words, I thought back to an essay I wrote about my mentor for a scholarship application when I was in college. Instead of just putting my head down and working on this blog post (like I probably should have), I decided to dig through dust-covered boxes in my garage to try to find that essay from over ten years ago. I’m glad I did because I found that essay in a box of old USB drives containing the archives of a long-retired computer.

The file name was NRAEF, short for National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the scholarship I was so honored to receive my senior year of school. I can’t think of a better way to tell you about how it all began than to share the words straight from my heart written over 10 years ago, as a 20-year-old college student. 

“I remember the feeling of astonishment, when I think back to the first time I walked into Cyd’s Sendsationals, Ltd. in Peoria Heights, Illinois. I was sixteen years old and interviewing for my first job ever. Waiting in the shop, I browsed through shelves of alluring food items with awe. I heard my name called and turned to see a woman just barely five feet tall standing behind me. I followed Cyd Hendrickson outside to little green tables where we discussed my future. At that time, I had no idea how my life would change in the months to come. Cyd hired me on the spot and I began working almost immediately. 

From the beginning, I was driven to work hard.  My father always told me, “Success is not just handed to you; you must work hard to remain a leader.”  The words rang true in my head the first week, as they still continue to today.

My professional story is almost a fairy tale.  While my high school friends were hanging clothes, filing papers, and scooping ice cream, I found myself content and enthusiastic about my work. I became addicted to the shop where there was a constant hustle to meet deadlines and to get products out. As my parents pressured me to chose a college major, I knew deep in my heart nothing would make me feel as satisfied and fulfilled as working in a hospitality operation.

When I told Cyd about my decision to study Hotel and Restaurant Management, she was ecstatic. Cyd took me under her wing and let me have incredible freedom in her shop. My employer quickly transformed into my mentor willing to do anything to help me professionally, and my friend who opened my eyes to the personal aspects that could affect my future. Cyd became my “second mom.” There wasn’t a day before I left for college in which Cyd wasn’t pushing me to better prepare myself. I was cross-trained to work in almost every aspect of the business. I worked at the front counter, assisted in food prep, served as a caterer, helped in planning events and menus, co-taught cooking classes, and was even invited to give my opinion on the shop expansion planning.

 I cannot imagine what my life would be like had I not met Cyd.  I am so pleased and enthusiastic about where my life is headed right now, and Cyd played an integral part. Cyd is the type of person I want to be in my future.  I want to wake up every morning with excitement about going to work.  I want to pour my heart into making my dreams come true, knowing all along it won’t be easy.  I want to be the person that helps someone else, just like me, succeed in making a dream come true.  I am doing everything in my power to work my way to where Cyd is now. When I get there, I want to take my turn to give someone else the same wonderful experience I was given.” 


I still can’t read the last paragraph from this essay without crying.  I feel so incredibly lucky to be here today, reading the dreams that my 20-year-old self wrote and knowing that I actually get to wake up every day, excited to go to work and to be able to pour my heart into making dreams come true (and no it isn’t always easy but it’s all worth it)!  I only hope I can have half the impact on someone else that Cyd has had on me. I am blessed to call Cyd my friend and mentor. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her.  Thank you Cyd, from the bottom of my heart, for helping my dreams come true and giving me the best addiction ever!!

With Love,