Which came first—the chicken or the egg?
I don’t know. But what I do know is passion. Passion is the force that drives me. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. It’s why I write. It’s what is good about me and, at times-- what is bad.
One thing that I struggle with is how to take my life’s passions and put them into the kind of words that a reader can truly feel.
My name is Denise Rae Kouzoujian and I am a writer, a chef, and a salesperson. I’m in the business of selling myself, my thoughts, my work and my product—whatever that may be. I try to balance that with being a good wife, mom and the best person that I can possibly be. It works for me in my own unconventional way and at times drives my husband and family crazy!
I have found over the years that life throws many things your way, and passion, mixed with creativity and a strong sense of faith, is what gets me through! It’s what I write about.
Passion for business and a love for my family kept me in my family’s business for over 20 years now, selling hydraulic and pneumatic products alongside my father. It was also my passion for cooking that led me down the culinary path thirteen years ago. This was about the time I found my way into the Menlo Park Draeger’s, cooking school as a chef’s assistant which eventually led me to start Food for the Soul with D. Rae, a personal chef business and in-home cooking school of my own.
Food For The Soul offers personal chef services, kitchen consulting, catering and culinary education. What I truly enjoy is teaching gardening and cooking classes to children as well as adults. I get a quiet sense of satisfaction knowing that, in some small way, I help to unleash the passion of others.
After getting married and giving birth to my son Jack— who was a 28 week preemie— I began to write. I’ve always been a journal writer, starting and stopping along the way. I found that when my baby was in the hospital, and later when he was diagnosed with Autism, writing helped me get through. In addition to journaling and writing my memoirs, I began writing about food, planted a garden and started to develop recipes, which later turned into a gardening/cookbook that I co-wrote with my friend Pam Larkin. We have just finished writing this book and are now ready to send our proposal out.
A bit of “Your Growing Kitchen: Growing and Enjoying Foods Fresh From the Garden” by Pam Larkin, Home Gardener and Denise Kouzoujian, Chef:
"The real beauty, though, lies in the excitement and pride of serving food you've had a hand in growing. Sharing this with friends and family reaffirms that some of the life's simplest joys prove to be the most meaningful. As you discover favorite recipes in the book, new fruits and vegetables become candidates to be grown in your garden. With new recipes to cook and new plants to plant, you'll enjoy the experience of growing your garden and kitchen. And you''learn that when you garden, you, too, will grow."
Recently, I finished my first formal writing class with Malena Watrous, who is an accomplished writer and an amazing instructor. I found this food writing course through Stanford Continuing Studies Program and look forward to taking another class very soon. I’ve always felt a bit intimidated within the literary world and with my own ability to write. But again, my passions in life and love for books are what keep driving me forward. This is how I found Aggie and the Kepler's Writing Group, which is located in my home town of Menlo Park, and I am so grateful to be a part of this eclectic group of people.
One of my favorite places to go is Kepler’s. I have spent many hours wandering the isles, sitting on the floor with a stack of books, trying to decide which ones to buy. I love reading, and find that I am drawn to many different types of books—especially nonfiction. I have an endless supply of cookbooks, travel and gastronomic essays. I read Ruth Reichl’s Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise as part of my food writing class last year and it has become one of my favorites. I deeply enjoy the times that I am able to get lost in the memoirs of lives that seem to somehow connect with my own. I found the haunting honesty of Kay Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, absolutely fascinating and I currently find myself engrossed in Rupert Isaacson’s The Horse Boy: A Father’s Quest to Heal His Son.
I always have at least one book in my bag, and try to get a few chapters in whenever I can find a handful of minutes during the day. I cherish those long, quiet days when I can cuddle up with a blanket, an intoxicating book and get a wonderful case of “book-itus.”