Monday, January 20, 2014

A Recipe for Successful Immigration

Throughout recent history the Irish have survived - and prospered - by emigrating and that process has been relentless. If statistics are to be believed, more than 100 million people located across the world can claim direct ancestry to this small country. It's an amazing figure when considering that the present population of Ireland is only 4.5 million.

The Irish were propelled to move abroad for any number of reasons.  The great Famine of the mid-nineteenth century motivated the Irish to move abroad due to tragic circumstance - starvation. Between 1845 and 1852, over a million people (10 percent of the population) starved to death. Another ten percent, intent on keeping body and soul together, shipped out to the four corners of the globe. This wave of Irish immigrants helped to build the infrastructure that formed the bedrock upon which our modern world has been constructed. From Canada and the United States to Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, the Irish pulled up their sleeves and got to work, and their sweat and blood yielded much of the mortar that continues to hold together the world's economic might.

Searching for opportunity, the Irish embraced emigration - like it or not - as a path to personal success. Even today, we bemoan the fate of thousands who have fled Ireland during the current economic disaster. But our loss is the world's gain. Irish energy and talent continues to pollinate the world stage, often helping to create opportunity not only for themselves but also for those whom they meet.

As an example, take a friend of mine: Brendan Cronin. Our friendship grew naturally from a chance meeting in Boston. I became fascinated with his story. While I had moved from the United States to Ireland, he had emigrated in the opposite direction but with many stops along the way. As I grew to know him, I realized that though we had taken very different paths, the story of our search for opportunity, and the struggles associated with immigration, were a common bond with which we both identified.

Born in County Mayo and raised during the stifling economic times of the 1960's, Brendan decided early in his life that he wanted to cook for a living which was decidedly not a popular choice among the farmers of the west counties. But that's exactly what he did. Having received a basic education in the fundamentals of cooking, but with few real opportunities at home, Brendan grasped opportunity by moving to Switzerland. And from there, his career took off.

In his memoir "Cheffin' - from Potatoes to Caviar" Brendan tells the tale of his global journeys, and of the people who influenced him and whom he influenced. In his book, we follow his career from the relative austerity of County Limerick hostels, to the elegant hotels of Switzerland, Africa and the Far East. We meet the people that he met - the famous and the infamous. We sweat with him behind the cookers of some of the world's great hotels and restaurants. We work elbow-to-elbow with him as he, in turn, works with an often zany collection of memorable staff, many having also journeyed thousands of miles in search of opportunity.

We also become part of Brendan's soul as he works hard to fit into the foreign lands which he must call home. He learns German and French because he must. He refines his culinary skills in order to survive and advance. When he finds himself moved into management, we watch as he uses his Irish generosity to compel a hodgepodge of restaurant workers coming from many different countries and ways of life to work together as a team in order to deliver up some of the world's finest foods.

And we feel his frustrations as he first struggles to fit in and learn his trade, and his final triumphs as he not only finds the beautiful woman who will become his wife, but also becomes the only Irish chef in history to attain the prestigious Swiss culinary title of 'Chef de Cuisine Diplome' - Swiss Master Chef.

This is a personal story of Irish immigration. In many ways, it reflects the challenges, opportunities, and triumphs faced by immigrants from any nation and throughout history. It is on one hand a sweeping, almost epic road story of one man's travels throughout Europe and the New World. But it is also an intimate and often humorous story of an Irish immigrant searching for his niche in life.

It is also a reflection of what most Irish hold most dear: kith, kin, and country. For despite his success, despite the fact that Brendan is now settled near Boston and teaches in one of America's most prestigious culinary schools, he wears his Irishness on his sleeve and his conversations are peppered with references to his Mayo home and his family whom he had to leave behind so many years ago, but whom he still visits at every opportunity.

Emigration is tough work. But it is also highly rewarding. Brendan Cronin's memoir "Cheffin' - from Potatoes to Caviar" deftly illustrates that journey. And it proves that with hard work and a little luck, emigration can be a recipe for personal success.

Brendan Cronin's Book "Cheffin' - from Potatoes to Caviar" is now available at Amazon in both print and Kindle eBook versions. Simply click on any of the links for more information or to purchase.

Want to learn more about living in Ireland? Are you thinking of traveling to Ireland or moving to Ireland? If so, you might consider the purchase of the 2014 Kindle ebook edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Now 80,000+ words long, and having sold over 10,000 copies in its various editions, it could make the perfect gift for those interested in this wonderful country. Simply click on any of the links above to purchase this new Kindle version. You can also download various free aps to read this Kindle version on any PC or Mac. 

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