Financial Adviser Cooks Up New Career As A Chef
At about age 13, Megan Hall’s mother and step-father started spending holidays traveling the world on their own.
So Hall volunteered to cook holiday dinners for her sister, biological father and other relatives who stayed home.
“I looked at them and I said, `I think I can do it. I can cook a dinner,”‘ Hall, now 28, recalls. “And it was a disaster, (but) they ate it with a smile for many years. Things came out undercooked. They were burned. Lots of desserts were thrown in the trash.”
Today – years after those early culinary disasters – the Hermosa Beach resident runs her own catering service called Made By Meg.
Hall cooks various styles of food including French, Asian and Italian. She currently uses the kitchen at Lido di Manhattan Ristorante and Bar in Manhattan Beach.
Hall’s career took an unusual path before reaching the kitchen.
But an epiphany led her in a new direction.
While still a financial adviser, Hall met with a business coach once a week to discuss advancing her career. Hall’s coach gave her goals to help achieve career success.
One day, Hall’s coach told her that she was not meeting her goals despite being an overachiever. He also accused Hall of “hiding” from what she really wanted to do – cook.
She realized he was right.
“I felt like I was stuck on the runway,” Hall said.
Then, in about early 2007, Hall volunteered to organize a career day for Marymount High School, an all-girls school in West Los Angeles from which she had graduated. As a member of the school’s alumni board, Hall met other women who had switched careers.
That inspired her.
“The message to me was this is OK,” Hall said.
In April 2007, Hall enrolled in the Cordon Bleu program at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena.
She worked at Smith Barney until about 3 or 4p.m. each day, and then took classes at the culinary school until about 11p.m., getting home by midnight.
“I’m still catching up on sleep,” Hall quipped.
She spent 12 months on campus and another three months training at a high-end Los Angeles restaurant to become a classically trained French chef.
Hall speculated that her co-workers at Smith Barney were expecting a career change from her.
“I think they got the idea when I started filling their conference rooms with really fancy desserts,” Hall said. “I made all this stuff. I couldn’t just throw it away.”
Hall registered her catering business, Made By Meg, in November 2007, while she was still in culinary school.
She continued at Smith Barney during this time, even after she started working part time as an assistant to food writer Amelia Saltsman. That gig lasted for several months.
“I was testing recipes, doing PR work for her,” Hall said. “We’d do food demontrations together.”
Hall also started picking up small catering jobs here and there.
In April 2008, Hall left Smith Barney, ending her five-year career as a financial adviser.
“It’s been a huge deal changing my whole life. I had a BMW and fancy clothes,” Hall said. “People thought I was nuts. I mean, why give up a lucrative career?”
By December of last year, Hall started to land catering jobs for large corporations. Most of her business came from word of mouth and a network of contacts she cultivated through such business groups as the Manhattan Beach Rotary Club.
One of Hall’s friends from the Rotary Club, Kelly Conrad, said the financial adviser-turned-caterer has tremendous passion.
“It’s hard to find people who really have a passion for what they do, and she really, really does,” said Conrad, who works in sales and eventually became Hall’s roommate. “She’ll do things even when it’s not necessary for a client or for work. I got home last night from a trip and there were these chocolate chip and walnut scones just waiting for me. They were amazing. She was just practicing and she just had some scones left over.”
Hall is still early in her catering career, but she has dreams of owning a commercial kitchen, possibly attached to her own restaurant.
“I choose to do this as an entrepreneur,” Hall said. “Working by the hour and punching someone else’s clock was not part of my dream.”
Title: Owner, Made By Meg
City of residence:
Education: Trained in Le Cordon Bleu Program at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. Earned a B.S. in marketing from Villanova University in Pennsylvania.