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Are You a Chef or a Cook?

A tribute to my late cousin, Derrick R. Haggerty

Over the weekend, our family had to do one of the hardest things we’ve ever done--say goodbye to my little cousin, Derrick R. Haggerty, who had been battling cancer for the past three years.

My cousin was an enthusiastic entrepreneur and chef who traveled the world hosting private events. I was asked to speak at his memorial and wanted to share my talk with you as I was spiritually led to talk about the difference between being a cook and a chef as it relates to living a purposeful life.

While scrolling through my text messages with Derrick, I found one message dated October 18, 2021 at 11:55 am. It was during one of our exchanges in which I shared with him how inspired I was by his ability to keep going despite the pain. Derrick’s response inspired me to write the message you're about to read.

Derrick was working on a show titled "At the Table" in which he was using his gift of cooking to bring people together who normally wouldn't speak to one another. The text message read:

Cuz, we only live once! Have to live to the fullest, I have too many souls to save with “At the Table”

Today you are invited to sit down at the Chef’s Table with Derrick.

While many of us in this room have had the opportunity to sit and enjoy a delicious dish from Chef D- very few have assembled at the table to understand the valuable life lessons Chef D was cooking up!

Over the next few moments, allow these words to simmer in your mind, never permitting them to heat to a boil. In other words, be open to the message of the lessons Derrick was trying to convey—at the table.

We know that Derrick loved the art of cooking, God designed him to be a Chef and not just a cook. You see, although both are undeniably skilled in the kitchen---there is a difference between a cook and a chef. A cook is one who follows established recipes to prepare food. As a matter of fact, anyone who enjoys preparing food can be a cook. But a chef, a chef is someone who is trained to understand flavors, cooking techniques, create recipes from scratch with fresh ingredients, and have a high level of responsibility in the kitchen. Derrick knew that real cooking is more about following your heart rather than following recipes. Derrick was a Chef.

Today Chef D is inviting each of you into his kitchen to sit at the chef’s table – this is the heart of Derrick’s kitchen. Unfortunately, we will not get to see him prepare a meal or taste one of his mouthwatering dishes, however, we will feast on the lessons he has left us – at the table. It’s a lesson of love, peace, unity, togetherness, and inclusion. This is the meaning behind Derrick’s message: OneLove.

Here are 5 ingredients, 5 lessons Derrick taught us for a life well lived.

Ingredient #1: Prepare dishes you love (Do what you love)

Even during his battle with cancer, Derrick never stopped doing what he loved. In fact, he did more of it. In his final weeks of life Derrick was planning to do a documentary of our late grandfather’s life. I believe all of these new projects kept him fired up and one of the many reasons he lived long after his diagnosis. His purpose (his why) gave him the energy to finish strong. Remember to do what you love!

Ingredient #2: You don’t have to follow the recipe.

Did yall ever see Derrick using a cookbook? That’s because Derrick wasn’t just a cook, he was a Chef by design. Many of us are also designed to be a Chef, but we allow our fears to keep us working in the role of a cook. Derrick was not afraid to venture outside his comfort zone, as a matter of fact, he was always coloring outside the lines which allowed him to create a life well lived. All of us were designed to serve in some capacity. My question to you today is - are you allowing God to use you in the way you were designed to be used? Are you a Chef or a Cook?

Ingredient #3: No Energy Vampires allowed in the Kitchen

We all know that one bad ingredient can spoil the entire dish!

Derrick’s energy was infectious, and he loved sharing his journey in a way that would inspire others to share theirs. Derrick understood that if you’re surrounded by people who keep you down, you’ll stay down but if you’re surrounded by people who lift you up, like dough, you will puff up and rise.

Ingredient # 4 Timing is everything

Derrick didn’t allow the ideas that God planted in him to remain dormant. He was constantly moving, creating, and giving birth to something new. From graduating from THE Culinary Institute of America in New York, becoming a licensed chef and hosting hundreds of private events across the country, becoming a short film creator, founding love drop water, his coffee and desert trikes, and so much more – Derrick didn’t waste any time complaining, blaming, or wasting his life away. For 48 years Derrick lived like time was everything!

And for our final ingredient: Love Lives On

Love is the only thing you get to take with you when you go, and Derrick took a lot of love with him on his journey home because we all shared our love with him.

There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from Derrick and his life. He didn’t skip over his mishaps; Derrick would openly share what he was learning on his journey.

When you’re a cook, you follow a recipe because that’s what a cookbook tells you to do. But Derrick taught us how being a Chef was so much more fulfilling as you learn things along the way, discovering what works and what doesn’t, and passing that learning on to others. Derrick left us his cookbook of life, not as a way to follow it and be like him, but to inspire us to become the BEST VERSION OF Ourselves!

The lessons that Derrick taught us through his life as a Chef, Leader, Son, Brother, Nephew, Friend, Husband, Father, and Cousin – will never be forgotten. These lessons will simmer in our hearts and minds forever as we now venture out from this table to create our own masterpiece. Thank you, Derrick, for allowing us to be a GUEST at your table. Rest in peace sweet cousin.

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