I Did it My Way: Living the American Dream

In the late ‘90s, I moved to the United States in search of the American dream. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would look like, but I knew it was different than what I left behind in Liverpool.

What I learned since then is that the American dream is not the same for everyone. It’s not always about 2.5 children and a house in the suburbs. The dream might even take on various forms during different phases of your life. My life hasn’t turned out exactly as I planned, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

When I thought of America back then, I thought of Disney World. That’s why I settled in Orlando when I first came to the States.

I’d heard of New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. Oh – and of course I knew about Dallas because we watched that rascal J.R. Ewing on the telly back in England. But more than any other place, Orlando seemed like the ultimate American city because it was the home of The Happiest Place on Earth. So I bought a one-way ticket to the Sunshine State.

Growing Pains

Even though I was a classically trained chef, I didn’t walk straight into a high-paying job. I did whatever I could to make a buck. That included preparing meals in private homes, catering business lunches, and even working as a house cleaner on the side.

I was glad to do all those jobs because I knew deep down in my heart that good things were coming my way. After all – this is the land of opportunity. Immigrants have come here for hundreds of years to carve out a new life and make their dreams come true.

In the song, “America,” Neil Diamond sang. “Home, to a new and a shiny place. Make our bed, and we'll say our grace.”

That’s how I felt as I settled into my adopted homeland. Anything was possible. I vowed that I would make something of myself here and that one day I would do whatever I could to repay the favor.

Two decades later, I feel like the luckiest bloke in the world, and all my dreams came true. I have the good fortune of traveling around the country for “Parade” magazine, discovering beautiful communities and sharing my passion for making good food accessible.

Following through on my commitment to repay America for everything it gave me, I now focus all my time and energy on bringing positivity, happiness, and laughter to folks from coast to coast.

Live From … Everywhere!

A few years ago, I stepped back from my hectic schedule of TV appearances to do more behind-the-scenes work and develop some side projects. In 2017, I’m putting myself back out there so I can reach as many people as possible. In the past month, shows in Chicago, Tampa, and Norfolk, Virginia, have welcomed me into their studios and onto the airwaves.

In the next few weeks, I’m off to Washington, DC, back to Tampa, and then likely to your town. I adore appearing on local television shows around the country. They are such an important part of the community and do so much to shine a well-deserved spotlight on local arts, culture, and restaurants. If a television station has a locally produced daytime talk show, then I hope to make an appearance soon.

Now I shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself. However, I want to share with you that my team is also talking to the producers of some of those cheeky late-nightnetwork talk shows. It takes a bit of time to work out the details on those segments, but we shall keep you posted.

I had a fab time with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” back in the day, and I look forward to returning to that time slot. It’s fun because we can get a bit saucier on the late-night shows!

As I take on all these new opportunities, my approach remains rooted in thenotion of being positive. I’m not a fan of negativity or bullying on food shows – or anywhere for that matter. There’s simply no call for that. My mission is to put a smile on your face while putting something tasty in your belly.

We had the best time doing that very thing on Tuesday, April 18, which was Tax Day. Our buddies at Southwest Airlines invited us to ride along for a flight from Chicago’s Midway International Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. We surprised the passengers with my IRS-themed cookies: Indulgently Rich Shortbreads, and Irresistible Rosemary Shorties.

I’ve never had an experience like that before. Truly one of the best days of my career as everyone enjoyed a sing-along, some laughs, and plenty of cookies.

After landing in Washington, D.C., I stood at the front of the Southwest 737 to say goodbye to the passengers. I was overwhelmed by the high-fives, hugs, and kindcomments. Their reaction reinforced my theory that a little bit of sweetness goes a long way.

The American dream isn’t just something that “happened” to me. It’s something I live every day. I’m blessed with a wonderful family, amazing friends, a comfortable home, and the perfect job. To top it off, just last week I saw a childhood dream come true when I grilled a burger on the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunset. Somebody pinch me. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Thank you!

Thanks also to the hardworking staff at AMG/Parade. Thank you to all the hosts and crew members at “Windy City Live,” “Great Day Tampa Bay,” and “Coast Live.” Much love to the staff at Southwest Airlines. And a hearty “Well done, mates!” to Taylor Gillen, John Terry, and the rest of my team.

Stay positive!

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© 2016 Jon Ashton