By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
Many of Lauren Hope's passions are rooted in her childhood.
Jewelry-making started at 10 with her 6-year-old sister, and included materials like string, macaroni and chunky plastic beads. It evolved into a passionate love for Swarovski crystals, freshwater pearls, sterling silver and semi-precious gemstones, Hope said.
It was even before that when Hope knew she wanted to be a chef. She wrote about it in school, developed her skills with her Easy Bake Oven and helped her parents make meals whenever possible.
That led to a high school job working for a fine dining restaurant and degrees in culinary arts and hotel and restaurant management from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
While attending school, Hope competed often in culinary contests and was named the Best Sent Chef in 2005 by Food & Wine magazine. She was the lead apprentice for the Certified Master Chef exam in 2005 and 2006, and placed in contests hosted by San Pelligrino, Chambord and La Chaine de Rotisseurs.
After graduating, Hope worked in fine dining restaurants at the Ritz Carlton, Hilton and Westin.
In 2008, Hope competed in the fifth season of Bravo's "Top Chef: New York."
The 27-year-old is now working on a children's cookbook for Crate & Barrel's children's line, Land of Nod, and owns a cake-decorating business, Frosted Hope, which is also the name of her jewelry business.
It was while attending the culinary institute that Hope met her husband, Greg, then a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy. The two attended the same high school in Ohio, but didn't know each other.
Hope was looking for someone in New York to carpool home with during holidays and found Greg was nearby via Facebook.
"I sent him a message and our paths finally crossed," she said. "We have now discovered that while growing up, we rode the same bus to school, had many of the same friends and our parents still live only one street away from each other to this day."
Hope doesn't believe there was an epiphany when she discovered Greg was "the one," but "every time I had an expectation of what a guy I am dating might do, Greg always surpassed my standards."
"By never leaving me any room to think otherwise, Greg has always been my one," she said.
Greg is a captain and is currently deployed to Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. They arrived in the Fort Hood area in April. Hope is set to give birth to a son, Maddux, in about two weeks.
It never even crossed Hope's mind that someday she would become an Army spouse. After attending an Army football game with Greg and seeing the cadets in their uniforms and speaking with other women about the military lifestyle, she knew the Army life paired perfectly with the career path she chose.
"Chefs live very transient lifestyles, changing jobs and restaurants every two years or so," she said. "So long as people are hungry, there is always an establishment hiring a well-trained chef. Being an Army spouse seemed like the perfect match."
Since she embarked on the Army life with Greg, Hope has learned to let go of the desire to plan incessantly.
"There are many things in the military in which I have very little or no control: where we will be stationed next, when my husband will be home and how long he will be gone," she said.
"Having a good laugh and not taking life too seriously is the best way to survive most situations. It takes a very strong person to act on behalf of two people at once."
It's a life that civilians may never understand, she said. For every ounce of pride Hope has in being an Army spouse, she said it is also the hardest thing she has ever had to handle.
"My husband and I made vows to each other to love and honor one another for all the days of our lives," she said. "Nowhere in our wedding program was there an asterisk with the annotation, 'Please note that this soldier has solemnly sworn his life to the defense of his country. He will not always be able to make it home for the birth of his children, holidays and birthdays, as the Army will come first.'"
For women preparing to being lives as Army spouses, Hope said they shouldn't be scared if they don't think they're cut out for the job.
"You are certainly far stronger than you think and you will impress yourself with what you can do when the Army puts you to the test," she said. "It is the most rewarding career I have ever known."
5 Questions for Lauren Hope
What's the last book you read?
"The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman.
What's your favorite movie?
A strange tie between "Spaceballs" and "Finding Nemo."
What's your favorite food?
Graeter's Ice Cream.
What's your favorite hobby?
Experimenting in the kitchen and writing my cookbook.
What's your favorite saying?
When life get's you down, you know what you have got to do? Just keep swimming.