What’s Meant To Be


I thought I came to Orange Beach, Alabama to represent my sponsor, Saucy Mama, in the World Food Championships. Leading up to the competition I struggled with my recipes trying to fit them into the parameters of the contest and I actually had a feeling of dread. My goal was to present my flavors, cook to the best of my ability and hopefully make Saucy Mama proud. The pressure was on like a panini in a sandwich press.


Cuban Fusion

Saucy Mama is a family owned company that prides itself on supporting home cooks. They love nothing more than gathering folks around a table to enjoy good food. While I did not bring them into the winner’s circle I sure felt loved. It was obvious that they were proud of what I had brought to the table. I accomplished my cooking goals and truly had the most wonderful time amongst many friends and my Saucy Mama family.


Fontina Stuffed Chicken and Mushroom Meatball with Parmesan Frico

However, I am writing this morning because I have another story to tell. It’s not about cooking. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about a chance meeting. It’s about a simple glance through a restaurant window and how that moment changes your life. It’s a story of a young Navy Corpsman who reached out because he thought he might have recognized, Will’s mom. A story about why I was meant to compete in Orange Beach.


Meet Brandon. Brandon and William became brothers while stationed in San Diego. He caught a glimpse of me through a window as I passed by a restaurant he just happened to be working in. The following morning I wake up to a FB message:

Brandon: Mrs. Keys are you in Orange Beach

Me: Yes. I am cooking at The Wharf. Sandwich competition

Brandon: I saw you last night. I was bartending at the boat bar and I told myself that  couldn’t be you and then I saw FB.

Me: You are giving me the chills

Brandon: I’m upset I did not say something last night. Do you have any plans for breakfast?


Brandon helped Will land this shark

Meeting Brandon is the highlight of my time in Orange Beach. He loves my son and shares many “Will” stories I haven’t heard before. We laugh and we cry. He insists on driving me to the airport tomorrow at 3:30 in the morning. He’s Will’s brother taking care of Will’s mom. The love is immense. This is my prize. This is the catch of the day. This is why I am meant to be at the World Food Championships. A chance meeting, a mutual love and a reminder my dear boy will never be forgotten. Once in awhile I need that.




44 thoughts on “What’s Meant To Be

  1. Gooosebumps … another plan that life had for you without your knowledge. How special … a higher meaning than any contest award – joyous for your ‘prize’ 😊❤️

  2. Amazing story. When I saw on Instagram that heart-shaped red pepper ring in the lower right-hand corner of the picture above, I knew Will was with you there in Alabama. ❤️

  3. Oh, Lisa, that gave me the chills and made me well up. You know that I do not believe in chance, orchestration, yes! There is no medal, no winning recipe, no time in the spotlight that can compare to this most awesome prize in your meeting with Brandon. Wow, just wow!

  4. I am sure Saucy Mama is proud of you as we all are. Clearly William sent his sign to say how proud HE is of you. Simply beautiful.

  5. “Chance” meeting? I think not. I believe it is the same handprint on two hearts 💕 that brought you together. Beautiful Surprise …Yup! Chance….Uhuh. Nice one William

    • I am really amazed that Brandon recognized me through a window and it was evening light and from a FB photo. The military boys have a keen sense and eagle eye. What a blessing to have him in my life. He hugs like William, too.

  6. This gives me another serving of hope, Lisa, at a time when I needed it. Thank you for sharing and congratulations for truly winning the greatest prize you could have at this week’s competition: a reminder that love endures.

    • Amazing young man to reach out in the way that he did. He delayed a trip he was supposed to take just to spend some time with me.

  7. I literally had tears in my eyes..❤️Much love to you, Lisa. Your son really does has your back.

  8. Hi Lisa,
    Our Susan is here and I read your beautiful story to her.
    It took a couple of deep breaths to finish.
    Ann no longer remembers.If I read it to her every 10 minutes,it would be new.

    If there are any doubters out there,the story of Brandon should dispell that.
    I’m sure you know that Atwood Road is once again filled with so many wonderful children.
    We feel so blessed.
    Love to you always.
    Russ,Ann,Susan and David.

  9. Lisa
    What a truly amazing story! Your boy will always be with you and choreographing these serendipitous “woosh” moments when you least expect. God bless and hugs my dear Middlebury friend. Thank you for sharing

  10. Oh, Lisa….I am sitting here reading your story and crying like a baby. What a wonderful thing to happen for you. Yes…..it was meant to be for you to be there, win or not. XXXOOO

  11. This also gave me chills and moved me to tears. Amazing, special and so heart warming, Lisa.

  12. Families are forever…. and little things like this mean so much… and let us know our loved ones are still with us… Crying…. and loving that you had this experience…. and shared it! xoxo

    • Just important to put all things in perspective. I’d lose a million and one contests if it meant having my son back. We all need a loving family and I hope that all my readers can rely on that

  13. Beautiful Lisa, thanks for sharing. I lost my son and I know what it feels like to be with one of his friends, it’s like getting to hug your son if only for a minute.

  14. I can’t begin to tell you how badly my mascara needs repairing after reading this. How wonderful that you got to have that experience with Brandon. I’m sue you felt Will with you every moment. Hugs, my friend. And now I really need to fix my face. XO

    • I sure hope every griever has a “Brandon” in their life. I can’t thank you enough for sharing a bit of Jodi with me this week. It was a fun ride and congrats on your top 10 win.

  15. I couldn’t wait to read how this connection happened! What if he hadn’t seen you? What if he hadn’t contacted you? How wonderful! How amazing! How perfect! Something most, if not all, bereaved parents dream of – a connection to their late child! What a fantastic blessing. I can cry and smile all at the same time for this beautiful chance (but we know better – it was meant to be) meeting.

    • These kinds of experiences make me believe that he continues to watch over and take care of those he loves most. It isn’t just me these things happen to. Keep an open mind and I suspect all grievers can stay connected to those they love in some special way.

  16. Beautiful story, Lisa – I’m so happy you keep sharing these moments with us – it shares your blessings far and wide.

    • My son is the gift that keeps on giving. I am grateful to find the blessing amidst what sometimes feels like out of my control chaos.

Comments are closed.