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From Fortune 500 to France: How a Single Book Changed Everything

What if I told you a single book could alter the course of your life? Would you believe me? For native-born Michigander, podcaster, and radio show host Cliff Duvernois, this was precisely the case.

After high school, Cliff pursued his dream of working in the aerospace industry, obtaining a degree in engineering, and moving to California to work for Boeing, a Fortune 500 company. During his time in LA, Cliff discovered American chef, author, and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain.

Bourdain inspired Cliff to travel the world and venture off the well-worn path, to learn more about a culture not from their monuments and museums, but from the people. Cliff spent 15 of his 23 years in LA travelling back-and-forth to various European countries, but France was where he spent most of his time abroad.

It was here, among his many trips to France, that he became a self-professed food snob. Cliff picked up the book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain per the recommendation of a friend, and that’s when his life took a surprising turn.

“It made me appreciate the people that were behind the food,” says Duvernois. “It’s the story of the chefs, the story of the grandma working in the kitchen.” Much of Cliff’s travels were throughout the countryside of France, where grandmothers were most always the ones cooking in the kitchen. “There’s no menu,” he said. “Whatever she makes that night is what you’re eating. Inevitably, she’d come out at the end of every meal, a young boy would translate, and we’d talk to her and learn her story, the passion behind her cooking and her food.”

After hearing the amazing stories of matriarchal chefs throughout France, Cliff returned home in 2019 with the idea to create a Michigan-based podcast with the same intention: to capture the inspiring stories of ordinary Michiganders doing extraordinary things. “If it wasn’t for Anthony Bourdain,” Cliff shared, “I wouldn’t have started this podcast.”

Since 2019 Cliff has recorded over 110 unique episodes on his podcast, Total Michigan. He’s met with Michiganders from all walks of life and covered a wide range of subjects from Detroit Style pizza, the Gilmore Car Museum, viewing dyslexia as a gift, and our very own Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth.

Cliff dreams of interviewing big shot Michigan-born stars like Tim Allen and Christina Hammock Koch, a Grand Rapids-born female who holds the world record for the longest spaceflight and who will soon be the first female crew member on a moon mission. Until then, he hopes that this podcast will make a difference in people’s lives. He hopes to show them that they’re not alone in their struggles.

One of the biggest things the podcast is doing for Cliff since its launch in 2019 is answering the question, “Am I making a difference?” Everyone Duvernois has interviewed has asked themselves that question, and their answer is always yes. If you’ve never asked yourself that question, perhaps the time is now.

The Frankenmuth Wickson District Library is proud to host Cliff Duvernois on July 12th at 6pm. We invite you to join us as Cliff discusses the top lessons learned from his three most popular interviews, how we can apply these lessons in our own lives, and how we can overcome our circumstances to follow our dreams.

Who knows? You may leave inspired to follow your own dreams and make a greater difference. Or, if your story is anything like Cliff’s, the course of your life may be altered by picking up a single book. I’ve heard the library has plenty of those.

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