Fran Berger’s Fearless Second Act

By on February 10, 2016
Fran Berger

Finding meaning- and a new career – at age 65

By Vanessa Sheets –

Fran Berger spent 20 years running The Farm of Beverly Hills, successfully creating an atmosphere that combined relationships and food, making the famous restaurant a favorite among local and celebrity guests. But at the age of 65, Berger was ready for a change- and standing still wasn’t on this restaurateur’s menu.

Inspired by a close friend who noticed Berger loved sharing helpful advice on everything from business, relationships and food, to health and travel, Berger decided to connect with a larger community. She created Food, Family & Friends Over 40: A digital lifestyle platform that integrates all of the things she loves for a demographic she knows intimately.

We asked Berger for her real life reinvention secrets in this exclusive interview.

You’ve said that you believe the second half of your life can be your best. How has this been true for you?

The second half of your life can be your best half! By the time we are over 40, many of us find we are in a different place than when we were younger. You might find yourself single, like me, after many years of being part of a couple. Or you might be an empty-nester and realize you finally have the time and resources to follow your dreams. While those goals might be different for all of us, for me that means more travel, exploring new restaurants in various locales, new wines, more theater, and on and on!

For those looking to start a new adventure in their second half, what advice would you give?

Look in the mirror and ask yourself what would make you happy now. You have to answer honestly, or it won’t work. Once you have an answer (and it may take a while to find one), look for others who have made similar life choices. Next, decide a logical course of action to get to where you want to be. It sounds easier than it is, but I can honestly say it’s worth it.

How did you push past any fears that came up when making the change from restaurateur to launching Food, Family & Friends Over 40?

Fears still pop up- sometimes daily- about my decision to completely change my life and do something new. It can be scary. But, I’m a believer that without those small moments of panic, you can’t succeed and develop. Put one foot in front of the other and seek out support from others with more knowledge.

Did you face any challenges reinventing yourself that are unique to being over 40?

I had been doing one thing well for over 20 years as a restaurant owner. It’s the same for many of us who’ve experienced successful careers. When I made the decision to move out of that “safe” place, my biggest challenge was the fear of failure and leaving what had become such a big part of my life- my home away from home. But the fact that I had been successful for so many years gave me a boost. When you’re over 40, you have a career history and the knowledge that comes with that. Those benefits don’t exist when you’re younger.

Your expertise is in food and relationships. How do you combine the two?

Studies show that relationships happen around the table. It’s not what you’re eating (it could be anything from take-out pizza to hot dogs), or where you’re eating, whether you’re on a park bench or at home around the dinner table. What matters is who you’re eating with; that’s the important part of our lives that reinforces our relationships with those around us. In my home, it was mandatory that if you were home at 6 pm, you came to the table. If you were meeting friends later, you didn’t have to eat, but you sat with everyone. We all shared our day. It’s a tradition that I continue with my grown sons when we meet every Sunday for brunch.

You have an entire category on your website dedicated to Relationship Recipes. For those who would love to entertain more but struggle to find the time, do you have any tips?

I’m very careful what I include in Relationship Recipes as we all struggle with limited time. Every recipe I include is short and sweet, with a small number of ingredients and steps to keep it simple. Make one dish but add a simple salad like mixed greens with bottled dressing and you have dinner. Add a bottle of wine that you like, and you’ll always up the “special” factor. And there’s nothing wrong with store-bought dessert; your guests will notice the effort from the main course you made.

I loved your finger foods and wine suggestions on your website for celebrating “girls night.” Any recommendations for bringing grown children and their families together over food that doesn’t require a lot of planning?

It’s important to keep in mind who you’re feeding and the activity that your get-together involves (I’m thinking of football Sundays). Don’t try to get the little ones to appreciate your Coq Au Vin. You do not have to cook a huge spread to enjoy the weekly gatherings. One pot main courses like chili, stews, and casseroles, including a great Mac and cheese or other baked pasta, are simple things that are great on a table for a buffet. Again, add a simple salad, some great bread, and perhaps a vegetable or two depending on what’s in the casserole.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, can you share a favorite romantic meal from Food, Family & Friends Over 40?

I’ll be sticking with finger foods that evening while celebrating my third Valentine’s Day as a single woman with my fellow single girlfriends, and there’s something quite wonderful about eating with your hands while sharing a meal with those you love. The meal becomes very personal.

All of my Relationship Recipes follow a few simple guidelines- they have to look and taste delicious and be simple to make. These rules are particularly useful when making Valentine’s Dinner- you want to be able to spend time with your loved one, not chained to the stove! Start with a good glass of bubbles (my favorite beverage for a romantic night) and try this recipe for gnocchi with chicken sausage and vegetables that I found from thekitchn.com.

Any advice on relationships for women in their second half of life?

Keep your friends close. Make sure you “touch” each of them on a regular basis. I connect with some friends more often than others, but I make sure that all of them are “touched.” That doesn’t mean a physical contact- it could be as easy as a text or email as we are all busy. When you’re with friends, really listen to them. Now that we are in that second half, we’re all aware that our time here is limited; make the most of it. Show the people you love how much they mean to you. It comes back to you, and I’ll tell you for certain that there is nothing better.

Can you share your favorite beauty tip for women in their second half?

I was a brunette for almost all of my life, even after I went white at the age of 26. My hairdresser and I are the best of friends for good reason. When I became single, I decided that I would let my hair go to my natural color, a bright white (for the most part). I didn’t expect that I was going to need at least a little makeup before I left the house every day or I’d look totally washed out. I found the softest, blackest, most amazing water resistant eyeliner pencil. It’s the 1.5 mm Mechanical Eye Gel Liner by Hourglass. I line the inside rim of both my upper and lower lids, add some black mascara, and I’m out the door. It’s the best beauty product I’ve found.

What is your secret to balancing everything you talk about on Food, Family & Friends Over 40: work, home, family, and friends?

My secret? I tell everyone to breathe. You’ll find time to do it all if it’s important to you but you must breathe. It’s my secret to moving as gracefully as I can through the chaos we call life and getting the most out of it.

What is the best thing about being over 40?

You’ve lived long enough to know who your real friends are, and how to keep the others at bay. Most importantly, you don’t have to care what others think as long as you’re the best person you can be. Enjoy it- you’ve earned it.

 

Vanessa Sheets is a freelance journalist, blogger, and copywriter. She writes about health and nutrition, fitness, business and marketing, and pets for print and online magazines, businesses, and websites. She lives in Bend, Oregon.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Thanks LivingBetter50: Pushing Through the 'Fear of Failure'

  2. MaryLou

    March 14, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Helpful tips, thank you. I’m in the midst of making similar changes. One of those is profiling 50+ women who have reinvented themselves or are on their way on our website, SecondLivesClub. If you or anyone want to nominate someone, I will follow-up. I believe we learn best and are encouraged by other women like Fran. My email is on the website. Thanks.

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Fran Berger’s Fearless Second Act