I first met Eric when he was a teenager, though his reputation preceded him by many years. I knew he was moody, artistic and smart, and that he had “food issues.”

Occasionally, his mother, Emily, my old college friend, would mention the food problem. She, a lifelong cook, would be baking some dish for the family that Eric wouldn’t touch. It didn’t fit into one of his designated food groups — pasta, peanut butter or milk.

By the time I met Eric, his repertoire had expanded to include some cold cereals, Sun Chips, even whole wheat bread. Finally, the notion of variety had gone beyond chunky or smooth.

Over time, Emily learned to live with Eric’s limited ways, even accommodating them. When he would go off to a weekend sporting event, she would pack jars of Skippy in his duffel bag.

In the absence of his few sanctioned foods, Eric had been known to go without eating.

He’ll outgrow it, the pediatrician assured. College, or maybe a girlfriend, will change his ways, I offered. But there he was, a high school grad, never having eaten a burger or pizza.

Sure enough, college did the trick. Eric started working out and discovered the local cafe on campus. He was now having sauce on his pasta, eating meat. Vegetables were no longer decor on the plate; he was eating beans, carrots, greens.

Then came the vacation when he arrived home and insisted on making chili. The boy who wouldn’t eat most foods was starting to cook. With interest, even enthusiasm.

Then, as if out of nowhere, he decided he wanted to be a chef. Seriously. Professionally. In a restaurant. Never mind that Eric, then 20, had missed a decade or two of the usual food sampling that informs a young palate, or that he had evaded entire cuisines and nutritional categories.

“He didn’t know the difference between moose and mousse,” his mother would say.

If anything, a clean slate merely freed him to form opinions.

“Your cooking lacks integrity,” he once scolded, upon seeing his mother use canned chicken stock.

Or there was the time he asked his mom how to prepare clams. Emily grabbed a cookbook and read aloud the part about cleaning and rinsing.

“Then we lose all the flavor and authenticity of the ocean,” Eric said.

Truth be told, Eric has since taken on the challenges of partridge and pate, risotto and much more. He has studied pasta-making in Italy; trained at leading restaurants on both coasts. One of his former employers, a chef-restaurateur in L.A., wishes there were more up-and-comers like Eric, and considers him a future threat.

One would never have predicted this course of events — that a willful, artsy-athletic kid with food issues would be on track to become a professional chef. As the saying goes in the financial world, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Or, in the case at hand, Eric’s days of pasta and peanut butter are officially toast.

Joan Silverman writes about food and other topics and lives in Portland.