“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
I have not always gotten along with Confucius but here and now I find some solice in his words.
I have been cooking professionally for more than half my life now. I have built a career out of burns, blood, sweat and tears (NEVER shed in the kitchen. There is no crying in kitchens. The commute home is where that bullshit belongs.) I got into restaurants right after the coked up glory days of the 80’s and before the rise of the culinary school at the turn of the century. A “no (wo)man’s land” of time, when females did not work in the back of the house.
For the first decade of my work and almost a hundred co-workers (no exaggeration-kitchen turn over is pretty unprecedented) I did not share a line with a single member of my sex. For years I was surrounded by nothing but older, surly, often unbalanced men. Many of whom worked in kitchens due to criminal records and other social abnormality or disfunction.
The back of the house was and is a place where you were yelled at, belittled and blatantly abused. I was often sexually harassed by my coworkers but that is not to say that I took it very well.
One of my dad’s favorite restaurant stories was about the time I bent a coworker over a prep- table threatening him with a large carrot while yelling “how would you like it?” In front of the whole kitchen.
Mind you, this was only after overhearing him say in Spanish to another guy that he intended to try to do something similar to me. Needless to say I rarely had a problem after the first month.
I started as a dishwasher and bussser and I have held every job in the industry from top to bottom. From managing dishes to entire operations both front and back of the house.
Since we moved to the other side of the world I have been the Executive Chef and Head of the Food and Beverage department of a very exclusive golf course.
I have personally cooked for and served; famous authors, sports legends, actors, rock stars, senators, congressman and other members of the 1%ers.
It has been an interesting experience to say the least. During one season of my tenure; I was in charge of all the F and B responsibilities required to host the USGA Jr. Amateur Championship. I have to admit, it was kind of a big deal.
My determination to be better than everyone else in the room led me to that position-but it had a cost.
My family back West took it as a given that will not be at family holidays and that your best chance of seeing me was always to come to me. After the move, when people asked me “what it is like on the East Coast?” I would respond “it all looks like the inside of a kitchen to me.”
Being a part of my step sons’ lives has changed everything for me. Till now, there was never a person or motivation more important to me than work. Total commitment to my craft has never been a problem.
The first time the boys hid my car keys so I couldn’t go to work- all the wind left my sails.
I realized that there was nothing more important then the little time I get with them every week. I was set adrift for the first time in my adult life.
I sit here today, without wind or rudder.
Knowing only two things: I need to make money. I don’t want to sacrifice my family life anymore to do it.
I have to find a balance. I know that what I have been doing requires more of me than I find myself willing to give-up. The things my hands create have always made me good money. Since they are attached to the rest of me-it also means that I have spent more time inside a kitchen, than out of one.
You cannot move forward if you hold on to what was. My attachment exists with the help of my ego. Unwilling to let go of the one thing that has defined my adult life. Being a chef.
A good one.
I have to let go. In hopes of creating a new path with the same hands that forged my old one. I’m scared, but the people who matter most truly believe in me. I hope I am worthy of their faith.
In the immortal words of Yoda.
“Do or do not… there is no try.”
I will take this sage advice and move forward, doing.
In this spirit I we are participating in a local farmers market. My whole life people have looked at the the things I make and told me “you should sell those.” I guess we will see, the only question now is- will anyone buy them?
Please check it out and wish me luck. I can build the boat and weave the sails but I will need help with the wind. Obviously it will be hard to support my half of the homestead with colored eggs, clay roses and dream catchers.
It is only one step into uncharted territory.
I’m scared shitless-but moving on regardless.
Thank you for your support and have a great day!