Life as a chef/dishwasher/toilet paper buyer and aspiring handyman is still the grind it’s been since day one and takes up so much mental energy in the lingering pandemic era of my life in the hospitality industry.
Nothing is easier (writing included) and I am still, more than ever, digging around in all of it. New love. New loss. New everything, every single day.
It feels like shedding an old skin. Like a cicada leaving its shell gripping to the bark of an old pine tree (and an old life)
Growing is painful and awkward and you start to realize the only way to get somewhere new is to leave something else behind.
What is it like to meet your soul — getting to press your finger down on the truest and most beloved you. The one that feels powerful, even in the midst of wild and often painful things, and still find your feet ready to stand up again to all these chaotic, overfilled days.
Life is surprising, though — a phrase that gets me through understanding the chaos and makes me excited at its potential!
I don’t imagine things will get easier on that end, but that’s okay. I feel most alive when I’m feeling the waves of my own actions; the goodness and love that flows through me. It is inevitable that I get stuck sometimes. Stuck in the belly of some tree, wondering which season is best for me to move.
This is a season of standing firm in myself. I have shed a lot of things that weren’t useful. I’ve surprised myself with the people I’ve come to defend, including myself. I’ve also felt the weight of giving in to the anger of others and for that I offer a million apologies.
Everything is loud. Many things still so violent and people will always be mean to one another.
So in the season of standing firm in myself I also invite the world to change me and I invite you to change me — I will always hold that hope that when I do leave this place, I will have left it better than I found it.
A few things:
Keep pouring love into yourself. Keep fighting for justice and keep yourself open to injustice. It is okay to tie yourself up in the liberation of others. (In fact it’s necessary.) Keep taking care of things smaller and more innocent than you are. Eat something delicious, every single day. Bury your face into the neck of your pet and breathe deep.
Be kind to yourself (this includes your body) — it’s the only one you got. And maybe the important thing I’ve learned recently is to remember that you don’t have to be the person you always were — it’s maybe the best time to let your freak flag fly —
I read a poem once about being born wide open. To be exposed to all that heat and noise and wildness of the world right from the start. There’s no doubt a lot of you are the same way — everything seems to rip you open, again and again.
I often dream of another world. One that is maybe a little quieter, less harsh. The truth is, I don’t think that will ever happen and whenever I feel the room there is a growing sense of doom and discontent. I feel all of those things. Maybe some of you feel them too.
Things are supposed to change. Pants size. Taste. Politics. Religion. They all seem to shift as we meet people that share and challenge our beliefs. There’s no doubt mine have seen enough light and dark to make me wonder if any ground I’ll ever stand on will be firm again. I’m not mad about it. A lot of us are floating in some dormancy — truly unsure where the world will be by the time we’re no longer worried about having to be on time for work.
To be honest, I’m not too fond of people that are so sure of anything. Whether that’s faith or wealth or friends. I hold loosely to mostly everything but the fact that so much of what we face, we face alone. Knowing this moves through me with enough conviction to say that I need people — not so much for myself, but to know that I am moving and moving with them. There’s nothing wrong with being opened up. Spilled. Exposed to everything.
I feel less angry about things, these days. Medication helps. Hugs help. Animals (mostly) help. Time helps and heals. (Also, deep breaths.) I guess I should say people also help, though I am confronted by awful ones on a daily basis. I still believe that we’re mostly good and aware and want what is best for one another.
It’s okay to be made up of these parts just like it’s okay to be weary of the unknown. You can welcome as much as you’d like, just hold tight. It’s really easy to get filled to the brim. Some of us hold in a lot of your stuff as well as our own. Give us some space to let it settle.
Another poem I once read said that there are ‘thousands of ways to kiss the ground’ — and I’ve always read that as the person you’ve been, who you are and who you’re going to be are all different, and all capable of being fully alive. And not only alive, but thriving. Even when the weight is too much.
Keep yourselves born wide open. there are thousands of ways to kiss the ground.
Like most of you, I spend a large part of my day wandering around in my head — thinking about the last year and a half (or the last maybe 20 years or so).
Sometimes it’s hard to process a life publicly and having your friends and parents worry or take some sort of blame for who you are and how you turned out. I’m not saying my family didn’t impact the person I am today, but at some point you shift over into your choices and the events that made you who you are today.
There are plenty of people that I love that hold the impossible weight of their failures and short comings. I watch it weigh them down like an anchor slogging its way on the sea’s floor, whipping up bits and pieces of a scattered old world.
I’ve had to drop a lot of things to keep up forward motion. These days I just don’t have much room to hold on too tightly to anything. A lesson I learned early in my life is that heaviness and heartbreak are blind and reckless and fall on anyone, at any time. Learning that there isn’t a rhyme or reason for the world (or your tiny world) to fall on your shoulders holds some kind of strange creature comfort.
Most things are not your fault, and just by existing you are enough for this world.
Yeah, you’re going to whiff some things. You’re going to screw up and break someone’s heart (ultimately your own). Maybe one of the biggest things I’ve learned lately is that people are resilient as hell and most feelings really don’t last forever. Some of us are just wired differently. We hold on to things longer while still feeling them deeply — sometimes there isn’t justice.
Sometimes, we just have to live with a thing.
Being alive on this planet comes with responsibilities. One of the better ones is leaving it better than you found it.
Along the way, you’re going to find yourself wrapped up in impossible things. A work load that is too much — a failed relationship — maybe letting down your kids. (In fact most of you have already done these things and will continue to do these things because being human is a lot of responsibility and messing up is part of the gig.)
I feel like it’s important to create the space to mourn your losses. You can even keep them to yourself as wisdom. I would ask that while you hold them to not let them hold you back from experiencing more life.
I have seen grief and I have seen grief lived. What I want to say is that joy (and forgiveness) rips grief apart.
We’re all tired from *gestures broadly at everything* this stuff. Some days getting out of bed feels like chaos. That once my feet hit the floor you are moving and moving into something you can’t control. Make sure you give yourself some space from the chaos to collect yourself. Truly nothing gets better unless you do.
This is mostly my reminder to be good to yourself even with all the odds stacked against you. To put down arms and stop lobbing grenades for a while.
As my little friend Birdie says, “Hey guys. Stop. Just breathe.”
I’ll never be smart enough to be a scientist. I’m okay with the brain that’s been given to me — the brain I’ve made myself.
I’m fascinated by space and star stuff. If you know me, you know how I get all googly-eyed and rant about time and the enormity of all the things around us.
I am guilty of explaining black holes and relativity to a co-worker by clearing out our sink drain and explaining, “You see how water moves faster and faster the closer it gets to being sucked down the pipe?” In which case they most definitely respond “Yeah, okay got it” and act interested because I’m their boss and they don’t want to hurt my feelings.
I appreciate that.
There is something comforting about its mystery. It’s actually very boring to me when people know it all. Know-it-alls bum me out. I guess I really can’t trust a person who is really confident in anything. Then again, I’m wrong a lot.
Sagittarius A is the black hole at the center of our (Milky Way) galaxy. Isn’t that just a little terrifying to know we’re all circling down a drain? I mean, not just yet. In fact if that ever happens our solar system will be burnt up to crisp by our own baby Sun (that actually expands and gets weaker over time.)
You probably know that black holes essentially collapse everything beyond its Event Horizon (the point at which not even light can escape.)
But, they’ve learned that some things *can* escape.
I’m fascinated by these things because it gives me perspective and the space to imagine that nothing is quite understood, even at the apex of our existence. If we’re talking about black holes and time and space we’re talking about all of the things we are made of. As the famous quote hints at, “The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
We’re made up of this stuff. There’s no telling what has or hasn’t happened in whatever was before and whatever comes after us. If you’re edging near an existential crisis (or for me the second or third one this week) you can take some deep breaths and relax a bit. There’s not much you can control — and if cosmic perspective isn’t enough for you, the older you get the more you realize every single person is figuring it all out as they go.
The Great Mystery of life itself is awe-inducing. I crave perspective. I crave not knowing the answers because wondering is the best part of it all. Answers are definite and boring. (Which is probably why I didn’t like math.)
I do not have the brain of a scientist. Or a mathematician or anyone else that builds complex machines and technological movements. But I do understand that things like time and energy are not wasted — that life always moves forward and is always made new with each second. You are maybe dealt a shitty hand — but it’s never the whole thing. It’s never the whole of anything.
You have time to make things move again — breathe easy again — love again.
You’ll have what it takes to make your own space.
Your own whole universe, with the things you love (and of the love you give) drawn in to your own gravity.
I learn a lot from physics even if I can’t really understand the more complex bits. I suppose that’s okay given that I often stare into the bottom of a sink, draining anything that gets pulled into its motion. I often drift away into my own mind. (Maybe I just need a vacation.)
Maybe more importantly I’ve learned that in order to get from one place to another, you have to leave something behind. I don’t mean in the way of throwing someone out of a moving car (though we’ve all been there) – maybe more like learning not to carry it all – maybe like letting others help carry it for you.
You are not alone here. Your time and energy echo endlessly into the things around you. Move and rattle and make all sorts of noise.
(You are also under no obligation to make sense to this universe.)
If a thing can really escape a black hole (the literal Heart of Darkness), in its absolute crushing gravity and mystery, so can you.
At this point they’re a black canvas for egg yolk and mayonnaise and probably two different vinaigrettes. Cooking is gross.
I say that all the time. I mean, yes. It’s beautiful and romantic and sexy. All these things. It’s also gross. Cooking, for the most part, is learning how to deal with all the fat and water a thing has in it. Bones and blood, too.
There is a huge sigh of relief for all restaurant workers post Mother’s Day — maybe even a worse cooking day than Valentine’s — Or the day after (or before) a major holiday. I don’t quite understand it. Then again, I don’t get out much these days. Knowing the burden of feeding and taking care of generally unpleasant and hungry people makes me hesitant to put my needs on anyone during this time. (Or at all, really.)
My brain is fried, and fried hard. Or maybe it’s scrambled.
Sorry, have eggs on the brain. (And my shoes but you know that already.)
At the end of our service yesterday, we all just kind of stood around for a while. Diners still sitting together, staring at their phones in silence, church clothes in tact. There was just too much to do. Dishes piled high in all three sinks. But we are relieved, and thankful that we worked hard for each other.
A lot of me wishes restaurant culture wasn’t this way, but I just can’t see any way around it. It is one of the only (and truly) humbling ways to make a living. That ticket that hangs in front of you and the person waiting at their table for it to be delivered with some small amount of kindness and skill — it’s a kind of pressure that brings out the worst in a human.
We have the best crew we’ve ever had. They are funny and smart and we all hate ourselves just enough to keep pushing forward. (Just kidding kind of) Oh, and just hard bodies, yo. We all moan when we sit down together — those are the best times. Decompressing with your coworkers about “the bullshit” — the lady who asked for her eggs to be “not too runny, not too dry” or the man who has a dairy allergy but is okay with heavy cream in grits.
It’s a ridiculous pressure, to be honest. Most times I fantasize about cooking big pans of food and just throwing it into the dining room and letting people fend for themselves Golden Corral-like — but alas, there is still dignity to be won.
This won’t be the last hard day. But this was a record breaking weekend for our restaurant. I feel proud about that. I feel tired in the ways that I should, but I am proud that we are still here making a wonderful mess of things.
I gave my shoes a good scrubbin’ today. Stubborn and crusty and dirty with all sorts of bits from a day’s work, but I feel the most content as a tired cook.
My job is done for a day, my feet and back are tired. I splash some cold water on my face and look in the mirror, the weight you carry for the things you love.
Some, more than others. That’s not unusual when things are “normal” and especially not right now. It’s true that some of us are more sensitive to the needs and energies of others, and that makes things louder and wildly more complicated.
Right now I’m not a big fan of the hustle culture. “What are you doing to get yours!?” kind of thing. The ‘push yourself til you throw up or blow out a knee’ kind of thing. But if that IS your thing, okay. (Just don’t try to normalize needing to push yourself to a breaking point — that’s kinda how we ended up in this mess in the first place.)
When it comes to cooking food for a living, we are very aware of the state of things. People eat for lots of reasons, I know. Beyond sustenance for now, I think we are feeding people who need comfort — who need to not cook for themselves out of being tired and at its very basic level, to just feed someone who needs something good.
That’s kind of the way cooking feels for me right now. I go home every day and collapse on my bed after jamming something probably full of carbs in my face and try my best to get a nap in. Maybe my anxiety will ramp up a bit or I will jerk awake by accidentally biting my tongue (because I tend to grind my teeth when I’m stressed and asleep.)
I wish, like so many others, it wasn’t so hard right now. I wish this work didn’t take as much as I did. I love cooking, and I love cooking for you — but it is exhausting and we are kind of on the burnt side of toast.
Maybe I’ve recently bumped into another person that appreciates my food (as well as my company and to be honest my goober sense of humor somehow…)
Maybe I decided to make this person ratatouille while watching a film set in Paris, while drinking some big french wines. Maybe I’m a sucker for themes. Either way, I’m glad I get to cook for a person from time to time that’s not expecting me to be anything other than myself. Or within a time limit where they have to eat or else I get a bad yelp review. I don’t know, it feels good and comfortable and most like myself when I cook for people I love to be around and take care of.
I thought maybe I’d post a recipe here because ratatouille is great way to eat some vegetables that are in season (or very close to it.) It’s my favorite Disney movie and also just really wholesome and delicious.
Ratatouille (feeds 4)
One large yellow onion One large yellow bell pepper One large red bell pepper Three cloves garlic One medium eggplant Two yellow squash Two zucchini squash Four roma tomatoes Fresh thyme 18oz. can diced tomato Olive oil Red Chili Flake Salt & Pepper & Sugar
Get your shit together: Dice up onion, peppers and mince your garlic. Slice 1/8 to a 1/4in thin your tomatoes, eggplant, and squash. Lightly salt the sliced veggies and let their water drain for at least an hour with paper towels. This will help your veggies not be so damn mushy in the end.
In a deep saute pan, heat up a few tablespoons olive oil. Drop in your onions, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Let cook down for 15-20 minutes til onions become translucent. Add your garlic, tsp. fresh thyme and cook another 10 minutes. Add your canned tomatoes and cook down til half of the water cooks out (about 15-20min.) Stir every few minutes to make sure nothing is sticky icky. Add a pinch of red chili flake and sugar (taste for salt and heat and sweetness to your liking.)
Meanwhile, heat your oven up to 375F. When your onions and peppers have finished cooking, scoop a layer of the mixture on the bottom of a somehow shallow baking dish or pan. (At least 3-in deep.) Layer your veggies one on top of another into little stacks. Add a tiny bit of salt, pepper and fresh thyme between every third veggie slice til you’ve run out of veggies or are sick of making them. (For example: on top of the onion/bell pepper/tomato mix, place a layer of yellow squash. On top of that, a layer of eggplant, then zucchini, and lastly tomato. Add your seasoning and repeat.)
Bake for 40-45 minutes til tender and smelling good and sexy. I like to serve it with some crunchy bread that I’ve toasted lightly in the oven with olive oil — and after baking rubbed down with a raw garlic clove. The best part of this dish is how cool it looks when you serve it. Everyone gets a stack or two veggies on top of the tomato mixture. It smells so, so good and really does make you feel good eating a pile of vegetables honestly.
So there. Eat you some vegetables.
And take it easy on yourself. It won’t always be this hard. There are plenty of people that love and think about you with a lot of light. Send it back their way, too.
I often start to write because I feel things swirling around in my head. Usually, a string of events that are somewhat related to one another form some sort of deeper feeling for me. I’ve had a few of those things happen recently — some of it related to war and peace.
It should be noted that I am Russian by ancestry, but I’m not getting into it that way.
Let’s start with taking out the trash. I live in a quiet neighborhood. Well, mostly, until the guys across the street start revving and working on their old trucks that backfire and spill black exhaust into the air. That’s okay. A more wild thing unfolded yesterday when I witnessed the neighbors a couple of houses down yelling, which led to an all-out brawl. I sat the lid down on my trash can just in time to see them push one another. They rolled around on the ground, yelling, crying out. I stood by just in case I (maaaaybe) needed to call.
They finally settled down. I watched one man head back into his house, and the other make his way back into his truck. He had taken a beating. I usually think no one wins in these matters, but this guy definitely lost. Fighting has always been scary to me — it puts a knot in my stomach and stays there. I felt bad for both of them. It has to be so exhausting and emotional to fight someone. I’ve been super lucky in life not having to find out for myself.
Either way, I’m glad things didn’t get too rough. I’m sure at some point, they were friends.
Another part of my day was spent wandering around the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby just down the road a bit. Sitting out stationary in the field near the museum are the bigger machines of war. Tanks, airplanes and artillery.
I do have a soft spot for these kinds of things. I have been fascinated with war history since Jr. High and not much has changed. While I am usually drawn to weapons and other machines of war, I was led a little closer to their stories. Men and women from my home town — the places they traveled — the battles they won (and lost.)
Being so close to history always moves me, deeply. Whether I’m wondering who used to wear that Nazi officer’s coat or if these weapons actually ended the lives of people, I am moved by their weighty ghosts.
It’s hard to shake.
The business of war. (Or fighting another man on your front lawn.)
To quote Gen. Sherman, War is Hell.
It is easy to numb the things our walls help us block out. Then, out of nowhere, you remember that there are small (and large) things happening every day that carve out the Earth. Maybe you retreat; maybe there’s a victory. Sometimes you lose. But it is almost always hard fought, regardless.
Keep moving towards peace. That’s what I say.
The fire and noise and smoke stay with you.
Not all things that move us are kept behind glass,
I can’t escape the feeling of letting people down.
Like everyone else, there are good and bad days. Well, good days being less oppressive and hopeful for things to lighten a bit. And bad days well, we’ve had enough of those.
You’re also starting to fray more at the edges. This is how I feel most days. Creativity thrives on air and room and space and so many days, I feel very confined to this survival – to making it happen day in and day out.
The Chef’s job in never done.
We’re still seeing restaurants close. Restaurants I’ve been well in the shadow of for years. Restaurants with resources and good people and good food. My heart breaks seeing them fade away — some have been heading there for quite some time and others, just bad timing. I hate this more than anything.
I’ve turned a lot of you down.
I’ve said I was busy or that we just couldn’t do a thing. Mostly, I couldn’t do that thing. I didn’t want to do that thing, and I can’t tell you when I’ll ever want to do that thing again. Feeding you during this time is exhausting. We (service industry workers) are in a constant state of depleting ourselves so that we can pay our bills during this tiresome season.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s still fun to work with my people. They are the reason I’m doing any of this because we all work hard for one another. We also work hard for you. But you also need to understand that working in the hospitality industry is already a job that requires more than you’ll ever know. Not just physically, but highly emotional work.
I mean, creative work IS emotional work.
I know I have lost patrons due to my own boundaries.
I have said ‘no’ more than I’ve ever wanted to. The money is important, but it isn’t worth the weight on my soul. We are all stretched far too thin to pretend any of this shit is anything close to normal, so please do not ask more of us because of it.
It is so strange to have our work be so controversial. Cooks, servers and bartenders forced to be security against something we are still not prepared for. Yelled at by people who can’t wear a mask for five minutes. Having to choose to support your friends based on whether or not you feel safe in their businesses. All of this is fu*king weird and it’s heavy and it’s so ass backwards to what we are built to do in this business.
But, we’re still here doing it.
We’re thankful for you coming to our building and supporting us — I’m not asking you to leave us alone, but to respect the space we serve in. We’re still going to mess up. We’re still asking you to lower some of your expectations. We’re asking you to hold back until it’s safer, and we’re better.
People are still dying, things are still scary.
And all of us, are just tired.
If I say no to you, it’s because I’ve given it all for the time being — and when that space frees up a bit more, I’m happy to hustle and dream and move for you all again.
For now, a grilled cheese and tomato soup is good. And I hope you let us make it for you.
For as long as I can remember that’s what I do. I break completely into pieces so that I can fit into a thing. I lose a thing here or there in the process.
Being an introverted single person, living alone in this pandemic has been met with a lot of doubt. At least when things are “normal” I had the option of giving more of myself. Now, I don’t know where to be in all of this. I hesitate to say we are in the same boat, because as I’ve said before, we are all in own lifeboats during this thing.
Some days I feel like I can rise above it all and be the person I’ve worked so hard to be. More often then not, I find myself being the person full of doubt and criticism. For example everything I cook now I deem is absolute dog shit. It piles on my shoulders. I’m missing the connections. Like neutrons and electrons firing into some black hole forever and ever.
This is a time of year that I love. (Though, with everything in its current place, I’m slightly dreading the next few months for reasons those of us living in the U.S. know to be true.) But damnit if I’m not an optimist by nature. I am also incredibly hard on myself.
I think about the billion ways I can go but when I feel like I’m only doing things one way, I get stuck. I get stuck on myself and whatever it is I’m doing and dreaming about a different time. For something that doesn’t exist, I surely think about it a lot.
Physically I feel tired more often. We are lucky to have a lot of business during this time. I am grateful, but I am also very aware of the weight it puts upon me and my friends. When you are successful, you tend to tie yourself up with your business. I don’t think we agree on what success looks like, and when we’re talking about the city I live in, I always feel like the underdog.
I wonder if the hustle will slow even after the pandemic clears. I wonder if I’ll fall in love again. It’s in my biology to have kids, but I’m really not sure if that’ll ever happen. (Yeah, ya know, I do have the urge quite often to have a kid, even if it doesn’t fit the kind of person I am.) What kind of person am I anyways?
Maybe that’s the question I’ve been asking myself the most.
I don’t know anymore. Certainly a pandemic causes me to shift inward — to question every single decision I’ve made — every person I’ve kissed — every person I’ve hurt. As much as I preach that life is all forward, I find myself the most being stuck in traps that I continue to set for myself.
As far as I can tell, none of this is final. There’s a lot of things moving right now and we’re all really uncomfortable. There’s a sense of unease we aren’t accustomed to. Maybe sometimes I feel the moans of my own ancestors in my bones.
I guess what I try to look for in all of this, is that things never really settle and truly, you won’t feel this way forever. Look for the people helping and ask them for some relief. Then, help someone yourself. We are all borrowing each other’s grace and more often in my life, tupperware.
There is still plenty of beauty here to discover. There are still ways to move beyond the toxic — the great lies and the great thieves of your own joy.
Remember you are here, now. Living in a time you might never see again. This is your season to move through No Man’s Land,
I had moved to a new city to get married and graduated into an economy that didn’t have anything for me.
As it turns out, when you live in Portland, there’s always a coffeeshop looking for help. Granted, a friend of mine helped me get in, but I had no industry experience. I started out mainly washing dishes. Taking orders. Getting yelled out by customers because I made a mistake taking their order. All of the bits you have to learn to make a hard shell over your soft skin.
I started to cook because it was a way to show who I was to people I didn’t grow up with.
I wasn’t very good at it. I knew how to fry chicken, and make rice a roni. I could pop open a can of green beans and douse it with Tony Chachere’s. It was the only thing I really wanted to be good at. My friends were better at other things that I knew I didn’t want to do.
I really wanted to be that daunting figure in the kitchen sweating and cooking.
It was something that seemed so wildly complicated, that being able to control it felt kind of God-like. Listening to an egg cook or smelling when onions cook too long was becoming something that I could thread in and out of my daily life like a coat made just for me. Hell, now I can hear the moments water goes from simmer to boil with pretty good accuracy.
Cooking helped me open up. It became the thing that gave me some authority on anything, really. I knew that I could poach an egg with confidence or crank out a delicate vinaigrette on the fly. It gave me the confidence I’d been missing my whole life.
I was obsessed with something I knew I could get better at every day.
Even the hell of falling out of love with a person, the kitchen became my way to block out pain and still maintain some sense of purpose. “Well, at least I have this” I would say. (And still say that at times.)
Kitchens can and will break you down. Every cook knows that there is a point in any given day where it breaks you. Most days, it doesn’t. You have a hope in the back of your mind that your day can be somewhat normal. You will maybe, go home and actually cook dinner for yourself and partner.
But, something usually happens.
The drain in the dish pit over flows with grease and food bits and God knows what other hell. Or your anxiety decides to overwhelm you in the middle of service and you blank out. You turn into a robot of yourself to get through the day. It’s all happened, and it will happen again.
There is something incredibly addicting about a restaurant that works, day after day. All the deliveries came at the best time. No one was out of the cheese we needed and our Coke delivery guy wasn’t an asshole for once. (And did I mention Sysco didn’t dump all of our boxes in front of our oven in the middle of the lunch rush!?)
And then the pandemic came.
Once the reality of having to shut down entered my bones, I’ll admit, I felt a bit relieved. Something felt so toxic about being open and encouraging people to cram into a small space when all the health professionals are telling you not to do it. (But if we don’t do it, we’ll drown as a business…?)
I couldn’t adapt fast enough. I felt like an immense failure. (Still do sometimes.)
I was completely exhausted.
Our business would adapt a bit and I would drink a lot. And order DoorDash. There was something so amazing about a brown bag full of hot food with my name on it sitting outside my door WITHOUT having that awkward interaction of someone catering to my lazy ass. It was incredible.
I got to turn off my phone alarms. Well, the ones that wake me up and the other four that remind me to order things for the restaurant — then there’s all my reminders about other things I need to do for the restaurant so that I can finally relax. Well, after the panic and anxiety died down after our first week of quarantine, I got to relax.
After a month and a half of doing take home dinners once a week, we got back into the restaurant on a daily basis. My work shirts almost didn’t fit because I had gained so much weight from well, *gestures broadly at everything*.
Kitchen work is hard, and if you don’t stay in practice, you get lazy, fast. You forget the motions and turns, the heat and the pressure. But by now, we are almost back to whatever it is I can call normal.
Wearing a mask while standing over a grill has taken some time to get used to, but everything is harder. Not just the labor, but people are harder. Things got way more political over our little break, but in order for us to stay open and busy, I never really got a chance (nor did I want the chance) to be political about masks. To me, it was just tiring having to defend it either way — I just needed to be busy again.
But it’s still really hard right now. For everyone. Those of us in the hospitality business are kept alive through people gathering together. The restaurant experience is about food and drink but most importantly, it’s about people connecting. Not just having people cook your food and serving you, but the people around your table.
The depression I feel most deeply, is that cooking and being a chef is shifting for me. It shows me how incredibly delicate all of this is — and when it’s stripped away, I wondered how necessary it all is. (I wondered how necessary I was.)
I love being a chef. It’s all I ever wanted, to be honest. It has been one of my proudest accomplishments. To have that name and that respect — but damn, it is hard to be inspired in times like these. Not only inspired, but to also inspire. To be strong, to be a leader and to make a million decisions in my head every day.
A while ago I was told I was emotional, which is fine and funny. It was by a friend that doesn’t know me very well, but it also goes to show me that being vulnerable makes leadership necessary. I don’t always feel strong enough to lead people, especially now. Most days feel hopeless for the future of anyone ever agreeing on anything (ever again). My own patience is worn so very thin, as is yours. I hate the aggravation I hold so close to the parts of me I love the most.
Maybe I won’t be a great chef, like the ones I read about.
And that’s okay.
But I’m still here, and I’m doing it.
I cook your grits and wash your plates. I lay awake at night hoping that whatever we bring to your table gives you some sense of normalcy.
I have always loved having you at my table — and I’m still dreaming of a future where we are all better people for doing the hard work of being good to one another.
In the meantime, I’ll be here, working in my hot kitchen, adding more cheese to that pot of grits (because I know you really need it today.)