Friday, May 27, 2016

If You Can't Stand The Heat...

Chef Eric Ripert once said "I went into cooking because I love to eat...I just wanted to be a chef so I could eat." I can get behind that. And maybe that's why I'm a cook now. 

Yes, I'm back in a kitchen again. I'm a working line cook, at a restaurant that's a good bit higher up the scale than the last one. It's challenging. It's hard. It requires focus, and to be honest, I'm not performing in the way I would like to. I'm not meticulous enough, skilled enough, disciplined enough, and I've had a case of head-up-my-ass-itis. It's ok. According to Anthony Bourdain, about 80% wash out of the industry. That's pretty tough odds. If I make it, I'll know I've achieved something a good bit out of the ordinary.

I'm adjusting to having a cook's schedule again, working on getting enough sleep so I'm functional. Working in a kitchen is a physical and mental workout that requires physical stamina, strength, good short term memory, multi-tasking and nerve. You have to keep your wits about you even when you fuck it up, accidentally step on expensive cheese or spill the lemon vinegarette, all of which have happened to me in the last week. Did I mention that it's hard?

Maybe I've been coasting for too long. I forgot that I like to achieve, but learning to do something new at the level I'm at, at the age I'm at, might seem a little insane. It definitely feels insane at times. At the end of the night I just want to know I did it right. The thing is what I'm doing now is an intimate thing. People engage with my work in a very personal way, after all, it goes in their mouths. And then there's the ingredients. Animals die so I can work. Farm workers labor, nurture, cultivate and sweat so I can work. People work at their desk jobs so they can make money to eat a good meal, so I can work. It requires respect for the ingredients, and my coworkers and the diners. I'm trying. I really am. So, now, I write to remind myself what I'm suppose to be doing. Maybe this is what I needed in order to hear that "pop" of my head coming out of my ass.

Earlier in the week, I did a prep shift for a book signing party for Chef Ripert. I only vaguely knew who he was a few days earlier. I didn't meet him, but got a signed copy of his book. I know I'm my own worst critic, but I don't feel worthy, not yet. My friends who maybe watch cooking on TV, think I'm doing this amazing thing. To me, I'm just trying to keep up, and maybe prove my worth in the kitchen. I've been given a chance. I want to make it worthwhile for me and the Chef who hired me.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Life 3.1

I had an interesting conversation yesterday. I was talking to a friend who's one of the boat captains for the ferries. We're just about the same age. We were talking about life achievements, and how at our age, it's kind of hard to come up with new goals. She called it the "midlife dull drums." I heartedly agreed with her. I've been in midlife dull drums myself for quite a while. Today, I hope that changes.

I go back into the kitchen today. This time a little less wide eyed and a bit more serious about what I'm doing there. This is Life 3.1 for me, maybe another incarnation of me, but one I've longed for, for a very long time. It makes me wonder now why I waited. 

For me, at the moment, it's all about capacity. This is well within my skill and capacity. I'm not willing myself to climb to the top of anything, just to be a good cook. I want to be consistent. I want to cook well enough to hold my own. I'm ok with still being a novice at this level because I never thought I'd be here in the first place, and that's what makes this interesting.

While I was going to school and working my way to a "successful" career, it never occurred to me, that I wasn't capable or that I couldn't do it. I just did it. And maybe that's why it didn't last like it could have. I have doubt in my new role. I know there is so much I don't know, and I'm not expected to know it all. When ego can be put aside it can be quite a relief. I'm happy to be in this position.

Life 3.1 is less about willing my way to a goal and more about taking the time to work my way there with diligence and skill. It's a good place to be.

Well then, onward I go.