Monthly Archives: October 2015

Goals and Dreams and Priorities

Thank you for the outpour of support over the past few days since my last entry. It really means so much, especially in a time when I feel like I’m giving up, or that I’m selling out, or that I’m not just not good enough to continue with this lifestyle. Yes, it’s my second quarter-life crisis. Yes, I’m pretty proud too that I’ve lasted for over two years. Yes, I know it’s OK to change my mind on this journey we call life. (Don’t I have the most wonderful friends?)

My mom sent me this quote she had found that seems pretty fitting to my situation right now: When your dreams change, let your values guide you. (It’s also the title of this awesome blog post by TJ Chasteen.)

The article and the parts she found important in it gave me a lot of food for thought. When I started on this journey, my goal was clear: I wanted to become a Michelin caliber chef running my own kitchen, designing my own fanciful tasting menus like those at noma or Alinea or Atelier Crenn. I had many obstacles in my way — the physically strenuous conditions, being female in a male-dominated industry, the emotional strain of the long hours and uncertain schedules, the years ahead of working your way up from the bottom (luckily I got to start a few steps above peeling potatoes… I picked herb salad). But NO MATTER. I was going to prevail and conquer and I was going to show all those people “stuck” in office jobs like my previous career that it is entirely possible to love your job and pursue your passion!

But I’ve changed. I found what I was looking for in TJ’s post and in this article (it was published only a week ago so it’s hauntingly timely). They articulated in words what I had had difficulty explaining to others about this burnout I’d been feeling. “The problem isn’t passion,” Mark writes, “it is never passion. It’s priorities.” If I were single and younger and able to devote every waking moment of my time and energy toward becoming this tortured artist of a chef, perhaps that first dream could have become a reality. But it’s just not the case. The more I toiled away in the kitchen, the more I came to resent how much it took me away from my fiance, from my home, from my cats, from my friends. A casualty of working in this industry is that after having to decline enough times, we all gradually stop getting invitations from our “normal” friends to hang out. That’s why industry people end up going out for drinks every night with each other. And I love food and I love cooking. I learned all of these amazing skills and techniques and yet I’m always too tired to actually make anything for the people I care about most. And over the past few months, it finally started to dawn on me… this life just isn’t worth it anymore.

So I finally brought up these thoughts and feelings to Honey Bunny the other night. I could tell he had been avoiding the conversation for at least a few days and he confirmed it. He tried to remain neutral but supportive, on the advice of his friend. But I could tell that he was not going to be heartbroken that his fiancee isn’t going to be a Michelin chef. I could tell that after all this time, all he’s really wanted was for me to be home more. To spend more time together. To not feel the need to make a Friday night special just because it’s the only Friday night off I’ve had in months or years, because before this life, pizza, beer, and a movie would be more than enough to “celebrate.” To just wake up in the morning and go to work at a job that I can reasonably enjoy, and then come home in the evening to him and our little family. Because as Mark said so eloquently, “Really, what is so wrong with working an OK normal job with some cool people you like, and then pursuing your passion in your free time on the side?”

So now I’m at a crossroads, looking for alternatives and backup plans. I’d still love to stay involved in food somehow, though fine dining dinner service on the hot line just isn’t in the cards anymore. But as long as I keep my values and priorities in mind, I’m sure I’ll figure out something.

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Checked Out

It’s been difficult staying motivated these past few weeks or so. I will be perfectly honest — after being on Pantry and Charcuterie at the old restaurant for over a year, I feel like I’ve paid my dues, that I’m “better” than working the salad station. It still fits in with my goal of working every station in the kitchen, but it’s hard not to get frustrated.

It doesn’t help that one of my station partners appears to have mentally checked out. She just doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore, she has a horrible attitude, and her lack of attention shows in the shitty product she’s been putting out. I wasted half my day yesterday redoing things that she did wrong the first time and that’s just aggravating. It’s a waste of food and of my time. It didn’t help that I made the discovery during service right when a ticket for a VIP table checked in.

I guess I find it especially hard because I’m also going through my own personal crisis and yet I’m still handling. I woke up one morning and was confronted with the realization that maybe kitchen life doesn’t feel “worth it” anymore, that maybe I don’t want to run my own kitchen someday like when I started out, that maybe I just want my evenings and weekends and holidays back, that maybe I don’t want to be tired all the time, that maybe I miss cooking at home for the people that matter most to me, that maybe my goals for the future have changed…

Just keep swimming.

Planning and Quick Update

Wow, I’ve neglected this poor blog for nearly a month! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks… all of our extra time and energy has been spent on nonstop wedding planning. After countless hours of online research, several site visits, and two bridal shows (in the same afternoon!), we finally have a date and venue! It is fun, exhausting, exciting, and nerve-wracking all at once. When we’re not at work, we’re making calls, meeting vendors for early morning coffee dates, scouring the web for ideas… On the bright side, we’ve been treated to a lot of free coffee with all these vendor consultations.

Planning a wedding is much more fun and interesting than the usual grind, so work days can be difficult when it comes time to leave and I end up forcing myself to set aside this yearlong “project,” switch gears, and return
to my day job.

It has been a lot better working on Cold now that I am more comfortable and familiar with the dishes. Still, last week I was scheduled to fill in on Plancha 2 (fish) for two days while one of the guys was on vacation, and apparently it was noticeable just how thrilled I was to be back on the Hot Line. Chef offhandedly mentioned that this was the perk of working as many stations as possible; you get to move around and fill in on people’s days off, mixing things up. I hope this means that she will keep rotating me from station to station so I won’t be stuck on Cold for too long!