I just jolted awake from one of my small coma-like naps because I thought my air conditioning was the sound of the kitchen printer at work.
Rattle rattle rattle.
My heart was racing. I’ll admit, I’m a hardcore napper. A solid thirty minutes of what I like to call “baby sleep”, when they get all sweaty and all their weight falls on you like a sack of potatoes. And just like that, I am back in the game.
Well. I am a head chef now. Due to a switch in ownership and being in the right place at the right time, I have fulfilled one of my short term goals of being a “chef” before turning thirty. This isn’t unusual. Many chefs are under 30. Though it’s come at me fast, I have no doubt in my heart that I’ve earned the title.
But this isn’t about being a chef.
Maybe it is a little.
More so the hurricane of my brain. Fed only more so by the fact that my shop is doing brunch on Sundays, which any cook will tell you, is a slur of hecticness and eggs. Eggticness.
Alas, it is my job to do this. To feed you hungry people. Lately I have cursed the gods more than I have praised them and for that, I hope they have mercy on me.
My days seem short.
I wake up in an attempt to find another black shirt to wear with some jeans and my old Nikes that I’ve tried to replace twice, and it just hasn’t worked out.
I walk into the kitchen and turn everything on. Slowly, people start showing up. But for that first hour, it is just me in the kitchen. Stirring grits. Cooking off loads and loads of bacon.
Sipping on that first pot of coffee that I get to marvel in. I stare into its blackness and know that in due time, it will find its way through my veins like the chemical it is. I will shake off morning creaks and dust and start working on my prep list.
Cooking is never ending. There is no project that is done that doesn’t have to be re done almost every week, if not every day. There is no council or board members to tell me if I did a good job and that I’ve earned my hearty salary.
Only today, I will be judged for what goes on the plate. I will most likely clean that plate too, and do it again and again. I will be judged on quickness and taste and delivery. Hundreds of times a week. I wake up knowing that I will not please everyone and that I will inevitably let someone down. But I do my best to be as healthy as I can in this industry.
Before everyone shows up, I try to repeat this mantra in my head that it is all out of my control. Only that mostly it is in my control. At least the things that I can have a say in.
Also, there is tomorrow.
Regardless of how stressful and insane and impossible some days are, there is that presence of time. We will move forward and no, this won’t last forever.
So yeah, I guess you can call me a chef now, though it’s a funny word. I won’t be weird about it.
Because sometimes being a chef means you’re reaching your hand down a flooded floor drain to unclog it before it hits the dining room. (Like maybe I did yesterday.)
Or it means going out and buying your co-worker a drink, who’s having a hard season. Or keeping everyone cool when sh*t inevitably hits the fan.
I know your job is stressful too. And you probably get paid way more than me, but I am so super proud of what I’ve become. I may not have a big house to show of my labors. But I have my day to day. My baby naps. The occasional diner telling me that what they had was perfect.
It is enough to make my eyes water, and enough to wake up again tomorrow and do it all over.
If this is what it means to be a chef, then I think I’m going to be okay.