Walking back and forth between the two dinners we were working, I could smell the way the sun warmed the flowers that grow in between the movement and stillness of wood and brick and people that walk around the walls of this building.
I used to lean against these walls years ago, wondering if the hustle was worth it — barely making enough to pay my bills and have a life here. Those are the times that define you the most. The sink or swim moments where you are so grateful, but also so tired of taking people’s money — food — personal time. Sometimes I think luxury is not having to bother people for their things.
The conversation in my industry, especially now, is not so much talking food or trends, but stress, anxiety, addiction and depression.
On my drive to Louisiana today, I listened to a few chefs talk about their demons and the demons that haunt the restaurant world. The pressure to perform and what that pressure does to the cooks they employ. Cooking has never been an easy thing. In fact, it’s always a lot of work, you just get better at doing it and doing it faster than anyone else.
There’s the pressures to compete, to transform expectation and to evolve with the people that eat your food.
At what cost?
That’s the question now.
I am currently battling a lot of anxiety. Do I feel stressed? Sometimes. But now this toxic stuff has become a bit more of my life — recently working a 12 day stint on the line got me a little fried. Every day, you work to outsmart your customers. To prepare for their questions or their worries about what they’re paying for — often times you feel successful. Most of the time, you learn to be flexible and to just move on.
Sometimes, it’s easier to give the customers what they want, but sometimes it’s at the cost of something you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Tasting. Testing. Running through the mill.
There’s so much pressure in that.
There’s pressure in people wanting more and knowing you may be one of the only people who can give it to them.
I’m not sure of the cost of coming home every day and collapsing on the couch, forcing myself to take deep breaths to calm my pulse and come back to Earth as quickly as I can. I know I that I have to, and that I have to focus on bringing myself down in order to function.
I walk fast. Everywhere. A lot of times impatient. Things I feel are so unlike me.
Some days, I walk away feeling sad that I push for so much hustle — so much performance. I fight the line between wanting to be the best and wanting to be realistic. I am always trying to find the balance of healthy and hustle. I’m not sure if there is one, at least not to me right now.
I listened to these chefs speaking things that brought tears to my eyes. They were right in saying that food and cooking is the easiest part of our jobs. Other things like conflict and interpersonal relationships are hard, hard, hard to navigate. It gets hot and fast and you have to remain a good person. You just have to. IT IS JUST FOOD.
Customers also have to help us. We all have to shift to make restaurants a place where people can work and not go home every single day to get stoned and drink away their tips just to cope with the stress of other human beings. A lot of the pressure comes from chefs and business owners, but also customers.
We all have the ability to create and alleviate this toxic thing.
I am lucky to have such a wonderful, hard working and kind crew. I am not always the best human being to be around — especially as of late.
I put so much pressure on myself — to be better than the place moving in down the street and to make sure we are staying on top of our game. But at the end of the day, I would give it all up if I knew it was completely destroying someone’s life.
I believe this industry can change. I believe we can be healthy people that also love to cook and eat and serve other people. In fact, we are changing this world. I have so much work to do on myself, and how I see this for myself, but I’m noticing. I’m shifting. I’m growing.
Food is so important to me. People are more important. I am more important.
The future of food is always shifting, and it’s going to ask you to lower an expectation. It’s going to ask you to pay more, sometimes.
But at the core of what we do, is to take care of you. Sometimes we need your grace and you need ours.
So, we invite you in to eat our food and talk to our servers. Let’s disarm each other whenever we can and make this thing work.
We have to.
The future of food depends on it.
I was met at my destination today to my nephew, throwing me a baseball glove to play.
It was just what I needed.
A breeze that moved the trees,
the sun that warmed my face,
and the feeling that everything was going to be okay.