rest

Food, Health, Hospitality Industry

I picked a profession that doesn’t allow for much brain rest.

In fact, it’s a job that prides itself on being the most busiest and most tired. I would be lying if I didn’t feel good sometimes about having a really long day. I kind of like being tired, but I don’t like what it perpetuates.

I’ve done what I’ve had to do in the restaurant biz, and I have it really easy. This is the first time ever, working in the industry, that making a living and rest have evened out. Sure, some weeks are more tiring and require me to be present 60+ hours a week. Then I get some weeks where I actually eat about three meals a day. Some days I even get to sit down for them.

But that’s just been my life for the past 10 years.

I’ve decided to take a break from drinking, among other things. I’m doing this for a lot of reasons, currently for my body/mind health. Alcohol is the sneakiest one. Part of me is doing it so that I can drink a beer or a glass of wine in my 50’s and 60’s and be okay.

Also, I was just feeling really awful after drinking. More so than usual. I try to pay attention. Sometimes, your brain goes straight to “make this feel better immediately” — cue alcohol, food, sugar, dumb TV.

There is a pressure to medicate.

Rarely do I have two days off in a row that I can not be at the restaurant. Currently, it’s not so bad. I have a great crew who take care of things and do a super job at it. This is worth its weight in gold. Any chef or manager will tell you the weight lifted off your shoulders when you can be gone from your business and know things are being taken care of properly.

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I draw back into myself on days like this. I have some time to dream, for myself and for the business. This is the most important thing. You cannot be inspired if you are stuck frying eggs and fixing drains tired, because we do that more than anything most days.

There is also some guilt to self care. “You’re not drinking!? Bummer!!”
Man, don’t ever say that to someone. You never know what demons someone is fighting.

My mind is wracked with guilt about how this business is done. How some of us can make livings and other cannot. Some of that comes with how much people are willing to pay for food. Then there are other things like the thinnest margins of profit, mixed with food cost and labor and rent.

Some part of my mind wonders what it’d be like to work for a large business and I didn’t have to carry that weight. I try to fight the good fight, and hope that being good to our employees means not making them feel like shit if they mess up.

Grace, not just by us, but also by customers is important.

You can make all the difference in the world by being understanding that mistakes will happen. The pressure to not disappoint is insurmountable. So, when we do, we feel kind of crushed. To you, it seems like a fairly easy job, but there is also a lot of love that goes into these things, and when you misinterpret it for lazy and dumb, it really goes a long way to mess with our heads.

So you have one of the biggest parts here. Be a good diner, and support the folks trying to make a living and a better life for themselves. Some of us really love this work, and people are the hardest things to navigate.

Getting back to what I want to say, out of all of this, is to to rest your mind. Quiet the voices and remember your place in the grand scheme of everything moving around us. Get a massage. Go for a walk. Watch something that will make you laugh.

Be kind to your brain and your body. Listen to it. Give it a break. The weight of the cosmos is always pressing down on it, so just be aware of the pressures it has to handle without the stresses of moving in the world.

Allow some wiggle room for things to be sloppy if you need the dishes to sit for a few hours. Allow yourself to drift off into a nap without feeling like your to-do list will be waiting for you when you wake up. There are always things we could be doing, just remember to fit yourself in.

Love yourself, and leave room for the world to love you in return.

 

timers and reminders.

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My life is timers and reminders.

Look at my phone and you will see them all turned on — all on their specific days with specific times.
They say things like, BREAD! and PRODUCE!

That is my life now. A gazillion little things. Writing menus. Writing emails including menus. Answering catering inquiries. Talking to old ladies on the phone who are worried about MSG in their food. Ordering food. Cooking food. Creating specials in hopes that people will eat them. Teaching people how to cut onions the way I want them cut. Always leaving the kitchen thinking I’ve forgotten to do something. (Which I probably have.)

I remember reading about chefs when I first started getting into cooking. I knew that what you see on TV wasn’t the real deal. But it didn’t sway me. I didn’t run away even when I knew I had thin skin. I just knew that I wanted it.

I will always have thin skin. That ain’t changing.

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So what is this big difference? Well, I am a cook who has to call himself a chef from time to time. Because people want to talk to the Chef. They want to give their business cards to the Chef even when you know you’ll never call them. People want to know the Chef. They want to know who’s in charge. Which is me. And that is terrifying, and there is a lot of power there.

I have a good crew. I have a really good crew. I know I have gained their respect because I see it every day. And they have mine. There is a proximity thing. When you are constantly moving behind people and beside them with sharp and hot objects. We all sweat together. We commiserate. To me, it’s just business as usual.

But there is a clock. Always. Ticking. Until food is done and needs to come out of the oven. Timing on the eggs in the pot and that ever-pressing sense of urgency once a ticket finishes out the kitchen printer.

When I come home, I usually lay down for a while. I listen to some white noise and it clears my head. Sometimes I fall asleep for a few minutes, and sometimes I still hear the kitchen printer.

I am always aware of time and how precious it is. The time I have for me. The time I have for you and the want to have more of it at the end of a long day.

I feel proud.

Always.

And I really try to care in all things. Some things I know I cannot handle, and I think it’s important to recognize that and to share the load. Humans cannot hold everything. Some times it can feel like Atlas holding the world, but I know deep down that I am not capable of this and that I need other people.

That is where all of this comes from. And at the end of the day it is about the other people who are there with you — making you laugh — taking over a station while you lean against a tree outside for some fresh air.

They are truly the powerful ones. And I will give them everything I have.

I never need a reminder for that.

tiny worlds.

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Okay. Okay. Wow. Hmm. Okay. It’s okay.

Those were my thoughts on a Monday morning.
Two of my best friends, terrified and excited and worried and exhausted.
Their details, I won’t share here, but the circumstances had me holding back tears on the line.

“I need sides on 48 and 12!” I would holler out to my buddy, also cooking on the line.

I would pace back and forth, heart beating and trying to keep it together.

After things settle, and my heart is more at ease, I start focusing on my week, getting things tucked back in, like tapping a stack of misaligned papers on a table.

Tuesday, Work and Ramen night. Visit friends in hospital.
Wednesday, Work and Cater Captain of Zeus party. 13 hour day.
Thursday, Work and Prep for private catering gig. 13 hour day.
Friday, Cater private gig. Clean. 10 hour day.
Saturday, Record day of lunches at work. Cook gumbo for Mardi Gras event. 12 hour day

More often than not, I would say to myself, “Okay dude, don’t freak out. It’s going to be okay.”

My friends, so heavy on my heart, and so many other hearts.

I did what I always do to clear my head.

Clean.

After my private catering gig, my kitchen was horrid. Tomato sauce splattered everywhere from rushing around in my tiny space. Pots and pans stacked and my oven was a mess. After visiting with my friend, I came home and put on some music. I steamed my windows with the heat from the water and washed dishes till my fingers were wrinkly.

I get my steel brush and scrub the tomato off of everything. I remove my burner tops and scrub scrub scrub. I scrub it all away. I tear up a lot. I take deep breaths.

On my knees, I’m scrubbing my floor with a towel, enjoying how easily the dirt just washes away.

I take out the trash, let out a sigh and turn off the light to my kitchen knowing I will be doing this exact same thing again in 24 hours. I am okay with that.

I don’t mind cooking for people. You have to know that deep down, they will not know how much work goes into the food you cook. How much you have to clean up afterwards and how serious you are about your craft.

It is, at the end of the day, about the table we all sit at. That place I write about so often where we sit and talk about hard things that make our necks tight with fear and also the place we fall in love again and again with the people we share our tiny worlds with.

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I think about the breath of a new baby, and its cries that are as natural as breathing. Cries that make you believe in God again and restore in you that there is something bigger that ties us together, even in the midst of small nightmares and restless nights.

The truth is, you never know when the world will crack beneath you. You live in the terrifying moments and exhausted moments as you would when waking up next to a warm body, while the rain taps against your windows.

We live in all the moments, and we breathe life into each others worlds.

We are all, like I always say, small galaxies, floating infinitely, capable of such deep love and pain and beauty,

Birthed from the bellies of our mothers, and the mothers before them,

breaking water. breaking bread.

discovering again and always, the sacred life of the Beloved.