welcome to the freak show

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I really don’t know why I wrote that title.

I think maybe kitchen life has shown me more about myself than almost anything. Not that I am a freak (okay maybe a little), but that it is all a show and this show is the most wild thing I’ve been a part of in a really long time.

I woke up this morning feeling bone tired. Nervous. Weary. Wanting nothing more than to just sink back into my bed and not think about the day I was about to have.

I even prayed. I asked God to help me, even though it’s been a while because I am stubborn and burnt and mostly lost in all of those things. Lost in them is not a bad place to be, if I’m being honest. I just need to be into something, and the chaos of my day to day is becoming something of a norm.

Embrace it, I say. It makes things easier. Like exploring the vast cosmos trying to make sense of all the galactic chaos. Explosions and gravity and how time is such a big weirdo.

I believe that the chaos will settle and we will begin to take strong steps towards something sustainable. After all, that is at the top of my list. Right underneath “Learn how to make fried chicken taste like Popeyes.”

anger

I have been an angry chef. Pissy and short tempered. Apologetically exhausted. Not only dealing with the complexities of time and fire and plating, but the ooey gooey’ness of the people around me and their ability, unknowingly, to sink deep into my skin when I’m spiraling.

They see me tired. Stressed. Overly-apologetic because I know this isn’t the me I want to see, but it has been the me that survives. Maybe flailing around online and after a few beers isn’t the best idea, but life is too short not get a little ridiculous from time to time.

Overall, I am in awe of everything, and everyone — of seeing people eat and absorb the things I’ve had in my head since forever ago, it seems. I know I will be able to absorb it some day soon, and it will probably be in the midst of some mundane thing. But all I can see is people, and I see in them the good and the bad.

It hurts to hear the bad things, and praise feels like good water pressure.

Still, you move forward into the great and wild unknown.

A freak show in its own time.

An island of misfit toys,

a hard and heavy day,

a broken hallelujah.

saints and salt.

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I’ve been watching this new series on Netflix called, “Chef’s Table”.

Of course, as a cook, I am drawn to things that shed a little light on my world and why we are driven to do what we do.
For one, the series is beautifully produced.
The music is dreamy.
The food is just. Humph.

I sit in my chair, squirmy and restless.

In the back of my mind, I say “Can I do that here??!!”

Can I become great?
To be honest, I don’t think that’s the right question.

In all of these stories, there are extraordinary highs and gut-wrenching lows. From physical exhaustion and breakdowns to having your biggest client tell you that your food was terrible. There are the empty dining rooms, and being booked solid for a year.

The ebb and flow of being a chef is like this: Response. No response. Doubt. Certainty. And I think that it changes daily.

Each chef has this desire to create and change the world they live in.
I am so drawn to their worlds. It makes sense to me. Deep deep down I will always have a need to create and change.

And I have been so challenged this past week.
Frustrated with the industry. Letting my tired and restless soul get the best of me on numerous occasions.

It is so hard to translate your life’s passion to someone who doesn’t care like you do. It feels a little like being a kid and having the grown ups discourage you from being wild. I think we lose so much of our wildness. We lose our ability to say what we need to say and to communicate it well.

I’ve found myself as a leader. I think maybe because I try not to be an asshole. I try to not set up my people to fail. I try to be good and I try to do good things. It is hard keeping your patience and to not blow up on the occasional (or frequent) slip up.

And I am so hard on myself. And I am so stubborn, even more so in a kitchen.

I am learning what kind of chef I want to be. This has been a season of learning what kind of chef I don’t want to be. At the cost of losing sleep and burning a bridge or two, I am learning still.

I am not here to feel justified.

I’ve been a jerk too many times for that.
But I have a lot in common with these people and the fires that reside in their bellies and their kitchens.

Their love of feeding people and doing it well.
Their passion for life in all its complexity.
Truly, they are the saints that salt the earth.

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Today I rest my legs and my back, getting ready for another week where I hope to make good decisions. I also hope that I have the courage to speak my mind when I feel something is right and to fight for and with the people I work for, and this way of life.

Because I’m not sure what cooking is without conviction and trials,

or the weight that I carry that comes with feeding people.

All I know is that there will be huge highs and lows, and the things I might sacrifice to get there.

I don’t know if I will ever arrive.

I don’t think it is about arriving. It is about the road and pit stops and randomly jumping into an ice cold river,

That is what makes this journey personal,

and I’m excited to see where and for how long the road takes me.

balancing.

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I love cooking so, so much.

In fact, I am defensive of my love for it. I guard it fiercely because it is one of my main love languages and I get to use it every day. It is how I get to love on you.

Unfortunately, I am in a season of doubt. I’m sure most industry people go through this. Some sooner than others who know this type of work truly isn’t for them. Personally, I am glad they find out sooner than later, because there’s nothing harder than watching someone burnt out clock in and clock out wishing they were somewhere else, doing something that makes them feel alive.

I am lucky, in that I found something that I love. I walk this balance beam, holding on to a lot of what I am. That big softy who wants nothing more than to live in Vermont in a cabin under a few maple trees. Perhaps submitting my award winning cheddar in the state fair. All of this, with a wonderful person who may, from time to time, spoil me with a back scratch. Maybe a kid. Maybe two. Probably an herb garden, because my mom thinks they’re fancy.

The other side of this balance beam is standing behind a stove (or anything hot, really) listening to my colleagues moan about a horrid customer or that they’re hungover or that they just burned a two inch line in their arm from the convection oven. The hot and brutal rush of making food and feeding people. The clean up. The decompression. Doing it all over again. It’s addicting. It’s fun. It’s hard. Hard. Hard work.

For what it’s worth, I’ve had numerous people (not directly) advise against opening their own place. There’s the stress on all accounts. The long hours. The constant worry about your business. The strain on relationships. The idea of business itself is a little overwhelming, and I realize one needs to be tough tough tough.

I’ve worked for chefs who inspire me to work harder and cleaner and other chefs who insult their own profession.

I work in an industry that is slowly gaining some sort of weight in our country. Less so, in a smaller Mississippi community. I do not live in an industry city. We are best described as a retirement community. A college town with a struggling downtown scene. One that I wish to invest in.

It has been so hard, as a person who loves to eat and to cook, to not have the things that brought me to cooking in the first place.

This, is the nitty gritty part.

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Being single, and closer to more friends and family has been so good for me. I’ve been taken care of so much and I’m also busier than ever. Which is weird. I don’t remember being too busy. I remember having a lot of time to learn how to cook. I suppose this is the hustle. In between the calm and the storm.

What I want to say, is that food will always be the way I take care of you.

Sure, I have my words. My eyes that struggle to make contact with yours.

I’m trying really f*cking hard to make eye contact. To stand straighter.

To talk louder. To not mumble so much.

I am Josh, the quiet kid who once upon a time, hid behind the legs of his mother and another time forgot his lines in the church play when he was eight, even though there were only three I had to remember.

I am also 6 foot 2 inches and carry a belly. I’m pretty bald and wear a brown beanie because my head gets so cold.

But in that kitchen,

I am present.

I dissolve, like salt in water.

Leaning slightly, wanting more color, more heat.

Tasting and observing the changing of water into air.

I can be both, I say deep in my belly. I have room for both.

Because I love to cook,

and it will always bring me closer to you.

magic.

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I believe in magic.
Not the Harry Potter kind of stuff, though I’d argue to say, and others too might point out that magic is different than witchcraft and wizardry.

Oh goodness, I’m off to a great start already.

I suppose I should specify, or give you some clarity before you start thinking I’m crazy. Or, you can think I’m crazy. I’d like to think I’m showing significant signs of deviance from the norm — at least in my own head.

What I’d like to say, is that I believe in the process of creating.

I believe that there is something in each person that I’d like to call magic. For reasons I can’t explain, and you can’t explain, you’re just good at it. The mix of sub-conscious and motor memory and creativity. Also things like experience and passion and hard work.

I suppose you could just call it that, and walk away thinking that what you do isn’t that cool. And maybe it isn’t. But maybe there is this one thing that you can’t explain, but you just do it really well.

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I watched a movie last night called, “The Lunchbox”.
Anytime I can snag a non-Bollywood movie that takes place in India, I’m usually all over it. There’s nothing wrong with Bollywood because truthfully, there is PLENTY of magic involved.

This was a movie about food and mistakes and how they say, ‘the wrong train can lead you to the right station.’

But there was a line in the movie that was far more substantial. Two of the main characters were talking about a tiny restaurant closing, mistaking one of the cooks as the woman who had been sending this man his lunch. “There’s no place for talent in this country…”

While the other says, stuffing tikka masala into his mouth, “Everyone can cook, but there must be magic.

So, as the aspiring pseudo-chef in me loved to hear this, I started to think about it.
There are times, when I’ve found myself cooking for people and myself, and I think, “How did this happen?”

I mean, of course. You learn how to build flavors. You learn how to taste. You learn how to put things together and heat them up or cool them down.

But then, when you are sitting down at a table with another person and hear them moan, “Mmm.” And you all just sit around and eat and eat and drink.

That to me, is magic.

The ability to create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

magic.

The same goes for whatever your hand or body chooses to create. The invisible presence that circulates in a room — the ideas that were put in your head and the execution of it all.

Maybe I’m being dramatic and romanticizing a thing too much. I’ve been known to do such things, as y’all are well aware. But even at this here blog, I get to create and write and explore. Quite often, I look back at the things I’ve been able to write and wonder where it came from. Certainly some dark places, but also from a place that holds a great light.

What I hope, is that you consider the invisible presence of wonder.

That little bit extra.

The butter or a song at just the right moment.

Not one extra grain of salt.

And the presence of the Beloved,

 

nothing short of magic. 

how it could be

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I believe we are at the cusp of something big and powerful.

Usually when it gets late, the mystic in me comes out a bit, and I’m okay with that. Or maybe I’m just tired and loopy.

I recently read a quote by Thoreau that said,

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

I have grown to love and learn different things in different seasons. In college, I had a heart for justice. I was heavily convicted as a son to the very conflicted Deep South. Over the years, I have had to defend the place I love and call home. I’ve had to tiptoe around its delicate nature, and also brush off the accusations and the fact that no, I do not sound like a hick. Even if I did, how does that change your opinion?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. I work on the same streets where freedom riders and walkers, preachers and teachers and mechanics pushed forward, and where they were also met with opposition. I am always carrying around this history. There is so so much to all of this, and I always want to approach it with humility. I guess there are hundreds of books written on the subject, so I will spare you the essay, and will try to not make this about me. But it is a blog, so I guess that’s a little counter-productive.

There is a weight to changing anything, really. Apathy is debilitating. It knocks the wind out of me. Oh, it’s just so much easier to work for someone else and continue living your life in a relative amount of safety. Trust me, I love that life. And I’m not here writing to make you feel guilty about yours.

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This city, especially, gave me so much. It gave me room to explore and breathe fire. I feel like I owe something back.

Going back to the quote from earlier, I settle into myself for a bit. I like to close my eyes and remember the places I’ve been and how they’ve changed me.

I think about how marriage and being a husband made me soft and squishy. It made me love another fiercely and gave me something to devote my life to.
Before that, I was putting some time into various organizations that I thought were doing good. I traveled to India and Chicago and they both knocked me flat on my face.

Any effort I have had to change the world has resulted in me falling on my ass, and scratching my chin, and probably my ass, too. Most of the time saying, What do I really believe anymore?”

It’s really easy to get consumed with facts and failure rates. But lately, I can’t think of any life changing occurrence that didn’t leave me feeling stronger than before. When you’re met with resistance and pain and failure, the only real thing to learn is that you are still alive and able to move on!

Bigger and brighter and wiser and stronger.

So I have that hope, deep deep down.
That it is possible to change — I mean, thank God we change. Right?

And we just need you, okay?

We need you to be brave and hold loosely.

We need you, screw ups and wandering souls who from time to time smoke too many cigarettes.

We need food for the revolution.

I can at least do that much.

But this isn’t something you will see in the paper. It starts small, and to be honest, sort of stays that way. But when a lot of people do small things together, things happen, and are already happening. That is when it becomes part of our daily lives. How we treat our butcher. How we buy our food. What our kids get to learn, and that we shouldn’t have to be afraid of our bosses.

There is a part of me already doubting. I already recognize the voices that tell me, and my generation are a waste. But really, part of it comes from watching you.

And before we get too comfortable with the way things are,

just for a minute, we like to imagine how it could be.

Because the price of anything, is the life you exchange for it.

small moves.

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It’s all kind of fragile.

I keep thinking that, as I work and come home and think about the balance created by the stars and star stuff we are made of.

I don’t know what’s holding it (and us) all together. Food systems and water and pollution. It seems like the load is too much.

I mean, yes, it is too much.

There was a time in my life when I thought I could change the world. Everything is so radical and exciting when you feel fire running through your veins. You think if all you had to do was convince enough people, everything would change.

I suppose my passions have shifted a bit over the years. I am still convicted about the lack of justice and equality, and mourn heavily with our friends who live in poverty. That will never change in my heart.
As a cook, I’ve become friends with people who have been homeless, addicts, in jail and are still currently dealing with some if not all of the above.

The kitchen has always been a place for these people. It’s no wonder that I’ve ended up there, to be honest. Yeah, the sudden rise of “how cool would it be to be a chef” has a lot of folks flocking to the nitty gritty, but I will say, things are different here.

I’m struggling a bit.
I grew to love and cook food on a deeper level in Portland. It’s a foodie city. Its economy works (decently well) around restaurants and farms and purveyors. Its markets are set up to inspire people to learn and cook with such wonderful, fresh ingredients.

This is not about me calling out a place. This is only me, moving back to a place with massive potential, and a lack of systems. These things take time, I do realize.

I also want to recognize the folks that are already here doing the hard work. And for the people who have come and gone. For the workers in the fields, under the hot sun not making much of wage either. I write this, in the same spirit as to why you do what you do. I realize I am sort of new again to this whole thing. So I am always humbled, and realize there is a lot I need to learn.

On a daily basis these days, I contemplate what it would be like to own my own spot.
Somedays I get to talk to people about it. I find it encouraging.
Other days people are less so. Saying that this place isn’t ready yet. That it will fail.

I’m getting sort of..antsy.

In the sense that I can’t afford life here, as cheap as it may be at times, on a cook’s wage. I see other friends of mine in the same position. It’s really pitiful, this whole minimum wage thing. And honestly, I’m not learning a ton, and realize that unless I am being challenged, the wage doesn’t compensate for knowledge.
I go back and forth in my head, that if I’m going to change my occupation, this will be the place, because I surely can’t support myself here for too long. It would break my heart to have to move out of the kitchen. It has been part of home the past five years.

In my head, I am constantly hearing myself say, “Well, if there’s nothing left to burn, you have to catch yourself on fire..” And while that is the intro to one of my favorite songs, it resonates deeply.

gas-stove-burning-web

I am not in this industry to make it rich.
I do want to help change it, though.

I want it to be cool.
I want workers to be respected. I want them to feel pride in what they do.
I want people to open their minds and hearts to different food cultures, and dining experiences.
I want people to support more local establishments.
I want local restaurants to challenge, but also support each other.

Otherwise, it becomes stale and stagnant.

If you’re not going to make it better, then I will.

Somehow, I will.

I am the biggest proponent of time. I’ve only been back living in the south for almost four months. This is tiny. But I am seeing potential, even among the naysayers and those who tell me this place isn’t ready. Or that I will fail. And that it is hard and expensive.

I know, I know, I know.

A place, just like a person, must keep challenging itself if it wants to grow.

I want to grow.
I want to grow here, truly. I don’t want to leave again because I can’t find what I need. The systems are not yet here, in many ways. But they are certainly on their way. You can hear it, sometimes. I see it, in little ways. People wanting more.

The South ain’t in no hurry to change, and I am not here for those reasons.
But it will start small, as it always does. With a few friends around a table with some ideas.

And who knows what it will turn into.

I just know I am ready. I’m ready for people here to live better, stronger lives. I want this for myself. I want this for my neighbor.

I feel the heat rising from my feet, and it’s a nice thing to feel. I know this sensation. Of being a little antsy, waiting for the right time to move. I love it. I love how it scares me but how it feels when you start to move.

Small moves, dude.

small moves.

My Top Four Cookbooks of the Past Year (and the dishes I crave the most)

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My love for cookbooks outweighs my love of well, regular books. This was not always so.

At least, if you walk into my room…that’s what you’ll see. And I’m sure once I move in to my new place, you will see them up front. Easy access. Arranged in no particular order. Probably on my night stand. In the kitchen. And on my coffee table.

I will probably have a few Cook’s Illustrated and the latest Lucky Peach magazine in the open air as well. Yes, I am a doofus.

I revisit cookbooks like most of you do with The Giver, and the Catcher and the Rye or Mere Christianity. I suppose that’s what they’re for. They are tools. Only, they have changed over the years. At least from what I used to remember about cookbooks.

If you look in some of my mom’s cabinets, you will find cookbooks from church. Usually a congregation compiles some of their favorite recipes from dinner on the grounds, or pot lucks and ice cream socials. “This is Rev. Waller’s favorite pecan pie..”

so on, and so forth.

Of course, there are the classics.
Rambauer’s “Joy of Cooking”.
Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
Getting a little older,
“Larousse Gastronomique”
and Auguste Escoffier’s “Guide to Modern Cookery”

Since food, and food culture are taking off in the states, there have been a lot of beauties to come off the shelves and into my admiring arms. I admit, I study them like textbooks. Only, these days, they can read like a good narrative. Each recipe gets an explanation, which I like. I enjoy diving into the minds of cooks, not just for the secrets in their dishes, but for the chord it strikes deep in their memory.

I’ve acquired many of them since diving deep into the culinary world, but there are four in particular that I’ve bought this past year that are of importance to me. Also note, many of these were not published in the past year, just the ones I’ve hit hard. **If this is boring, you can probably head straight down to the closing, and call it a day**

Joe Beef 1_Credit Tourisme Montreal, Pierre-Luc Dufour

 

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts
I love chefs David McMillan and Frederic Morin of Montreal.
I believe all industry professionals should own this book. The recipes are outrageous and decadent. Their story, and the early days of Joe Beef are enlightening as a person who wants their own place some day. They are kings of hospitality. They are hopeless romantics, collectors of vintage dining ware and stories, and strive to be excellent dining companions. I hope that one day, I will make it up there.
Dish I dream about: Lievre a la royale

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The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
I feel like if I would have met and/or worked for Judy Rogers, I would have fallen in love. She recently passed away, but the last time I was in San Francisco, I popped in here for a few small plates and a couple of very strong cocktails. It was nothing short of perfect, as the memory of my time still makes me feel all tingly. It’s a staple in the SF dining scene, as classic as it is relevant. Oysters. Fries. Roast chicken. It’s just too much. A warm and inviting homage to bay area cuisine, and fine, simple but exquisite cookery.
Dish I dream about: Zuni roast chicken and bread salad / oysters from the raw bar

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A Girl and Her Pig
April Bloomfield. Swoon. Women chefs are more intimidating to me than male chefs. I’ve worked for both and I can say they all work really, really hard. But, this isn’t as much about her being a woman, than it is her love for cooking. I’ve listened to her talk about cooking, and I’ve watched her cook. She loves eating. She’s hard on her cooks and is particular about getting a dish right. She makes me want to cook better. Her food is just sexy as hell, which in my eyes, makes her just as much. It’s satisfying, rich, and thoughtful. Her passion is addicting, and I hope that someday, I’ll still have the love that she carries for her food, cooks, farmers and purveyors.
Dish I dream about: chicken livers on toast / also: lemon caper dressing

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Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird
Gabriel Rucker and his team are champs. Gah, I know. I know. I suppose I had to make an homage to Portland. There were a lot of incredible cookbooks that have recently come out of Portland. I had the chance to eat there just once, for an anniversary. It’s one of those dinners that a poor couple saves up for and knows they’re going to get $150 tab and be perfectly okay with it. (Like we did.) The atmosphere is dark and candlelit. Open kitchen, beautiful service and the food is rich and sexy, as is the wine they pair so closely. This cookbook is so fun to look at. Beautiful plates, and really just a great story about a chef finding his sweet spot. It’s encouraging to see the community of cooks in a city and how they all found their niches, eventually. Le Pigeon is a shining example of people who always aim to use the best, and who cook beautiful, authentic, really fun food.
Dish I dream about: beef cheek bourguignon, pommes puree and glazed carrots

If I haven’t already made you insanely hungry for your lunch hour, then I must insist you acquire these and have fun with them. Everyone has the right to good food, not just the elite. It might take some time to get where you want to go, but these dishes weren’t built in a day. They take a lifetime, really. They build upon one another, just as we do.

So, I must ask, what is your favorite cookbook and what dish do you crave the most??

 

the importance of a good table.

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Are we okay?

Hmm. There’s a lot going on here.
Planet Earth and its billions of moving parts, we are bound to conflict and intersect.

In the midst of it all, some of us are preparing for interviews, funerals, war, or maybe a baby is about to be born. I am aware of the fear that resides in our bellies. Will we be good enough? Fast enough? Will we feel like we are enough?

I start doubting myself.
What if they need me to break down a fish — shoot, I should probably watch a few videos just to get a general idea. How do I show them that I like to devote myself to a craft and to a person.
I wrote a while ago about dating, and meeting new people.

How it’s hard to get an idea of a person with just one event. I suppose I recognize that. It’s a lot of pressure to feel impressive or cool or “having one’s shit together”. Nobody wants to be the person sitting on the other side of the table thinking, “Oh, they see it. They see how much of a mess I am. This is over. I am done. We should just go. I think I still have some ice cream in my freezer…”

I think about this more than I should. It’s a bit ridiculous, because I’m selling myself short. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be living out my potential every day. We read stuff like that all the time. To live in the present, and to be bold and brave and fail.

Only somedays, you want to stay inside and watch Netflix and be neutral. Not adding, or taking away from anyone.

So what do I do here?
I’m left at times feeling like a fish outta water. I don’t look the part. I don’t wear khakis to a bar, I like black and I wear thick glasses I’m sure people will tell me, when I lose them, that it was for the better. And I will chuckle and say something I don’t mean like, “Well why didn’t you tell me I looked so goofy?”

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I write a lot about my table. It’s sort of a metaphor, but more times than not I find myself sitting across from people I wouldn’t seek out. For reasons I can’t explain, like maybe they’re far more attractive than me, or their interests are nowhere close to mine. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to gain a bit of safety from the world. I think my table has a lot to offer.

You see those cracks there? Yeah, that happened not too long ago. That was rough. I didn’t know if I was gonna make it out alive.

This edge here? Yeah, it’s so much smoother than it used to be. I used to run into all the time and it would send a sharp pain up my back and it would take me a while to recover. I would say to myself, “I really should fix that, I just don’t have the time..”

This dish?
Oh, well my friend was walking around and saw it, and thought of me. I love when people say things like that. “I saw this, and thought of you…” That makes me feel most special. It makes me feel like there’s a piece of my spirit hanging with them, wherever they go. And that sounds really interesting, because sometimes that’s how we talk about the ones who have passed. Only, I am still alive and my memory is strong.

Oh! Let me fill your glass, because that’s important to me. I see your cheeks are a bit red, so I grab more water.

All this stuff is important, I say to myself.

And I guess, what I hope for people to see in me, is that they feel important when they are with me. Regardless of our daily battles, in that moment, cheeks red and wandering eyes, you are important.

You are at my table, and here, everything is important.

No hummus and pita plate! (An update, of sorts)

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I realize I’ve taken a bit of a jump from what I used to talk about.

Food has kept me more than alive these past few months. I don’t know if I would have been able to cope with my personal life if I wouldn’t have had a kitchen to cook in. The industry is funny like that. As stressful and demanding as it can be, it is a home for many. It’s been a home for me. Not just in a kitchen, but with other cooks and industry folk. They have held me tightly, given me space to create, and have fed me and let me frequent their barstools. If not to take the edge off, just a bit, but the company has been so important.

I wrote a long time ago that I had been given the task to start a dinner service at Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry, where I was once a barista, and now sous chef of a kitchen.

Well, in June, we started serving dinner hoping our liquor license would show up the next week. A lot of weird things happened and it was just taking too long, and we were being stretched too thin. So, I went back to doing breakfast, lunch and prep shifts until we got our liquor license straightened away. And so, a few weeks ago, we were officially given our liquor license. Woo!

So this Thursday, we will be having a sort of ‘grand opening’ harvest party to showcase some of the food we’ll be serving, and also as a way to have fun and welcome in the new season. It’s been a long time coming, for sure.

I’m stoked on my menu and am really proud of the way it looks.

I am, though, in the process of figuring out how to run a kitchen. Which means, thinking about food at least two weeks in advance and figuring out how to cook food with a kitchen staff that is pretty much just me, and the occasional runner, prep cook.

It’s a little scary, but I’m ready. And let’s be honest, when cooking in a kitchen, you will think you are ready, but it can change in a heartbeat. You just gotta power through it and hope to come out on the other side.

I’ve been learning a lot from other cooks. Learning to degrease as much as I can so our sink won’t back up. I’m always so amazed about how cooking relies so much on being clean, and cleaning. Always, cleaning. Haha. (I never write laughs in my blogs, but it’s so true…)

Woodlawn-Coffee-Pastry.-Perfect-spot-for-a-rainy-day-cup.-And-it-is-really-raining-today

Like I said, I’m super stoked on the menu. It’ll change quite often, considering I try hard to keep it seasonal.

This time, we are adding some house charcuterie on the menu. Pork rillettes, pate de campagne (country pate), and eventually, chicken liver mousse.

I suppose I am designing a menu on people drinking. Personally, I love rich, satisfying food when drinking a stiff cocktail or sake or wine.

No nachos. Not that I’m opposed to them, they’re just played out drinking food. No pita and hummus plate! Bah humbug! I always crack on this. I don’t know why. I just know whenever I go to a pub and see pita and hummus with raw veggies, I realize it’s easy and it’s filler, and honestly, it sells. I just can’t do it right now.

I’m excited to showcase pimiento cheese and house made crackers.  A killer meatloaf sandwich (which I’ve been told is better than most burgers on the block) and of course, since we’re a pastry shop, our desserts will be bangin’.

I’m excited, y’all. Feeding people, given its trials from time to time, really is meaningful to me.

If you do find yourself wondering about Portland, come by and say hi!

I’d love to feed ya.

Until next time, I raise my glass to those who have stuck with me during these hard, hard months. Thank you for reading and following and just being super wonderful people. It means so much to me.

-Josh