Every restaurant you work in leaves a mark on you. Sometimes it's just a scrape, sometimes it's a scar, and sometimes it leaves you tattooed--you're changed forever. Your scrapes are probably few. The impact of these kitchens may have hit you hard enough initially, but in time those marks will fade, along with your memories of these places. What were the dishes we were cooking there? Who was that guy I worked pantry with? Was there even a chef there? Often these places were your stepping stones. These are the places that didn't inspire you....or they did inspire you, until you realized that Thai/Mexican fusion wasn't your thing, and you split. These places don't really remember you either. When you go by for a visit (if they're still in business) you recognize no one. The menu is full of the same stuff you were cooking years ago. The only change is that the floors are a little more worn, and the kitchen has a new layer of grease. The lessons you took away with you seem remedial now; learning what the sanitizer dispenser looks like, what a 600 pan is, and how to dice shallots to name a few. You might even leave this place off of your resume.

A restaurant that scars you usually does so physically and mentally. Im not talking emotional scars, although there might be a few of those. Im talking about a change in the way you approach your work...that eventually starts to spill over into your personal life. Your inner clock starts to adjust to your nocturnal lifestyle. When you walk the crowded aisles of a grocery store you say "behind you." Your technique starts to come around, and you start to understand the language of the kitchen. Spanish starts to pop up when you're talking to your friends. Food looks different now. Eating out, you can identify ingredients, techniques, and see a chefs style coming out. These scars are your foundation, and these years are the ones you refer to as the good old bad old days. You pay your dues here, and come away with confidence, and hunger for the next challenge.

The kitchens that tattoo you are the most rare. These places hold a place in your heart reserved for family, your boyfriend or girlfriend, and anything else deeply important to you. After working here you talk differently. You listen differently. Your very DNA morphs into something new. And it goes both ways. You leave your mark, and you can see it rubbing off on others daily. Everyone uses the same phrases, and holds themselves to the same standards. Conversations ramble on and on about cooking. Time spent out of the kitchen is still spent together, as a team, eating out or going to markets. On your days off you miss the kitchen. You look back on yourself before you came here, and that person is almost unrecognizable.

So the question is, how are you leaving your mark? Is your impact something positive? Are you contributing something? Are you a part of it? Or just skirting along the edges? Do the other cooks mimic your style? Do they listen when you speak? Are you able to see the big picture--balancing the personal side and the business side? Is everyone working towards the same goals? Is everyone even comfortable talking about their goals? Will your time spent here be something that influences and changes the other cooks careers?

a quick rant.
are you finding yourself dreading work? do you stand there with your arms folded, a sour look on your face, and a shitty attitude during service? are you just going through the motions, working towards your friday? are you interested in progressing anymore? do you communicate through shrugs and mumbled insults? have you gotten too comfortable? if so, then please fuck off and stop cooking already. if you really do love cooking, then please go cook somewhere that suits you. no one is chained to their job--so stop being a baby and acting like you can't leave. do something you probably haven't done in your entire career and take a motherfucking risk. so what if you fall flat on your face? at least then you'll have perspective. thank you, you may now continue reading.


-Al: "Harissa and yogurt? Yorissa."
-Me: "Or hogurt."
-Al: "Hagurt you mean."

-Corey, talking about the puppy cam: "They're called Shinju's or something."
-Me: "Shinju's a ninja."
-Corey: "Well, they're ninja dogs."

-Corey, talking to Al: "Don't ever write on my underwear ever again."

from top: shaving the whiskers off guanciale, thirteen pork chops at once, dirty girl tomatoes, gibraltar at blue bottle, the blue bottle stand, calzone at dopo, the tuesday market crew, dr feelgood is really old, green vans, my worn out ninja shoes, the bunny primps, an empty ferry plaza, an empty seat at slanted door, some snacks and whiskey at the door.


kirchartfour said...

I'm bummed to hear that even at your level of experience; you're still seeing alot shit that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Casey said...

I get excited when you have new post up. I check everyday hoping in some bizarre way that your kitchen hours are different than my kitchen hours and you have plenty of time to write. Selfish, I know.

My girlfriend just called me out for shaking my head in agreement when reading your post. Maybe it is time I leave New York and head out to Cali.

Le Feu said...

There are a few people on my line that really need to read that rant and make a damn decision. It's really hard to focus on my plates when you're ranting about how everyone blames everything on you all the time. Oh well, what can you do? As always, wonderful post man. Keep your eyes open and your knives sharp buddy.


Los Gatos Girl said...

Dr. Feelgood was 1989, how could they be off by 20 years? New wave eurotrash that don't know any better.

Thip said...

It's funny, I start to say "behind you" wherever I go now.

Michael Natkin said...

Totally... "behind you"... "hot behind"... "knife"... freaks my wife out. The funniest is when I accidentally do it as a diner in a restaurant, some waiter almost always gives me a look

zakary said...

Just found this blog (which kicks ass) and amen to this post.


Anonymous said...

good stuff