You're missing out.

Parties.  Concerts.  Dinner parties.  Birthdays.  Dates.  Family gatherings.  Weddings.  Remember going to these things?  Being a part of it all?  Having a life?  Wasn't it nice?  Hope you took lots of pictures and didn't drink too much at these things, because when you're neck deep in kitchen life, it's all a memory. 

Sarah calls it FOMO.  Fear of missing out.  The nagging notion that you're missing out on something great.  Like one day all your friends will call, text and email you the details about how they ate a hand cooked meal by Thomas Keller, then took a supersonic flight to Tokyo for sake and beers, then boarded a cruise ship where everyone got laid and 2Pac and Biggie came out of hiding to give a private concert.  And all this while you were working salads on a Monday night where you did 30 covers.

Some cooks let this nagging feeling get to them.  They decide that they want some "me" time, and maybe they take the day off for their birthday.  Then they request off for the 4th of July.  Then for Superbowl Sunday, because it's gonna be slow and stuff.  Slowly they give in to themselves and in a strange turn of events, the kitchen world begins to pass them by.  They weren't there when everyone did 400 covers.  They weren't there to see Daniel Boloud come in and eat.  And worse than that, they weren't there when the things got hard, and the kitchen needed them the most.  The chef looks at them and sees someone that's unreliable.  The brigade looks at them and wonders when this person is going to put in their notice.  And this cook looks in the mirror and considers giving up cooking all together.

There is no easy way out in cooking.  You give yourself over to it, completely.  You sacrifice everything, and hopefully have friends, family, and a significant other that understand--or at least tolerate it.  You work as hard as you can, and take all the overtime given to you, and in the case that overtime isn't authorized, you work off the clock.  Scratch that-- you go to your chef and volunteer to work off the clock.  If need be,  you get sneaky and stay after, late night to work on your projects.  Your days off become a carefully coordinated, expertly timed series of tasks and visits and chores and phonecalls and errands and rest and maybe, just maybe a little bit of fun.  And in the off case that you get called in, the answer is always yes--no matter what.  You just took three hits of acid and drank a bottle of scotch and shot heroin in your eyeballs?  Chances are that your chef will understand.

So the next time you get FOMO, ask yourself what it is that you're really missing.  Juxtapose this against the importance of immersing yourself in the kitchen and what paying your dues will end up getting you, and ask yourself if its worth it.  Everyone needs me time--but no one ever got 4 stars by letting themselves have it.

  • a note to potential yelpers:  heaven's dog is not a hot dog joint
  • on the subject of yelp:  my 10 year plan includes listing myself on yelp, waiting for someone to talk shit, then suing them
  • duct tape wallets are awesome.  especially when made by one of my wife's students
  • paul enjoys chocolate cake in his day off.
  • in one week I had someone tell me they weren't stalking me, and another tell me that they were. 
  • names floating around the nopa kitchen are eduardo, ricardo, and gerrardo.  this can get confusing.
  • to anyone that might ask, no, I dont have a fork tattoo.
  • name your top three simpsons episodes:  mine are the one with mr sparkle, the australia one, and the one where homer eats the spicey chili and hallucinates.
  • fries with lamb gravy taste good
  • interesting post here about a girl trying to make it in a boys kitchen.  she should talk to merrell.
  • this heat wave is messing up my allergies
  • nopa is all over twitter. 
  • blue bottle sweatshirt.  cool factor = 10.  workmanship on the zipper = 0
  • from chadzilla
    I found your last post interesting (as I do all of them). 
    Definitely in the sense that I believe most of us go through this
    quandry in one facet or another.  The real reason for this is that the
    line between 'new cooking' and 'old cooking' is becoming more and more
    blurred (just as the lines between sweet and savory).  It was easy,
    some time ago, to put that stick to the sand and say, "Alright now. 
    You guys into the new stuff can stand over here, and all of you who
    think that traditional is better can stand over there."  I think, that
    the purity of cuisine cannot be divided so easily.  Looking through
    your stack of books (of which I have each and every one pictured) blurs
    those lines even moreso.  This is an increasingly exciting time in the
    food world.  Traditionalists used to cite Keller's name in defense of
    their craft.  Ironically, "Under Pressure" is a bible of modern
    technique.  Whether I am cooking at home or at w
    ork, I approach things the same and ask myself the same questions...
    what will make this better right now in this setting?  Sure, we will
    make mistakes, but only a fool does not learn from them.  The chef ego
    is slowly becoming an endangered species, and the forums for sharing
    knowledge are growing.

    I truly believe that the real mark of cuisine (just as your quote
    in disagreement with Bourdain, "the best cook is the best cook") is
    simply how good it is and how much respect is given to the
    ingredients.  The best food is the best food.  These ideals are held up
    by both the Robuchon's and the Adria's.  You should not concern
    yourself with what side of the fence you are on because it's obvious
    that you are very aware of what is good or not.  Your choice of
    expression will not deter the message within the ingredients as long as
    you are honest with yourself and to your food.

conversations, quotes, and jokes that fell flat.

wife:  I just want a job that's mindless next summer.
me:  you should get a job in gavin newsom's administration. 
wife:  how am I supposed to get a job in gavin newsom's administration?
me:  blerg.

me:  hey al, that's the chef of Greens over there.
al:  no, that's the chef of Redd.
me:  that was a joke.
al:  you don't have a very good sense of humor.
me:  you're right, it's my fault.

me:  well, it's more expensive than if you ate in the cafeteria.
eddie:  yeah.
:  are you guys talking about strippers?
-on the moss room

"she looked as happy as if she was at mickey grove park."
-mongoose, on mickey grove park.  whatever the hell that is.

"merrell, i'm ready for monkey sex.  i'll bring the poop and bananas."
-corey, on making love.

"he could probably kill me with string and sunny delight bottles."
-corey, who is afraid of mongoose.

the food runner shows me her nails--they're all different colors.
me:  why?
runner:  why not?
me: um, because they don't match.

:  j-lo, fire burger medi-
j-lo:  fry time.
-on cooking burgers very, very quickly.

me:  amy, if I fall, I want you to have my undershirts.
amy:  don't fall.
corey:  if you fall, the only thing that's gonna catch you is a hot pot of stock.
-on changing light bulbs when you have very high cielings.

"looks like corey's balls."
-merrell, who didn't like my drawing of the lamb shank.

corey:  as long as it doesn't come out a crack baby, it's all good.
rachel:  well, you've got a 50/50 chance.
-on corey being a dad.

"i'm pretty good looking."
-merrell, on humility

me:  i'll fill a 22qt, and you can dump it on her head.
al:  a 4qt is fine.
-on wearing a lot of perfume

"any girl that gives you her number written in eyeliner is probably not a keeper."
-ponder, who gives good advice.

merrell:  is today the 14th or 15th?
me:  it's the 16th.
merrell:  oh.
-on making labels.

from top:  hi there, fernet, four barrell, adios, nopalito kitchen, dinner, like really rare, chickens by ponder, lamb shank, paul is messy, nopalito popsicles, herbs, amy from above, dinner #2, cooking, pre service, bellies, salt cod, duck prosciutto, corey's baby, spring rolls, broc o bama, kozy


Brilynn said...

For a while we had a Bill, Will and Phil working in the kitchen... also confusing.

My restaurant closes for 3 weeks in January so I'm currently off. Chef has basically told us to do everything we possibly can during those three weeks so that when we come back to work we not bothered by FOMO. I'm taking his advice and going to eat at the French Laundry. Next week. Any suggestions for other must see places in the Napa Valley or San Francisco?

Vic said...

I am a terrible cook, but I still love to read your posts - you're a great writer and you make me feel like I'm there.

Plus, the quotes are awesome.
Thanks for entertaining me!

AdventuresInSF said...

I love the photo roll at the end of each posts! Keep writing, and keep cooking!!

marquitos said...

so dude, i was sitting here watching tv and something occurred to me that i had to share. have you ever watched survivorman on the discovery channel? i feel like i've been watching a well-behaved pre-civilization corey for the last hour and 1/2, alone in the middle of the vast outback (last one was rainforest) and rambling on for the camera. makes me wonder if he has an older brother.

M_twang said...

As a person who wants to do everything, be everywhere with everyone all the time. It's taken a while to get comfortable with the missing out. I've conditioned my friends to leave me out of the friday and saturday plans, weekend brunches and whatever (which is fine, because brunch is for chumps).

But, odd as it may seem, I feel much better not being included than I was getting news of all the goings on.

omg michele said...

ponder is pretty hot..

lakeviewer said...

Take it from someone who retired from a job that was always in my head, in my heart, in my dreams and all around me. To be good at anything, you become one with what you do.

You're lucky to feel this way; most people live a whole lifetime wishing to feel like you do.

You have captured something real and invaluable. Thanks.


Sarah said...

After a week away from service I now have reverse FOMO. Where you're out with your girlfriends drinking bourbon and ya just wish you were at work.
On the upside, I'm now well on my way to being famous! But apparently ponder is developing his own online following. Someday he might be more popular with the ladies than corey.

Plain Jane said...

I found your blog on blogs of note. It's wonderful. My boyfriend dropped out of college to become a chef and right now he's working at a restaurant and saving up for proper training. He can be pretty quiet, especially about work, and somehow your blog makes me understand what he goes through. Thanks. Keep writing.

Coop said...

Any chance you could share the recipe for the dinner pic?

Also love the Bush artwork.

Andrew said...

I was never a cook, only ever a very helpful assistant/dishwasher/waiter/prep/'fixer of all problems' for a few years in a friend's ultimately doomed restaurant, so never had the full length version of the missing out.

I can say though, that the bond between people working in a kitchen is pretty strong. You know the guys in the kitchen have your back always...ALWAYS. We did everything together and those days are counted amongst my happiest. Kitchens make tight groups of people. It's a good life if you can take it.

I work in IT now, so much easier and lucrative for me, I never thought that I could work hard enough to make it in the food trade.

It's Just Me said...

You make me remember the fun back and forth I used to have with the back of the house -- years long past now! I always said, make nice with the cook (really, more like kiss *ss!) Or your life as a server is doomed! Another great post. I love that you just keep being you.

DCjosh said...

I went through that exact feeling when I opened my practice 5 years ago. The only time I saw family and friends was when they were laying on thier backs screaming in pain.

What got me through it (which I think you are doing as well) was looking over my goal list each and every morning.

After some time I realized that nothing cool was happening to people when I wasn't around. Also the same jackassery that I thought I was missing out on didn't begin to match the sense of accomplishment I got from knowing everything through endless days of study.

Keep kicking ass, I love your blog.

Lisa said...

Chicken should not look all kinds of foodsexy but that shot of them all lined up in the pan--man, I want them roasted and crispy on my plate, now, please.

Richie said...

@Brilynn - In Napa, Ubuntu. In SF, Delfina, the Ferry Plaza, Boulevard, Coco500. Have fun at Laundry!

@Vic, Adventures, Mtwang, Lake Viewer, Plain Jane, Andrew, Itsjustme, DC Josh, - Thanks!

@Marquitos - i never thought about that, but as soon as i read it i laughed very hard. come back to SF soon.

@omg michelle - its true. he is hot. kinda old news.

@Speez - You, Ponder and Corey should start a group blog.

@coop - the first one is a flatbread with spicey tomato, bacon, and an egg. second is a hanger steak sandwich with arugula

@lisa - they're very tastey - from a company called field to family.

cdncowgirl said...

First I have to say that when I found your blog I read the whole thing. (i'm sick that way)
Second, even though I am not a cook, I can relate somewhat to your posts (esp. this one) I work FOH at my husband's family's restaurant.
Third I've left you a little something on my post ("mmm-mmm refreshing" no not a restaurant post) so come check it out... even though my blog will be of NO interest to you (unless you're hiding something?? lol)

M_twang said...

Re: Sacrifice

While I recognize the need to fully give oneself over to the job in order to pay dues and really learn something, there is a lot to be said for knowing ones own limitations.

If being able to go to a Superbowl party is very important and it will give you a bit of personal time and separation, then that in the end will make you a better better co-worker and a stronger link in the chain...at least in theory.

Whether it's fear of missing out, or just being over tired and stressed, shouldn't we learn from our experiences coming up? We've all worked very hard to charge some of the really negative parts of "this thing of ours" and I for one hope that we can in the future allow a little bit more comfort to those who work for us. Even if it is more than we had.

It's like having kids, I guess. And I recognize that this is all pie in the sky, perfect scenario, no one fucks you over when you have 300 on the books plus 40 in the PDR. But what's the point of working your way up if you can't change the system once you get there?

Matty said...

nothing to do with this particular post (though it is a good one), but for some reason thought you'd appreciate this:


Matt said...

I LOVE how easy this blog is to relate to. The bit about how your day off is such a calculated series of events is so very true. Every Sunday our place is closed and my day is always laundry, read some non cooking literature, depending on the bank balance go out with some friends downtown, if not just hang out downtown because taking the bus sucks, dinner with the folks at their place, home to maybe watch some TV then back to work on Monday.

Keep up the great work man.