Sunday.  6:01pm.
I'm freaking out.  It's my first day back.  We've shaken hands and said goodbye.  Lineup went well.  And now i'm completely losing my shit.  My heart is screaming at me.  I have to keep taking deep breaths to get air into my body.  My head aches, and all I can hear is a muted, rumbling sound.  Merrell and Ponder ask me if i'm ok, and I don't answer them.
  All I can see on the horizon is trouble, and fear, and failure.  And we haven't sent a single plate out.

Thursday.  9:55pm.
My face hurts, and I still can't breathe--but instead of panic and doubt, i'm brimming with laughter.  It's been a smooth night, and everyone is cracking jokes and having fun.  There are plenty of friends in the house, and service feels less like work and more like a big house party.  I'm so overrun with adrenaline and outright joy that my head is spinning a little.  Service hasn't been perfect--there have been some loss of focus moments...but all in all the night is going well.
  Euphoria isn't the right word, but it comes close.

Friday.  11:15pm.
Is it quiet in here?  It seems quiet in here.  It's been busy--a heads down, deeply focused kind of night.  There's this strange energy in the kitchen.  I think this is some kind of culinary equiavalent of nirvana, but i'm not sure.  My brain won't linger on any one moment for too long--things are happening too fast for that.  Things have been almost perfect...but not necessarily fun.  That's not to say that it's been one of those super intense, no fun nights--it hasn't.  But the focus has just been too deep to dig out of.
  I feel completely calm.

2009 was supposed to be all about confidence, right?  Moving forward, evolving, getting better.  Be smarter, work harder, waste nothing--including time.  Things started off well, and staying focused on that goal has been priority #1.  Now it's Spring, and there's this strange feeling like time is hurdling forward.  Everything seems more urgent, like someone went around slapping exclamation points on everything.  It seems now like all the goals are starting to progress.  We're stronger.  I'm stronger.  What was intense a year ago seems like childs play now.  So why do I still get that Sunday feeling?

I'm not the best cook or chef.  This blog doesn't have all the answers.  I make stupid mistakes, and lose focus, and act lazy.  I cuss, and talk shit, and sometimes wish I could just tell people to fuck off instead of helping them.  There are days when cooking feels impossible.  There are days when i'm so fucking scared and angry and ashamed that I can't even see straight.  On these days I look at myself and ask this:

What if the insecurity and fear and doubt never go away?  What if this is my curse?

Then I realize that it's not my curse--it's everyone's curse.  Life is difficult.  Cooking is hard.  Those deeply focused days are amazing--and if they happened every day, then maybe our kitchen becomes more French Laundry than Nopa.  And that might not be a good thing.  The trouble is in balancing the focus, and the fun, and the fear.  The trouble is in looking at your situation, be it fear or fun, and adjusting back to some form of control.  The trouble is in realizing that it's not important to be perfect--it's only important to want and try to be perfect.

Sunday.  6:31pm
Deep breath.  Exhale.  Shake hands out.  I'm good now.

  • 8pm on a Friday night isn't a great time for the fire marshall to show up
  • that cute dog almost took my hand off
  • next weeks podcast features ryan farr and eddie lau
  • nopa sold 50,000+ burgers in the past 3 years
  • those pants at rvca were far too tight
  • when a cute girl/guy tells you they like your writing, it'll put a smile on your face
  • i kinda wanna marry blue bottle
  • kick ass, ex machina, and no hero are great comics
  • porchlight was fun
  • dinner at boulette's was amazing.  stuart and nicole brioza = bad ass
  • the one star is almost as rare as the four
  • this blog post title has nothing to do with ponder's new twitter picture

quotes and conversations

Me:  We should call each other by animal parts.  Like duck neck.  Or hambone.
Corey:  How about chicken penis.
Me:  That's a good one for Paulie.
Corey:  Or turtle vagina.
MerrellThat's a good one for Paulie.

"When it's like this, it reminds me of a Twix commercial."

"I dunno, if I were dating a guy that was showing naked pictures of me, i'd be stoked."

Corey:  Hey dude.  Some girl said I had on cool ass clothes yesterday.  All I had on were Vans and a hoodie.
Me:  Was she hot?
Corey:  She was eight.

"That's like borderline Mark Summers shit."
-Ponder, on me mopping my kitchen floor.

Corey:  Now I can jump off the roof.
Rachel:  Not until you finish making soup.

from top:  art!, the clash, iced espresso, crazy eating, dom p, bridge, boulettes, nopa empty, do i look fat in this?, sous chefs, goose, amy's stick hands, corey merrell ben al, matty


X Chef said...

you seem normal to me. you have passion, desire, fear, and doubt. all of those emotions drive you to be better. they just feel different in the pit of your stomach.

alexcrossjr said...

i have been following this blog for just over six months. this is my first time commenting. Ive liked being anonymous for a while. however, i love your passion and find much comfort in your writing. this entry just made me feel a little better about how the kitchen has been recently for me.
i am constantly fighting with myself about feeling, anxious, uncertain, fearful and sometimes ashamed. even when i always love the food our team puts out. the difference between us and the french laundry thing is huge for me. is it possible to love and respect that level of finesse when you cant ever touch it in your own kitchen? (as a sous chef). i get helping younger cooks, but does the desire and need to be so good yourself sometimes get in the way?
thanks for something great to look forward to every week. i always wait until the end of our busiest, most stressful nights to check in. it helps me feel that what im reading, and cooking is exactly what i should be.

don't touch my knife said...

YES! i knew i wasnt the only one into Hot-Food-Porn
are you familiar with Eat, Drink or Die (eatdrinkordie.com)? word is Collicio founded it. its a pretty nifty site, pro videos for pros on plating technique and the like. feels kinda Food-Network-yy but i guess they neede to make it alittle more user-friendly.
Great post man. especially the bit about whehter or not being French Laundry was a good thing or not. I was thinking that right before i read the sentence.

rock on,

Raeanne! said...

Great post. I'm not a cook, but I feel many of the same feelings every day trying to do my job, which also involves nightly fast-paced production (of a newspaper insted of food).

Yes, we're all in that same boat -- if we're smart enough to notice. Seems to me that the ones who don't feel those feelings are the ones to worry about.

Michael said...


I'm a restaurant chef in socal that thinks your blog is right on everytime. I see my cooks in your people.

I'm visiting SF May 12-14 and will have to come by Nopa. Hopefully I can meet the man in person.


Ron and Lou Ann said...

great post Richie... I was hoping for another new podcast this last Friday but I guess you guys have a life.... keep it coming


Sarah said...

Merrell, what if you were dating a guy who was showing naked pictures of himself?