Being present.

Your girlfriend broke up with you.  Your dog died.  Rent is late.  Your car broke down.  Your roof is leaking, and you're so broke that you cant wash your work clothes.  Everything is fucked.  You're completely overwhelmed and miserable, and now you have to catch the bus to work.

Everyone has been there.  Life gets so complicated and messy that spending twelve hours in a kitchen seems impossible...and it's only your Monday.  You walk around in a haze of distraction, barely present.  In the middle of a pick-up, the meat cook nudges up to you and taps you on the shoulder.

"Hey dude.  You gonna plate that risotto?"

They say to leave all of your problems at the door when you come into work.  Be present and aware, every day.  Just cook, and you get to forget about everything.  And to a certain extent, I agree with all of this.  The problem with this approach is that every cook handles their problems differently.  Rudy might get drunk before he comes in.  Leslie will slam her oven and refrigerator doors all night.  Doug will try to laugh it all off, barely containing his misery, and David just might break down and cry around the time the second turn is sitting down.  It's a funny thing to be asked create such highs for others while feeling so fucking low.  You're not a robot.  So I say take a different approach.

Dont ignore it, embrace it.  Let it feed you.  Immerse yourself in it.  Let every single bit of whats on your mind seep in and consume you, to the point where you feel like you cant take it anymore, then go cook.  It will be horrible at first.  You'll feel overwhelmed, slow, and you'll barely be able to tell the difference between your spoons and knives.  You can handle it though;  You barely even notice when you cut and burn yourself anymore.  A little bit of adversity isnt going to kill you either.  As you go on, you'll start to have a little bit of clarity.  The intensity of your problem, coupled with the intensity of cooking, will help you to see things for how they really are.  Then suddenly you'll feel that lightness return to your step, and your focus will shift.  Your problems haven't actually gone away, but you're at least starting to feel better about them.

Cooking is a place to find peace.  In all of the chaos and noise, a good cook is quiet, with their head down.  Their distractions become part of their focus.  Dealing with these problems on the line, instead of shutting off, or repressing, or simply trying to distract oneself can contribute to a stronger, more focused cook.  Sometimes making things really hard is the best way to move forward.

  • when you see us high-fiving, we're not congratulating each other, we're making fun of Marina guys.
  • there are no death traps in our kitchen
  • when asked to choose between david chang and chez pim, i'm going to choose the former.
  • if you get a number, you buy beers.  that's the rule.
  • hypothetical thursdays.  there are some very strange scenarios that come up

quotes and conversations.

"I gotta admit.  I miss the Dick."
-Ponder.  Was missing Eddie.

"Yeah dude.  I like sardines.  They're quick.  Like my lovemaking."

Corey:  Yeah dude!  Get in the fuckin' matrix!
Me:  You want some trance music to get you in the matrix mood?  You've already got the green bandanna on.
Corey:  Hey dude, you used to like house music, and my bandanna's the same color as the matrix.
Me:  I just said that.
Corey:  Really?

Me:  So it's about this aspiring singer and neurotic comedy writer.  Annie Hall.  If she likes it, marry her.
Corey:  And if she likes Best From Behind 2, marry her.
Me:  Best From Behind?
Corey:  Yeah.
Me:  The porno you found at your Grandma's house?
Corey:  Yeah.

"Hey dude.  She wants to pound your masa.  Organically."

Gerardo:  Hey Richie?
Me:  Hey Gerardo.  (pause)  I'm listening.  (pause)  Go ahead.  (pause)  WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?
Gerardo:  Have you ever boned down in a walk-in?
Me:  That's kinda a cold place to whip out your dick, don't you think?  You're supposed to bone down in dry storage on bags of flour, or on the linen.
Gerardo:  How about the freezer?

"My name's Corey, not asshole.  Thank you."

Me:  OK.  Anything with four legs you have three of.  Anything with feathers or scales you have two of.  Anything made of dough you have one of. 
Eddie:  OK.
Camaal:  I have three legs pito.

Me:  Check out Tony Soprano and his harem of Jersey bitches.
Eddie:  Heh.  You said Jersey bitches.

Me:  What's that smell?  Is it the escarole?
Eddie:  No, it's the cheese.  It smells like noonie.

Me:  Eight out.
Eddie:  Eight out.
Me:  Who's getting ate out?
Eddie:  You just said eight out.
Me:  Who's getting ate out?
Eddie:  You...ahh.  Clever word play like that is going to send you right up Technorati.
Me:  Technorati?  Does that website even exist anymore?
Eddie:  I don't think so.  I think I just dated myself.

"Nah, i'm serious.  I have pictures of it.  I was pettin' a goat!"

Me:  He looks like an evil televangelist.
Paulie:  (laughs) Is there such a thing as a good televangelist?
Me:  No.  But I mean evil like the televangelist in the movie Dragnet.

from top:  bistecca alla fiorentina, dario ceccini, corey and al, mer-mer, may the tortas be with you, asshole, oh paulie, ?, damage, pasta, duck


makingmybones said...

If I don't leave it at the door everything comes out salty or spicy depending on what I'm pissed off about

Anonymous said...

Oh, that bistecca is enough to put a horn on a jellyfish!



GNR said...

Just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog, and am super excited to have dinner at Nopa on Friday when I'm in SF for a wedding this weekend. Thanks for some awesome insights into a cook's life; keep up the good work!

Chef in Progress said...

In the same vein as being present, any suggestions on how to work cleaner? I always find a circle of whatever i was just doing around myself on the floor.

phyllis m said...

starts off like a larry brown story-love the blog

Queen of Cuisine said...

I think I love you.

Matt said...

one of the reasons i love cooking professionally is because it is so consuming. when i'm at work its all about the food. i dont consciously leave my problems at the door, i am just so focused on what i am doing i forget about them which is ok by me.

Lisa said...

You know, I don't even like duck but that plate could easily change my mind.

Pavlov said...

Own my misery?! Fuck Richie! I'm misery's Bitch! Great Post.

I always feel as though I cook better when I have something else pushing my buttons besides cooking. Brings out a certain passion, a reason to push on through.

WTF, Dario Ceccini?!?!? Are you serious, that man is awesome! Was he in SF? Where did you get to see him?! Wished I had gotten that memo!

Kelli said...

Wow..there are some days I read your blog and if feels like you have reached inside and grabbed me by the gut. Gooey but insightful.

don't touch my knife said...

damnit man. just gets better and better. i feel spoken to. i try everyday to use all that hostility and anger i walk in with to fuel for a better sevice. great post.

callowman said...

That duck is talking to me through the screen.

Jenn said...

Great post chef. I think we often forget to stay present and allow ourselves to become complacent. "Dont ignore it, embrace it. Let it feed you. Immerse yourself in it. Let every single bit of whats on your mind seep in and consume you, to the point where you feel like you cant take it anymore, then go ...." This totally applies to everything in life. It's easy to say life sucks and then not do anything about it. Thanks for reminding me =)

Gastrochild said...

Your posts are always inspiring, truthful, and well written. Please don't stop! Just wanted to show some love from a long time lurker in Seattle.