Im standing at the expo station as the clock nears 1am at Nopa. Corey is crouched eating a burger quietly, and Paulie and Ponder are starting to break down their mise. Paulie shoots me a look with his eyebrows raised--the kind of look that says "Fuck dude. That was a rough one." Ponder's usual jubilance is absent...possibly being weighed down by his soaked through chef coat and bandanna. Corey throws his arm around Ponder and shakes him, shouting "FUCK YEAH, DUDE! 500 COVERS!" not sounding completely convinced that hes actually excited about it. I turn to Paulie. "When we leave here Paulie, nothing will be hard ever again. There is nothing that any kitchen can throw at us after we've been through this. It almost makes me worried that anything we do after this will be too easy. We might get bored. We should quit now while we're ahead."
This will wind up being the dumbest thing I have ever said in my entire life.
Coming back from a vacation to New York, my head was spinning. I was being considered for a chefs job. Chef de cuisine. New York City. In a great restaurant. I immediately spoke to my current Chef about it, and woke up early for phone interviews, and sweated about impending tastings, and what it would mean to move across the country. I was nervous, and doubtful, but felt completely ready to take the next step. Then a week before everything was set to jump off, life intervened, and the whole thing fell through.
Standing with my Chef as he loads his car for an off-site event, I tell him the whole story, then mutter this:
"I think im gonna open a ramen spot."
"I think that's a good idea. Do you have a name?"
"Yeah. Im gonna call it Hapa Ramen."
I have planned poorly.
It's Wednesday, the day before our big farmers market debut. A month earlier I was getting my teeth kicked in at Coffee Bar, and im not going to re-cap it all over again here. The past month has been all about redemption, and planning, and building myself back up. But here, in this moment, as I prep by myself, (Victor is in school, Susanna and I have not met, and my other cook had to go to her stripper job. Seriously.) I realize that I am deeper in the weeds than I have ever been in my entire life. My last day at Nopa was Sunday, and there are several things that I have not taken into account:
- cooking is easy. driving around picking up everything because you dont have proper accounts set up with vendors is really fucking hard
- making 300 portions of noodles all by yourself takes a very, very long time.
- fuck that. prepping for 300 covers all by yourself, no matter what it is, more or less sucks.
- going out for tequila on monday was a mistake
- strippers are less than reliable, especially when youre not paying them.
I. Am. Fucked.
As I calculate how many portions of noodles I can knock out per hour, and eye the case of snap peas that I havent even touched yet, and watch the clock inch towards 5, utter panic sets in. La Cocina agrees to let me stay until 6...then 7...then 8...but seriously dude, you HAVE to be out by 9. I pack up all of my noodle mise, and 5 hours later my home kitchen is covered in flour. I blanch snap peas and chard, and through kindness (and pity) Nopa allows me to store all of my prep in their walk-in for the night.
Nothing would ever be hard again? Seriously. What the fuck.
I drive home, and sleep for one hour. I'm not questioning the choices ive made, but as I lay down in bed, with my two month old son sleeping a few feet away, I do start to question my cooking ability, my intelligence, and how much easier it would have been to have just taken that well paying job in NYC. The first Hapa Ramen service starts in 5 hours.