Most of you reading this were readers of chefsday, the blog about life as I saw it from a chef’s perspective. I sometimes spoke about my depression and anxiety issues, and also made it very clear that I like Bourbon, and whiskey in general. I’ve also made reference to depression, alcohol, and drug use being a big problem for many of us in the kitchen. So, here I sit with a rocks glass of Maker’s Mark writing my initial post for a new blog dedicated to the pitfalls and difficulties of working in a professional kitchen.
I have also talked about my desire to help those who have found the same problems I have. I hope through my experience and continued recovery that I can make a difference in the lives of others who work in our industry and find themselves in the same trench that I was in for so many years.
The goals of this blog are to bring to light more clearly the plight of restaurant kitchen workers who are in low-paying jobs that often have no benefits, no sick days, and no one available to help with issues of mental health, and substance misuse. Sometimes I think people just need people to talk to, someone to act as a mentor, and someone to show that their well-being is important to them.
I think of the time I spent working at Maestro’s under John LaPosta. He was to me, a mean-spirited man who cared only about John. I was working a lot of hours in his kitchen while my father was dying from brain cancer. After a particularly difficult lunch service I found myself in real need of an evening off, which I communicated to him. His response was anger and I was spoken to in a demeaning tone. I quit. He gave me the respect at the level he deserved in return.
This is not what we need in our business. We need some compassion, some understanding, and most of all some support for those of us who need it.
It may be obvious at this point that this will be a no-holds-barred kind of blog where I find it necessary to call out those who make life in the restaurant business miserable.
To the guy that insisted that I make him a salad from the not-yet-launched winter menu or he wasn’t going to dine with us: What’s wrong with you? I cannot prepare you something that I do not have.
I will also try to capture some of the themes of chefsday that made the life in the kitchen come alive and relatable and interesting to those who are not part of the industry. Snippets, funny stories, and themes that deal with the minor and major difficulties of toiling in the kitchen for long hours will be included. Mostly however, I want to focus on my goals of setting up a network of mentorship and assistance to the troops of kitchen soldiers who are often left dangling in the wind rather than helped by those of us who have been through or are going through the process.
New menu launched on New Year’s Eve. I was told I was insane for introducing a new menu on such a night. First of all, I know I’m insane, that’s how I’ve come to writing a blog like this. And second of all, most places introduce an alternate menu on NYE. the difference is, mine is a real menu for every night, and so many others are pre-fixe money grabs. Besides, I trusted mt kitchen staff enough to be sure it would launch without a hitch. It did.
Five o’clock, server is reviewing the server’s guide I prepared several days prior. Chef notices and says, “this would be the time to ask me any questions.” No questions. Seven o’clock, said server has questions for the chef who’s elbow deep in order tickets. I wonder why I can’t quit drinking.
I call to attention all of you working in the industry who want to lend a hand with this project that is long overdue to contact me through the Chef 4 Chefs Facebook page.
I am working on striking a balance between my duties as chef at The Wine Bar in Saratoga and my desire to spend time on both this project and time at home with my family. I have had great communication with many people who can help me achieve those goals and I suspect 2019 will be productive with a nice variety of accomplishments to mark it as a great year. More to come.