Idle hands are the Devil’s playground an idle mouth is a fucking amusement park…
Idle hands are the Devil’s playground an idle mouth is a fucking amusement park…
MAKING LIFE MORE PALATABLE:
Barcelona. Tapas. 2 chefs who trained under the Adria Brothers. Rioja Blanca. Tuna Belly. Razor Clams. Patatas Bravas. ‘Hamburger.’ Iberico Skewer. Chocolate Bar. Champagne. I almost OD’d.
My love and hate relationship with food and how it got me to 360 pounds…
I just had one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I was going to get a hair cut in Main Street Santa Monica, near Venice Beach, and came across a homeless man asking for spare change. This is as common as seeing a hipster in Brooklyn, I know. He asked me for change and I told I didn’t have any, which I didn’t, and went on my way. I’m not one of those bleeding hearts who gives every homeless person money. I would be broker than I already am if I did that on the regular. But there are times when the moment strikes and I’ll give someone a $5 or $10 bill. I’m not sure often it happens or even why it happens, but the moment struck me after my hair cut. I was crossing the street with my brand new ‘do and trimmed beard, telling myself if my homie was still sitting on the street, then I would buy him a Foot Long combo meal at Subway.
I turn the corner and there he is, hanging out on his blanket. Operation ‘Good Deed for the Day’ is on. I swoop into the Subway I passed on the way to my ‘barber’ and all of sudden a tornado of questions begin to bounce around my well coiffed dome like lottery balls. What the fuck do I get him? Should I get him something crazy, like one of the new chicken breast deals, or stay classic with a meatball? Do I get flat-bread or one of the premier breads with cheese on top? I wonder if he likes avocado or bacon? Oh, shit. What about the chips and drink? Focus and get your shit together, damn you! He’s gonna like whatever you get him.
I end up going completely classic. Turkey with American cheese on white with everything on it. Large Coke and Lay’s Original chips. Can’t go wrong with that. I pay for my friend’s meal and a smile slowly creeps its way across my face like the Cheshire Cat. I walk up to the guy and say ‘Excuse, me. You hungry?’ I couldn’t tell how old he was before because of the dirt and long beard. Actually his beard wasn’t much longer than mine, to tell you the truth. But he looks up at me, with these piercing blue eyes a Tommy Hilfiger model wished they had, and I can tell he’s probably somewhere in his 40’s.
He says, ‘Yeah. Always.’
‘Here ya go, buddy.’ I say as I hand him the plastic bag and put the large drink and straw like chess pieces on the sidewalk near his blanket.
This is where it gets amazing. He says, ‘What is this, Subway?’ I nod and tell him what’s in the bag.
‘I don’t usually eat Subway. Thanks though…’ I’m thinking it’s because he doesn’t eat often or something having to do with living on the streets. But I see him put the sandwich behind the pillar he’s leaning against, almost saying, ‘Thanks but no thanks.’
I ask, ‘Are you going to eat that?’
I swear on my life this is what he mumbles, ‘Yeah, I guess. Thanks. I just don’t normally eat that type of shit. Subway, ya know? Thanks though.’
I laughed and told him to have a good day and he told me the same. I couldn’t believe I was worried what type of sandwich to get him, when I should’ve been worried about where to get his meal. It’s probably because the bread is made from yoga mats or something.
I hope he knows it was one of the greatest moments of life.
It’s me again, Master Plan. Just wanted to catch you up since my last letter.
In the meantime I worked my usual 14-15 hour days. Working my ass off. Getting yelled at. Feeling utterly defeated. Going home and drinking. Waking up and do it all over again. Not a very good workout regimen, but that all changed when I got my first response from a restaurant in Spain. I sent my translated response and started coming to peace with the inevitability I was going to have to quit my job and I was going to have to man up and tell each of my chefs face-to-face.
I had quit every other job I’d ever had and each time I was nervous. I don’t know why, but I wanted my previous bosses to like me, or respect me, or I felt like I was letting them down. For some reason I didn’t have those feelings when I walked into my chef’s office after Saturday service. I asked if I could talk with him and he said ‘Sure.’ This is a man who I respected and admired, and who for all intents and purposes scared the shit out of me since the day I first started Garde Manger. I didn’t take a deep breath, I just said ‘Fuck it.’
‘Chef, I’m putting in my notice. I’m giving one-month.’
Didn’t pull any punches. Just tore that son-of-a-bitch Band-Aid right off. The truth had set me free. I started babbling like a schoolgirl talking about her first make-out session under the bleachers. I told him I wasn’t leaving because I didn’t like the job or because I was burnt out. I was leaving because I had a chance to think of myself for once and from here on out, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity put in front of me. I told him how I proposed to my girlfriend and how she said ‘No,’ and how this was my time to make moves. To change my life for the better. The man, who for almost a year and a half yelled and degraded me, in an instant turned into a mentor and friend. It was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had although for the next month he was harder on me than ever. It makes me chuckle now, but at the time I thought to myself, where did the guy from the office go? (Note to self: Inside the kitchen you are a chef. Outside the kitchen you are a human being.)
I am a goal-oriented person and I set the goal to work at this particular restaurant before I even graduated culinary school, thinking my life would be that much better just by ‘hanging out’ around greatness. After seeing how everything in life can change real quick and taking everything into perspective, I realized I couldn’t be more wrong. I actually remember the moment driving home from work after a epically shitty night at work. I was listening to one of my favorite songs ‘Birmingham’ by Shovels and Rope, and the lead singer bellows ‘It aint what you got, it’s what you make.’ Things don’t just happen. Food doesn’t just appear. Buildings don’t just pop-up. Men, women, you, and I, we all need to act on our hopes and dreams.
My actions are taking me to Barcelona. What happens next is up to me.
Hope to you see you soon.
Dear Master Plan,
Just wanted to let you know that everything is falling into place. I just put an exclamation point on everything by tearing off the Band-Aid that I’d been hanging onto for the past few months. Here’s my checklist:
Got dumped by my girlfriend – check. Made life-changing decisions I don’t know will work out – check. Going to Barcelona to work in a kitchen and can barely speak the language – check and check. What could go wrong? Turns out what I thought would be the most difficult part of my plan, ended up being the easiest and most fulfilling. Taking a deep breath, ripping that used bandage off, and quitting the most demanding and difficult job I’d ever had.
When I first started working in this kitchen, I was with my girlfriend and I had a five year plan for myself and us as a couple. I would work here for two or three years, getting better everyday and learning as much as possible. In the mean time, I would propose and we would be engaged for a year or so and then I would quit right before the wedding so we could go on a nice long honeymoon. Then we’d get back and I’d apply for a sous-chef job somewhere and work another 2-3 years at that place and look for an Exec Chef job after that. I had a plan, but that plan went to shit when my girlfriend threw the big N-word in my face. I’m talking about the word ‘No’ not the other N-word. Geez.
I was like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, ‘my life got switched turned upside down,’ except I didn’t have an Uncle Phil or Aunt Viv to spend my time with. In the kitchen is where I spent most of my days, with two perfectionist-chefs verbally and emotionally kicking my ass everyday. Needless to say, my five-year plan was thrown out the window and run over by an 18-wheeler, towing a tractor-trailer, hauling a tank. Instead of making another plan, I just decided to do what was going to make me happy in the here and now, with the hopes of making myself a better cook and better person in the long term.
There are so many cities around the globe I could’ve gone to, but I’d been to Barcelona before and have a friend that lives there, so to me it was a no brainer. I drafted a cover letter, immediately translated it into Spanish (because my Spanish is shit), and sent it to the 20 or so Michelin starred restaurants in the city. If I was going to travel thousands of miles away, I was gonna go big or go home. My Master Plan was in full motion. All I had to do now was sit back and wait for a response from just one restaurant. I didn’t need a bidding war. I didn’t need a stipend. I just needed one to say ‘Yes.’
I’ll write you soon with what else went down. Keep your head up, player.
The Wicked Witch is DEAD!