Whatever organizational skills I may appear to have, I attribute that appearance to a partially automated lifestyle. The bills I’d otherwise forget to pay, the email reminders about filing the annual report for our corporation or paying sales tax, the reminder to text the produce guy, the mushroom guy, the eggman (no, not THAT eggman,) and the pumpkin woman- I’ve knotted ten stories beneath myself a safety net that keeps the really disastrous stuff from happening.
It’s stuff I’ve learned the hard way over the years, after having to scramble to Phoenix to renew the liquor license the day it expired, or go to five grocery stores to find the one ingredient we needed by eight the following morning.
Chefs are made out now to look like we take leisurely strolls through farmers’ markets, spending our days sniffing cantaloupes and tasting sauces- I can still see the kid that worked only fleetingly at Feast, fresh from cooking school but without a lick of practical experience, and having spent a morning trying to decide on the perfect angle to present a single lamb chop, alarmed to find that part of his job was to peel potatoes and shuck fava beans. As he discovered, most of the chef thing? It’s a sham.
The reality of it is that we’re working class folk who’ve for one reason or another been deputized, attributed some level of respect that our craftsperson counterparts in other fields don’t often enjoy. But if we were followed about for a day, people would see the reality- the scraping of knuckles replacing a thermocouple on the oven that’s stopped working, or the scraping of hardened grease out from under the grill that’s been cooking it from above onto the surface of a table. I’ve visited my brother at the end of a long night, only to find him, haggard and sweat-stained, gracelessly hosing down rubber mats, looking up and reminding himself aloud as much as reminding me: “I AM the executive chef.”
I’m okay with all of it. I like that I can handle rudimentary repairs of an ice machine or an oven, that maintaining swamp cooler or scaling a fish is within my ken. I’m not above mopping a floor or plunging a toilet. Thirty-nine years of hash-slinging has made me a better person in most respects, but the past year and a half has nudged me into the direction I nearly went in graduate school- I’ve added a desk job to my daily routine, which I find occasionally mind-numbing, and definitely more than I can handle when I have to do it alongside all the regular chef stuff I’ve done for four decades. I was clearly not cut out for administrative work.
I still have yet to answer all your emails regarding in-person wine tastings, and I’ll assuredly get to them at some point, but likely not before we get through this week. I still have to chase down the people at various spots where we’re trying to donate food who have yet to answer me, and at the same time to answer the people I haven’t gotten back to yet at Arizona Public Media, and Child and Family Resources, and the people whose wedding we’re catering at the end of the month.
How I long to hose off a rubber mat a la my executive chef brother. I don’t even need to taste sauces or sniff cantaloupes at a farmers’ market. I don’t need to arrange a lamb chop on a plate like that kid whose name now eludes me, and who’s probably long since abandoned restaurant work. For me, the romance of the restaurant industry isn’t waving the steam off a stock pot into my nostrils or fiddling with a dish until it’s pretty enough for Instagram and now too cold to enjoy; it’s that empty restaurant at the end of the night, sharing stories with the people who’ve just been through it all with you- the dropped bowl of soup that put us two tables behind on the pickup, or finding almonds after we’d sent someone racing to the store, or the petulant guest who despite appearing adult was inconsolable over not getting the last order of salmon. THIS is the romance of the restaurant business- the acknowledgement of nightly defeats, accompanied by the acknowledgement that tomorrow, we’ll get up and do it all over again:
So here we are at the first Tuesday of the month, ready to being the new menu as we’ve automated,
and organizing another zoom wine tasting as we tighten up what protocols we’ll have in place for in-person, or semi-in-person, tastings by the end of the month (here’s this Saturday’s, which will still be entirely virtual.)
I’ll have more news for you soon, I hope, because sooner or later someone we want to donate food to will reply to me, and then all bets are off. I’ll keep you posted, and I’ll keep you posted as well about how we integrate an in-person element back into our wine tastings. Soon.
For now, though, it’s time for the staff to taste the new menu items, learn what we can do without garlic, or gluten, or sugar, or what-have-you, to accommodate those of you with dietary restrictions. We may very well even know what we’re doing by the time you join us for dinner.
See you soon.