I must be going through some weird hormonal change. Last month I took a Restaurant job, in the hopes that things might be different. I figured that after thirty five years of slaving away in diligent pursuit of making other people money that the Gods of change would smile on me. Instead I found myself heading back into the old grind of work, work, work and no life for myself or my family.
The strangest part of the whole experience was that for the first time in my life I found myself missing my young children with a profound sadness. I have four daughters. Two of them are adult; in fact the oldest works as a chef herself. Because I was not around for them nearly as much as I should have been when they were young, I have been seriously committed to not making the same mistake with my seven and two year old girls. For the past several years I have bounced around earning a living as a free lance chef and writer and then doubling as Mr. Mom during my spare time. The experience has been amazingly grounding for me. In many ways this has taken me to another level of dedication as a chef, simply because I want to nurture them.
So when I began working twelve hour shifts back to back once again, the experience was eye opening to say the least. I spend a good part of my time writing about the slow food and sustainable movements and I am beginning to wonder if there should be a slow chef movement. I don’t mean chefs who cook slowly; I mean chefs should learn to slow down the pace of their lives. Chefs are the most passionate people about life and its pleasures I know, while at the same time almost none of them have the time to live it themselves.
Something has got to be done about this, although I am not sure what it is. During the past month I enjoyed myself immensely. I loved jamming away during the dinner rush. I loved talking to customers. I loved having the ability to be spontaneously creative and have it appreciated. The truth is that I miss restaurant work; it’s just that I am becoming an old softy and I miss my kids more. I used to care deeply about what people thought of me or how my food was judged and now that is the last thing on my mind.
I suppose I have suddenly become human after all these years. I know that as a chef I am not alone in the sacrifices I have made personally to learn my trade. And I also know that I am not alone in feeling the sadness of having to choose between being a good father or a great chef, when I would love nothing more than to do both.
The decision I made this week was that I am going to begin looking for a small, simple space of my own. It will be a restaurant which features amazing, affordable, local comfort foods, while encouraging the family atmosphere to the hilt. Hopefully my oldest daughter will cook and the other three can help in any way they desire. The only catch being that I now have to scrounge up about thirty million bucks, in order to finance the venture. Oh well! I suppose that’s the fun of it all.