Years ago I owned and operated a restaurant in Seattle called Rovers. It was a small house converted into a restaurant, with lovely gardens and about forty seats. My days began early in the morning with a stop at the bank, followed by shopping at Pike Place Market, gardening, then prep for dinner would begin about noon.
The weeks were long and arduous, but I had a great clientele and I loved the work. Problem was, I also had two young daughters and a wife who never saw me, unless they came to the restaurant. At first I thought everything was fine. I mean wasn’t I doing what every young American dreams of, owning his own business?
I spent relentless hours marketing, volunteering my services for benefits and doing anything I could to drum up more business. Unfortunately it was often at the expense of my family and after a few years we were divorced. As a result I was forced to sell the restaurant.
The irony for me was, that when I sold the business all of the sudden my credibility in the eyes of my clientele seemed to slip. Without the restaurant, the same people I had been courting so exhaustively seemed to lose interest in me. In many ways it was a huge blow to my ego and losing my family over it only made matters worse.
That was many years ago. My oldest daughter from that marriage is now a chef herself and she understands how much work is involved in running a kitchen. I now have another two young daughters and I spend much of my time attempting to balance my work life with the need to participate as a father.
The fact is, I am a chef because I love the finer things in life and having kids and a loving wife is definitely one of the finer things. I have learned over the years that if I take care of my priorities first, like being there for my family, the business aspects of my life will work themselves out. I have learned that I do not need to focus all of my time on making friends and contacts. I now trust that if I simply work hard and cook great food, they will come to me anyway.
Being a chef these days is a tough balance of cooking, entertaining and marketing. It’s not always easy to keep my eyes focused on what’s real. But somehow it’s all working out. I am able to spend plenty of quality time with my children. Because of that I am much happier.
If anyone reads this and has similar stories or concerns about these types of things let me know. The fact is that we need to make money and there is no way to change that. But as humans we also need to breathe once in awhile or none of it matters in the long run. I grew up surrounded by the entertainment industry in Hollywood and I know first hand that fame and money can be as fleeting as anything else in this world.