Entering the Kitchen

In the fall of 2009 I was a twenty year old kid washing dishes in an upscale restaurant. The pay was abysmal, the hours lackluster, and being the only dishwasher who didn’t speak Spanish I had been exiled to the pots and pans station. My only reprieve from solitude was an occasional visit from a toothless leather bag of a man who would engage in the crudest game of charades I’ve ever played until I understood his directions.

One day, when I was feeling particularly heavy in the pants, I asked the head chef to give me a job, citing my ability to boil water as my only experience. Much to my surprise not only did he not laugh at me but he offered me a job. Little did I know the world I was about to enter.

The next day I showed up in my freshly cleaned chef’s coat, a borrowed hat from Chef, with a knife my mom got for free at the grocery store only to be greeted by the cooks. Bandits, brutes, and behemoths with bloodshot eyes and wild manes. They danced across the kitchen with sharp knives and sharper tongues, their egos casting shadows that shriveled my soul. Covered from the elbows down in bruises, cuts, and burns these high-strung heroes welcomed me into the fold the only way they knew how: with mockery, sour tricks, and constant reminders of how well they fucked my mother last night.

With every cut, burn, bruise, and good-intentioned insult I grew. My culinary knowledge expanded to levels I never dreamed of achieving. And more importantly I grew from boy to man, learned of drugs, love, lust, friendship, and pain. I ventured down the rabbit hole, leaving my friends and family behind only to encounter a whole new family. I found myself, there amongst the animals running the zoo.

I learned from the best. I learned from cooks who didn’t just have culinary schooling, who didn’t just have years of experience. I learned from men and women who had an unquenchable passion for their craft. They were titans who wielded both science and art to create a little piece of magic that appealed to both the taste buds and the eyes.

After nearly eight years, watching people come and go, I realized I was one of the senior cooks now. I was the one people were asking questions of. I was the one lashing the new guy about how I fucked his mom. I was the one teaching people. And yet, more often than not, I still feel like that twenty year old kid being pulled off the dish line. I’m just a kid playing with knives. I’m a pretender.

Perhaps it’s different when you get older but maybe this is the terrifying thing about being an adult. There is no manual. No well traveled path. You’re tossed into a boat full of holes and you spend your life scrambling from one to the other, patching them up as best you can, until one day you finally lift your head as a young kid asks you how you plugged that one from fifteen years ago. Perhaps it is only in hindsight that we can realize that we have indeed grown up.