This adventure ended as it began. Alone in an apartment in NYC - wondering what all this effort will bring forth. Somewhat bittersweet, the answers to the perennial questions around 'The Need to Feed' always come later in my discourse. I've had a week to ruminate on it and I what I get is more questions, more thoughts, more to say.
Sometimes the answers and the questions come from other sources. I found a statement from a JWU student on FB... '415 covers and the next shift in 6 hours. Why did I want to become a chef?'
It isn't so much 'why' but 'will you love it when it sucks'... How strong is the passion and the dedication when you are in the weeds so bad that you feel helpless to move forward.. Sometimes the mind just goes blank. When that happened to me - I cleaned. I got myself back into the game. Regained my mind. Sometimes you have to find your place. 5 minutes can save you. Make it right because if your food is slow - it better taste good...
'The Need to Feed'... Why does anyone do what they do. I feel at home in the professional kitchen. I love the early morning quiet of the kitchen. Perhaps the bakers have started their mastery. Often, as the opening chef and I have had the place all to myself. I remember opening at The Stanley Hotel for Christmas morning in 1987. The temperature at the bank on deserted Elkhorn Avenue registered -25 degrees F. as the stars twinkled in the jet-black night. My breathe hung in the air inside the kitchen. The ovens were all fired up and the doors left open on purpose so I could warm the kitchen up to a workable temperature. Several hundred guests and a dozen plus hours later we were congratulating each other on a remarkable event for the townspeople of the mountain community of Estes Park. A week later it was repeated with New Year's Eve festivities. Seven months later we were planning multiple weddings, theatre banquets and 4th of July Celebrations. So, really the only thing that changes are the seasons. We keep going throughout the day and throughout the year. Working hard, playing hard, living hard. The life of the restaurant chef and cook is equal to the life of no other that I know. I'm sure the underground, soot-covered coal miners, the fighters of forest fires in the heat of summer and the men and women who build skycrapers in the canyons of great cities know the effort I speak of. Why do they do what they do? Do they love it? Do they thrive on it? Do they crave it....? I imagine all Chefs crave and are addicted working with food, to cooking on the line for hours and making people happy.
Entering a new kitchen for the first time is like going on stage. As an actor my last thoughts behind the curtain could not be found in the script... It was 'will I remember my first line'! The horrible, panicked thought right before your cue is uttered... The unknown environment of a foreign kitchen is eerily comforting and familiar and at the same time foreign, alien and potentially hostile... The stage in a new restaurant kitchen is partly about adaptation. Like humans who have adapted to all climates and geographic locales I thrive in the learning and lessons that are garnered in the environs of The French Laundry, Restaurant Daniel, LeBernardin and WD~50. More lessons, experiences and knowledge are to come later in the summer of 2012...
The thirty days since arriving in Wisconsin to learn of cheese are a blur of hot & humid NYC days and nights, the wonder of WD~50, Restaurant Daniel and the eventual return to placid and fire charred Colorado... That time (in Wisconsin) has been sequestered into the far corner of my brain. I have yet to release those thoughts and enjoy the time spent with chefs and educators in cheese heaven. I'll need to bring out the pictures to jar some memories onto the keyboard. What is their 'Need to Feed'...? A whole different set of circumstances are involved out in the pastures, the milk shed, the creamery, the cheese house and in the caves of Wisconsin. Their 'Need' stems, in part, from an ancestral bond. They cling to the methods of cheesemaking brought to this country in the mid-19th century. A long way to travel to find a second home for the men and womens of Switzerland, Germany, Scandanavia and Italy... I did pick up my cultures and rennet from the refrigerator in my office tonight so, soon - there will be cheese!!!
Look for more thoughts and observations in the coming hours, days, weeks and months, all provoked by my Need to ............Feed my thoughts to you, whoever and wherever you are. Peace.