Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reset Button

It’s been a quiet a while since I last wrote much of anything.  To be perfectly honest, the last two years has been a blur.  It has been a few months now since I decided to take a reduced role from the Summit and since then I have just been trying to get my feet under me.  Unfortunately after my own personal decision, other tough decisions had to be made on the future of the company and a mutual agreement could not be made with the owners of 780 Valencia. 

On a very personal level, I think the words that I’ve avoided for a long time – words that are often spoken with whispers by people around you and not in front of you –started to creep up in my self evaluation: burnt out. 

It’s taken me about 2 months to begin to claim some sort of semblance of the person I was years back.  True to many cooks and professionals out there, I felt I was at a pitfall when it came to my physical or mental health, my relationships (social, family or personal), my inspiration and my motivation. 

I often think about a story that has stayed with me for a long time -  one that came from a mentor and friend of mine.  For a long time, he worked tirelessly for years in a position that he began to resent.  When I finally saw him again, I had heard months back that he finally left the bad situation. At that time, he began to tell me how he felt he had lost himself – that he had been horrible and did not feel himself for a long time.  Finally he told me that now that he was happy and cooking in the right place, he “found his love” again. 

I think for too long of a time, I lost myself.  It was an inexplicable descent where I got angrier without good reason.  I had more trouble thinking through ideas and conceptualizing anything.  I had no energy at any point of the day and I had very little desire.  The minor victories only helped patch the low points with decreasing frequency.  Added to that is the guilt associated with neglecting family throughout the year for the last 5 years. 

I thought about just working in specific kitchens for a bit, but I was worried that knowing the addictiveness of the kitchen – I understand that any promises of 8 hour days are essentially lies.  Being thrown in a role of responsibility basically means that there are no days that are less than 12 hours – whether you’re paid for 8 or not.  And, knowing my junkie nature with working, I was sure to be hooked on for 6 day weeks at 12+ hour clips once again.  Something that would not be helpful with my current disposition.  A new kitchen would also mean that I would likely have no time to develop new concepts, leads and ideas for Dux (on break but in the works) and other things I still wanted to do.

Obviously, the dream for many is to cook what you love and cook it on your own terms – which likely means having your own restaurant.  This is has always been true for me.  At the beginning, cooking at the Summit was a joy and we did a lot of fun things, but as time went by, the daily crowd never seemed to venture out of their own expectations for what to get at a cafe.  And that ended up being a stop gap for a lot of what was out there – it was limiting.

I have not made it a surprise that I want my own space in the near future.  I’ve had a lot of thoughts, plans and ideas drawn up over over the years and I intend to make this happen.  However, I think at this moment, I needed to apply the adage that in order to take a step forward, I have to take 2 steps back.  And so, after 6 years of going balls-to-the-wall crazy with trying to make something of myself in this cooking career, I hit a personal Nintendo reset button.  And so, the next year will be solely focused on finishing all the things left unresolved and finally getting healthy – a feeling I haven’t know for many years. 

Good news is, I finally found the strength to write again.  I’m also going to try to stop writing all these doom and gloom heavy handed pieces.  Hot Food Porn and myself will try our hand this year at our own American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The comedy in my life kind of died for a while.  I think I summed it up best to my friend a while back, “this isn’t really me, I used to be funny and charismatic, and I used to know how to actually like people.”

Not sure I was always as charismatic as I think I am, but at least I can hope.

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