Thursday, April 10, 2008

I figured out the disconnect

We work a lot in this business. I hear it with my friends when we do manage to find a moment to catch up each other - ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen hour days - but it's not a oneupsmanship game. More a statement of, "Yes, I'm still here, doing this."

It's a statement that means more than you think.

There are statistics everywhere about the terrible parts of this business. There are the numbers about how many restaurants flat out fail in their first year of business. Numbers about alcohol and drug abuse among those in the industry. Appalling pay scales. Injury reports (and you know those numbers are higher than the statistics.) My company has an HR person, and there are things like sick and vacation days for those of a level to have been offered such things. Our chef asks us to not get sick when it is busy. He doesn't even say please, and we're surprised at his need to even vocalize such a thing. Who would allow themselves to get sick when we're serving 2000 people this weekend in three places at all the same time? I know, on a certain level that all of my coworkers are scarred, slightly damaged, or else they would not do this. Then I smile and wonder what they might imagine my damage to be, if they thought about such things.

My damage? I love this work. It's my curse, my albatross and anyone who recognizes it in me, however subconsciously, has totally got my number and I'm screwed. It is so easy to take advantage of me because I will think about each detail that I didn't get right, and it bothers me when I have to work at a level below what I think is good. I have a crappy day and I want to come home and cook. When I'm too exhausted to cook, I'm thinking about food anyway, reading about it. I want to travel to eat. I want to call up people and bore them with food talks at odd hours, as my sister will attest. Sure, I have other hobby things I do but I mean, I have been known to crochet cakes. I am a seriously damaged individual.

And I can possibly think of one person, of all the prep cooks, event cooks (there are over a hundred) and other culinary staff besides me in my workplace who may get that. That one person is not one of the management team. My own supervisor doesn't bake at home because it is too messy. In a word, I have no idea what their motivation is. They make similar money, work in the same environment, for the same hours and they don't flat out love this stuff? They don't want to taste everything and find out what a dragonfruit is, and contemplate new pairings for watermelon? The mind boggles.

I was showing some pictures posted by a friend of mine of her Easter buffet and my boss, in astonishment, verified that yes, she was a classmate of mine, same level of experience and all he could say was, "Well, what happened to you?"

I didn't reply with, "I'm working in the wrong kitchen."

As for the watermelon, there are so many taste memories with this sorbetto from David Lebovitz's book and Friendly's watermelon sherbet coolers that I want to leave it alone. But watermelon and black pepper is pretty kicking. And cubes of watermelon with really good balsamic. Or some of those strawberries that are starting to come in. Or with tapioca pearls as a shot drink... I can keep going...

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