I know it’s hard. Maybe you knew what you were getting into, maybe you didn’t. Most likely, I’d venture to say you thought you knew what you were getting into, but didn’t have the slightest of clues. Right? But, if we’ve gotten this far together, and you haven’t given up on us yet, maybe we can work through things. Keep reading, and I think, by the end you’ll appreciate me, what I do, and my love for you in ways you never thought possible.
Just hear me out.
You see, I am trying to build something. Yes, I know, you are too. It’s what we’re all trying to do — build a life that’s meaningful and that matters. Every day seems like a tug of war though. I’m trying my best to juggle the two things that mean the most to me:
Our Life Together VS. My life in the Kitchen
They both make me feel alive. The kitchen is stressful though, goddamn it can be stressful. The hours are long and often thankless, leaving me thirsting for a few cocktails come quittin’ time. Unfortunately, that can be 10 PM, or it can be 2 AM, and the crew wants me to meet them next door for a few — it’s hard to say no. Regardless, though, in a way similar as to with you, I’ve fallen madly in love with life in the kitchen, and in some of the most unexpected of ways.
Stop, please. I know what’s happening. I can see it, and I can feel it. I just don’t know how to stop it. My heart breaks with yours when I see resentment lurking behind those eyes I fell in love with not too long ago, because it seems I’ve chosen a career you’ll probably never fully understand. I get it. Your parents, they probably won’t understand, and neither will your coworkers and friends. That’s okay, but hopefully, by the time you finish reading this letter, you’ll be proud of me, your chef. If that’s the case, I hope you’ll share this letter with them.
I could have gotten a high paying job like a lot of my friends, or at least stayed with that company that provided us with a steady income. You know, as well as I, it was dead end and predictably unbearable. But you’d be right in calling it the golden ticket to a comfortable life for ourselves. Cashing in on that 401(k) sure does sound appetizing,
But, at what cost?
The weekends, the late nights, the holidays — you find yourself alone a lot. We talk about kids, but I know you tell yourself, “I don’t want to raise a family alone”. I get that. There is no sidestepping around those challenges and if it’s not one thing, it’s something else, but if you think about it, that’s not just the chef life — that’s life, for all of us. Life is one big storm, and we can either fight the rain, or we can learn to dance our way through it.
The obstacles, they can stand in the way,but only if we let them. The problems, some of which have been exaggerated in your head, they are real, and can bring us down, but only if we let them. The hours, the shitty pay, the potentially debilitating work environment, they can destroy us, but only if we let them. The issues surrounding a life in the kitchen have been known to wreck families and destroy fortunes, and those things, they can happen to us, but why should we let them?
You started falling in love with me — we had chemistry, and it “worked”. We enjoyed spending time together, I brought you flowers, cooked you dinner, rubbed your back after a long day at the office; you noticed the small things, and I enjoyed doing them for you. You, simultaneously, could see that I was falling in love with you, and there, trust started to emerge. We respected and appreciated each other, and as things got serious, communication laid the framework, allowing trust, as well as us, to blossom into something special.
But that’s not WHY you fell in love with me, that’s HOW you fell in love with me, and neither my career, nor yours should get in the way of that. You see, the reasons why you fell in love with me, and I with you — those are the same principles that have allowed me to create successful a career in the kitchen. Here are just a few of the important ones.
Communication, it’s everything. It’s a two way street, but it usually takes listening more, talking less, and most importantly, paying attention to the things and people around us. It’s the first step towards building any relationship — intimate, working, or otherwise. In the kitchen, on a busy night, if communication breaks down, all hell breaks loose in the worst possible way. The same is true in relationships, we’ve all felt it, we’ve all been there before — it takes being vulnerable, honest and feeling terrified at times, but it’s worth it every single time.
Trust is born out of honest communication. Yes, with our partners, but also with our employees and coworkers. In other words, to buildanything successful in life takes authentic communication. Through that, we see that whoever it is staring back at us, working alongside us, or mentoring us — we see that they are on the same team. What a wonderful team to be on. These are the people we go to bat for, who we sacrifice for, and are the ones, to whom we, most importantly, give the benefit of the doubt to. But why? Well, it’s because we trust them, and we can rely on them. Without trust, we have nothing.
Hard work, or lack thereof, I believe is why most things in this world don’t work. Most failing restaurants die, not because of location or bad market conditions, but rather, because whoever’s in charge, whoever that might be — they don’t want it bad enough.They aren’t willing work for it. The same is true in relationships — they are fun, sexy and exhilirating out of the gates, but soon passion starts to fade and most of us don’t do much to keep the spark alive. Success takes fighting for something, and leaving no stone unturned when confronted with challenges along the way. It’s going all in. Hard work makes for a killer chef, businessman and entrepreneur, but makes for an even better life partner — someone who you know is at your side, always searching for ways to make things work, make things better.
Pride is showing up every single day for someone or something — not because we have to, but because we want to. How good does it feel to bring your partner home to “meet the parents” or your friends for the first time? It’s great, because we have the chance to brag about something we’ve found that makes living in this crazy world a whole hell of a lot better. Shouldn’t we approach our work exactly the same way? Find work that we’re head over heals for, and then tell the world about it? The things we’ve set out to accomplish, the dreams we’ve crafted for ourselves and the effort we put into realizing them — those things merit our pride, but just as importantly, is the pride we feel from our spouses, friends and family — the ones who support us, who walk through life with us, and see us at both our proudest and weakest moments.
Yes, it’s stressful. It’s hard. I bitch about customers, I complain about coworkers, at times my body hurts like hell, and after a weekend on the line, chances are I want nothing more than to sleep in for a few hours. I know it’s not easy.
Whether you feel like you signed up for it or not, please know that I’m doing it for us — it’s what lights me up. That probably sounds selfish, and on the surface I would agree, but at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, I’ll be a much more loving husband, father and confidante if I am able to do the work I love.
At the end of the day, I chose this life in the kitchen for a multitude of reasons, however, almost all of it boils down to the fact that I believed in it, found meaning through it, and most importantly I knew that it would make me happy.
Ironically, those are the same reasons why I chose and want this life with you.
YOUR FAVORITE CHEF
*** This article was inspired by emails from spouses of chefs who read my “Dear Chefs” article that went viral last year. If you haven’t read my “Dear Chefs” article, click HERE. ***
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