Slippery Peels

No matter how much good stuff I pile on my plate, every now and then I come across a lima bean. I hate lima beans.

At some point we all need to put the dessert spoon down though, and work on balancing our plate, I guess. Otherwise the shit piles up, and you find yourself with no room left for anything good.

So let’s eat some beans…

I lost an employee this week. It wasn’t a good break up. Frankly, this person was really bad at their job, and in the end this separation will most likely be for the best. But either way, this person left with hard feelings. Now every employer has had these kinds of days. But in my case, the things about me that make me good at my job also make this part of my job even harder for me to swallow. I’ve been stewing here in a big pot of self doubt and shame. Did I handle the situation okay? What could I have done differently? And why does it matter to me so much what this person thinks of me anyway? I hate that I do this to myself. I want to affect people. I want to create change. I want to leave my mark. I want to be a force in this world. But I can’t figure out how to share any part of me without feeling peeled and dangerously exposed.

I think there is a vulnerability that naturally comes with owning a small business. Only those that have done it can truly understand it. My personal life is on public display, and for every way that personal touch and accessibility strengthens my business, it equally exposes me as an easy target. My life is one long to do list saturated with the feeling that I’m not doing enough fast enough. Now I realize this is a self inflicted side effect of my own personality. I want More, and I want it yesterday! I can tell you that there is no better motivation than working under the public microscope for someone like me, though that motivation comes in the form of fear of failure. It drives me nonetheless. My brother once told me that our strengths are often our weaknesses. Such is the case with the overwhelming need that I feel to earn people’s approval. While it does push me to be better at my job, it comes with a heavy cost. At work I must be strong, employees need to believe in me, respect me and rest assured that following my lead is the best way. I owe it to my employees to protect their quality of living at work too. If any one person is disrupting the system, it’s my job to stop them. Not always a fun job but necessary. When others fall short, a leader always serves as a convenient source for their trouble. In order to serve my business to the best of my ability, I often have to accept their blame, regardless of whether it is unfair or undeserved. For someone like me who gives too much power to what others think, this is extremely difficult, but again, necessary to the success of our business as a whole. I don’t really know how to do this job without making it personal. I’m creating from personal taste and experience. My name is on the door, and my future is completely dependent on whether or not people like this experience that I am creating for them.
It’s personal!

Oh, and did I mention, I’m a woman Whoa! A woman is supposed to be a submissive nurturer. Society is tripping all over itself in front of a room now filled with female leaders! Do we treat woman in charge just like men? I’m guilty of it myself, despite my own leadership role. While I do believe there is an inherent trust in the female form, I can also admit it may be hard to follow the crazy lady irrationally screaming at produce in the walk in! Let’s face it, once a month we’re bat shit crazy! But we are smart, passionate, creative and resilient beings. It is our need to teach, maybe born into us as a future tool for parenting.  It’s not fair that a woman has to bark twice as loud to be heard and even more unfair that she is then labeled with the now all too tolerated word BITCH. I embrace it, the good and the bad. In order to serve my business I have to accept my role, labels and all. And I do believe that the female leader is a fair and compassionate leader. Where followers may fear to fail a man, I see productivity from a desire not to disappoint a woman. The mom guilt trip has found its way into the work place, and it works!

People forget that my professional life, however, is not all that I am, and it’s unfair that some people only choose to judge me based on that. Ok, so I need to remember that too. I’m good at my job. But I’m also a good person. Ick. I just gave myself a sugar rush on self help syrup!

I’m making headway on the search for that elusive balance between professional and personal success. One cannot exist without the other.

Dessert is good. But the guilt is way less if it follows a well balanced meal.

Bacon Perfume

I peel out of bed well after most working people have finished their second break of the day. I brush my teeth, then jump in the shower for a quick rinse. I don’t really need to,  I showered before bed. But it wakes me up, and removes any memory of the grease and bar ick I wore home last night. I smooth back my hair and safely secure it in a sanitary kitchen approved knot. After an unexpected gust of wind introduced an overly aggressive grill to my face at a catering event last year, today I apply minimal make up to protect what lash nubs I have left. I dress in my daily uniform of jeans, a tank top and a boxy, stain resistant, breathable kitchen jacket. If it’s hot outside I roll up the hems. If it’s cold, well, I don’t do anything different because where I’m going is hot year round! Then I step into my clogs, non-slip, easy to clean, arch supported, kitchen clogs. Wait, did I remember deodorant? That’s super important! Maybe I’ll put more on just in case!

That’s it, I’m ready for the day.

Are you jealous yet ladies? Contain your excitement boys.

My whole morning regimen takes about 15 minutes, plus a few extra depending on how fast Shug dog handles his morning regimen outside, and how many times I hit the snooze button. See, last night I set my alarm for an earlier time than I needed to because I was certain this would be the morning I finally started jogging. But last night’s dinner service kicked my ass, and I feel pretty sore. So, at the very least I promise to eat healthier today…. right up until somebody makes a mistake and then there’s a basket of chicken wings and fries sitting around. No reason to see it go to waste. Besides, food costs, right? I’m definitely going to start jogging tomorrow.

This is the glamorous life of a chef.
– Minimal maintenance.
– Functional fashion.
– Convenient calories.

I live close to work. The first four blocks I spend lecturing myself on how freaking tired I am due to all the caffeine from yesterday that kept me awake all night. Then I drive the next four blocks after the drive-thru juggling my americano while I hunt for a parking spot. Parking is a tricky situation. You want to be far enough away to leave the best spots for your customers, but close enough to have the shortest walk possible after work. Not only because you’re tired, but also because, other than your fellow kitchen folk, the only people out this late are energized by something. Caffeine, drugs, booze, whatever it is, nobody is innocently awake and walking the streets after midnight.

Nobody, except the kitchen kind!

The personality of a chef is a unique one. We’re equal parts tattoos, rock n’ roll and rebellion with books, educational tv and I wear these shoes for comfort. Imagine a group of stoners discussing pop culture, politics, philosophy and munchies. That’s pretty much us! Pot, herb and smoke are in our daily vocabulary, but beer and wine are our preferred drug of choice. Not that any of us have a problem with weed, we’re as about a liberal bunch as you’ll find in most cases, but the cloudy head thing doesn’t mix well with knives and fire! We have the kitchen BUZZ….

How can I describe the buzz???

After a busy dinner service, there is an adrenaline rush that requires a certain amount of time to filter through the body. I’ve spent the last 10 hours drugged on caffeine, stress, loud noises, inappropriate humor and extreme temperatures. At 9pm I’m knee deep in tickets. I eat dinner around 10pm, then drain down a few beers with my colleagues while we review the night’s events. Home most nights by midnight, unless the buzz is still rolling strong, then a detour to the local pub is in order. By the time I get home, showered and ready for bed, it’s pushing 2am. Here’s where our life makes no sense at all! We don’t sleep, not really. I say we, because this is a hot topic among my group of kitchen friends. Now we’re smart enough to know why we don’t sleep well, but we lack the self control to make the necessary changes. I guzzle energy drinks to keep my momentum pushing throughout the evening, then late night eating, topped with loud bar music and a midnight shower is not a recipe for relaxation. But it’s our routine, and to change any one part of it, changes our whole day. So tossing, turning, in and out of sleep commences until about 10am. My morning regimen begins, and the hamster wheel takes another turn. Every day is similar to the last, and tomorrow is looking familiar too.  All sounds very monotonous, I know. But the ironic thing is, nothing about this job is boring! My mind is spinning all of the time, and my body is in constant motion. Guests are never predictable, orders are rarely simple, recipes are ever changing, and time is always disappearing. Every moment is an opportunity to teach, and every day is full of lessons….

Irony… I just got called into work!

Speaking of expecting the unexpected, the last few weeks at this time my restaurant was slow, so this week I decided to take advantage of the opportunity for some Mo-time. Well sure enough, as soon as I start to relax, I answer my phone to a panicked call for HELP! Luckily, or maybe not so lucky, I live a few short blocks away. So I cut my am regimen in half, and made it in to help just as the rush ended! I plate the last two tickets, get back in the car and head for home. While I’m out I might as well drive thru for another latte!

I’ll ease off the caffeine tomorrow, and I’m definitely going to work out in the morning.

A la Mode

I’m living my dream job. Someone asked the other day, if I could attempt any job other than what I am doing now, what would it be? I honestly don’t want to do anything else. In fact, I want to do MORE of what I am already doing!

Can you have too much of a good thing?

I’ve gone after the dream, I’ve scaled the mountain of business ownership, but before I set off on another hike, I think I need to stop and enjoy this view for a little while!

Okay, was that long enough…?

I am 34 years old. Seven years ago my husband and I opened a tiny, take out only bbq joint hidden in a kind of creepy alley in a small sleepy town in western Washington. Needless to say, a lot of people thought we were crazy! Well it’s a good thing, because 7 years later I have realized that it takes a special kind of crazy to be a chef. And I’m good at this kind of crazy!

Our business has had an interesting journey, peaks and pits, but we have found a good home in a historic, much bigger, much better located building. I’ve gone from tired employee to tired employer! Business is good…. too good some days. Every day is an adventure of managing 14 employees, food costs, labor costs, cleaning schedules, side work, ordering, cooking, serving, menu planning, paper work, coffee…. lots of coffee… arguing with my husband, celebrating with my husband, congratulating myself, doubting myself, board meetings, community events, restoring a 100 year old building, and creating my empire!

Throw in an occasional round of golf, a few good beers, and a scraggly little one eyed, 4-legged dog child, and you’ve got one sweet life. Orthodox it is not, but interesting it most definitely is.

Now, with all this good stuff, I still face the normal stuff. I just can’t figure out how to fit normal into my not so normal life. Regardless, what little normal is hidden in me somehow manages to manifest itself as a form of guilt for not being what a good woman is supposed to be. Gross, isn’t it? Stupid hormones! But what if I’m missing something? I’m the kind of person that leaves the radio on scan because I don’t want to miss a good song on another station. But even if I do find a good song I’m afraid to stop it because there might be an even better song a few stations away. I’m not necessarily looking for greener grass elsewhere, I’d just prefer to own All of the grass!

The children topic has been popular food for thought in my brain lately. I went to a self-help class the other day! I know, barf! But my resolution this year is to find a better balance between my personal and my professional life. The first question our self serve guru asked this class of all middle aged women was Where Do You Want To Be In 5 Years? I want another business. I have a good idea stuck up my sleeve, and I’m anxious to open this new venture before someone else has the same idea. On the other hand, 5 years from now I will be 39. The window of opportunity for children is closing. My husband wants to be a father. He would make a Great father. I just don’t know if I want children, and I’m running out of time to decide. The thing is, I’m happy with my life, but I might also be happy with that life. How do you make the choice to leave what you KNOW makes you happy for something that you THINK may make you happy as well??? Will I regret not having children? Will I be able to keeping working at my restaurant after children? Will I still be able to open another business with children? Will I regret it if I don’t?  Will I even care??? I am a perpetual planner. It’s worked well for me in the progression of my career. But I am a ball of energy right now. I am ready to move. I just can’t seem to decide which direction to go.