I cook.

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I want to want a lot of things.

I want to feel the push for fine dining, for Michelin, for “greatness” in this field. I want to want the move, the one that would take me out of small town, into big city. The desire to work for a chef that will break me until I can’t make a mistake, because I don’t know how to anymore. The adrenaline and anxiety, screams pounding into my ears across a ticket line, faster, harder, more plates, covers, turnovers. Dexterity of hands, numbness of mind. The hardened shell that lets all the bullshit of an outdated industry roll off like water. I want to want all the things it would take for me to become a chef. 

But I don’t . I just wanna cook.

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To make good food, then better food. To learn more about how it brings people together, deeper into their relationships, culture, life in general. Food does that, in some of the most instinctual, archaic arches of humanity. Gathering around a fire started it all, and the smoke that rose from cooking those kills, is the same that rises in kitchens today.  That’s the part of this field that I desire, the intrinsic history buried in how we cook, how the blades we hold carve in ancient ways.

It’s hard though, to not compare. To appreciate, but not envy, the moves and changes my peers are making, that are more akin to what I described before. In reality, I’m not jealous of what they’re doing, but how it will be easier for them to be seen as a success because of it. And it will be a success, a high and worthy one….just not the one I want anymore.

That’s the line I’m looking for; in literal terms, a hotline to work that appreciates the softer, smokier edges to food. One that isn’t about marrying a restaurant and sacrificing your life for a shitty paycheck, shitty environment, and “haute cuisine” that makes it “worth it”. In looser terms, the line between the traditional aspects of this field that can make any heart race (the dance of a crew that’s worked countless nights together, the sound of a ticket maker pushing you further, brainstorming menus that mean something) and still being present in this life to enjoy it, and take advantage of it.

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It closes in around me a lot, the wooly, suffocating pressure to pack my knives and leave. Leap into a city that I don’t know, and “begin”. I don’t think it’s what’s meant for me though. Time and time again I’ve tried to leave the place I’m planted in; from internships, to trips, to moving out of my childhood home. Nothing worked out the way I wanted it to, and perhaps it wasn’t supposed to. Each of those efforts were done in desperation – and I mean gross, anxious, cold sweat desperation that clung to me.

Leave, leave, leave, go, go, go. Otherwise you never will. Otherwise you’ll be that sad story of a girl with potential in college, who gave up, and gave in.

It’s a lie though, the idea that you have to leave everything you know. Bloom where you’re planted and all that shit. The summer I was “stuck”, I learned the most. It was the act of embracing the moment I was in, that led me to finding the deeply buried seed of creativity I cling to most ardently.

Roots grow stronger the deeper they go, and maybe I should attempt the same.

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Motivation will fail you.

Passion will wain.

Exhaustion sets in, insecurities gain traction, irrelevant comments take up space in your mind – circling, biting, gnawing at the marrow of your silly school age”passion”. The handful of grandiose things that pushed me through culinary school, that got me through those all nighters and 12 hour labs (that in reality, would be considered a nice social aspect of life now), have become faded. It’s hard to maintain motivation as an accelerator, when you pressed the pedal to it’s extent in a few short years.

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The unsettling realization that the spark I used to feel every single day will not last, has put me in a hollow place, creatively. I would feel overwhelmed before, scribbling at my chef notebook because the ideas came faster than my hands could write, not being able to sleep because my mind whirled with possibilities of what food could taste like, look like, represent.

 I’ve slept like a baby for months now.

Let me clarify – my job is incredible, and I’m an extremely blessed person to have the one I do. A small cafe with a group of people who care, a boss that not only lets me create, but encourages it, a boss that isn’t a boss, but a mentor. Food ethics that shine in everything we do, local pride, seasonality; if it’s past two days old get that shit out of the cooler.

It isn’t mine though; it isn’t my dream, or my creation, or my idea. It’s a beautiful one, but not mine. It’s easy to get lost in day dreams, but easier to get lost in just the days. Comfort is a luxurious blanket, but it can suffocate too. Motivation may pull you out from underneath for a day, may trigger a cool idea that could work in the near, possible, sort of future if you kinda thought about trying. You’ll be asleep in another two days though, at most. Will is stronger, will keeps you out from the blanket no matter how tired, cold, or hungry you are.

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Sabatier – 1967

Rely on will. Practice it, strengthen it. Let it keep you trudging through, looking past the onslaught of ‘days’, until you find a tiny flame. And if someone judges the flame you choose to pour gasoline on?

Light that shit on fire – it’s kindling.

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Art by Thom Gallup
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Thom Gallup art – displayed at Sawhorse Cafe

Find people, places, and things that keep your mind on that pesky passion, no matter how small they may seem. Cook your own damn dinner for God’s sake. Buy cool ingredients that you’ve never worked with before. Start a blog because you’re having an existential crisis and need mass reassurance that you aren’t lame just because you aren’t a sous chef in Los Angeles yet. Anything that keeps you annoyingly focused. If you’re reading this, you’re following my version of that – for whatever reason – and that’s appreciated. For anyone that is going through the same issue – Culinary peer or not, get up.

Embrace opportunities, put on your whites, and go.

Photos are from a recent catering, 3.5.17 – the opening of Presents of Presence, by Thom Gallup. Currently on display at Sawhorse Cafe(Williamsport, PA)