Saturday, August 13, 2005

on leaving the restaurant and going to italy

Last week I told The Chef that I was leaving the restaurant. His eyes hardened and narrowed into a cold, penetrating stare. He blew a puff of offended air, exploding out of his pursed lips.

When The Chef hired me last spring we agreed that I would be traveling the last two weeks in August in Italy with my mom. I have been plagued by a constant rumble of guilt, lodged deep in the pit of my stomach, while deciding the future of my employment. But in the end, I will not be returning to my dishwashing position after this Italian journey.

The Chef was not happy; I braced myself for his wrath.

I told him that I have the opportunity to go to France, to learn the language. (Which I do; a village in the Alps.) And then an earlier starting date at culinary school.

Culinary school. What a waste. Why pay for that crock when you could be working; learning with your hands.

I told him how much I respect him and his work. This job has been an eye opening experience; I have learned more than I could ever have dreamed of.

Stop blowing hot air up my ass, Molly.

I apologized for leaving earlier than The Chef has wanted; I feel irresponsible.

You are irresponsible. This is not Brown; you can’t wake up and roll out of bed and go to class. You are an utter disappointment.

The words hit my like a slap in the face. I am an utter disappointment.

Attempting to fight the tears welling up in my eyes (there’s no crying in kitchens, Molly) I began to ramble, desperately trying to redeem my horrifying crash of respect in the eyes of The Chef. I told him that I wanted to write; that I needed more academic tutoring, a look at food beyond a faraway observation and a mountain of dirty plates. In the last few months he himself has spent a total of ten minutes with me, teaching me only to devein shrimp. I need more; I have the opportunity for more. I can’t pass it up, no matter how much I respect him.

Go interview Ruth Reichl. She worked in a kitchen. Apple worked in a kitchen. You are too romantic, Molly. That is not reality; live in the real world.

In a sad display of dishwasher toughness, I tried to smile as the tears slid unwelcome down my cheeks.

I’m sorry, Chef. I need to move on.

The Chef just stared at my, poignantly, as if he were visually measuring my worth and finding it obviously, painfully lacking. Ok, fine. Thank you for your work.

I told S. later that night in my halting Spanish, bursting into tears again. It was not a good night for dishwashing stoicism. I valiantly finished out the week, hoping somewhere in the back of my mind to impress The Chef with my hard work enthusiasm, romantic notions and all.


I leave for Italy this afternoon. There is so much more I have to write about The Chef, J., A., and S. It will have to wait until I return, two weeks from now.

But in conclusion, I have gained many things in my summer as a dishwasher and prep chef:

A continuing and undeniable love of all things culinary,

A hugely consuming respect for anyone who works in a kitchen,

A fascination with preserved meats like confit,

An even greater fascination with France, the French and French food,

Seven pounds in muscle,

And a groundwork of stories and personalities that I will never tire of writing about.


Anonymous said...

Best wishes, Molly dear.

My mother would say "everything happens for a reason", but I think that's a load of crap. I would say: take heart in the future before you.

(It's a sight more exciting than anything I see before me, after all.)

Hope you're having...wait, I've been there, so I KNOW you're having a wonderful time in Italia! Ciao!

Raspil said...

You are too romantic, Molly. That is not reality; live in the real world.

he's 100% right. i don't know you from anyone but what i've read here -- i do hope you're ready for the shit when it comes down in the kitchen. "delicate molly" is spot on.

i don't even know what else to say right now; i've got to read more of this. i can't even identify with what you're saying.

Swamy VKN said...

Bon voyage. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

dear pepe nero,
what you did took an amount of courage larger than paul phillips' head or my love of truffles. and that is huge. you are a powerhouse of bravery. i also know this from first-hand experience with your ability to handle dead house rodents. don't forget to bring me home some gelato!

anna said...

Viva Italia! Oh you will love it there Molly. I miss the Tuscany countryside daily it seems.

As for that nasty chef, (who for some reason appears in my mind as the chef from The Little Mermaid who was trying to kill that cute little crab) take whatever he taught you and run with it. Every experience brings you closer to what you want to do. Ultimately, it's your dream and your goals, not his or anyone else's.

Amy Sherman said...

Molly you rock! Have a blast and kiss the kitchen goodbye for now. (not sure if you noticed but I picked one of your posts as "post of the week" this past week)

Anonymous said...

One thing I've learned in my various jobs is no job is worth putting up with a maniacal boss. No matter how great or talented the person is, there is a position out there you will learn just as much in and go home feeling better about at the end of the day where the boss treats people with respect. The Chef sounds like a lot of bullies and people who have difficulties relating to others. He uses guilt and power to manipulate others. Forget the guilt trip. It's a bloody dishwashing job, Chef! Pruned fingers and broken nails are not a status symbol. Hold your chin up and put the job down on your resume just the same.
To those who are saying you are too delicate or not cut out, I say nonsense. I've worked the type of job you describe and you held up as well as anyone I've ever seen in a kitchen. Everyone makes mistakes and screws something up and cost the boss money. People come and go. Staff turnover is the norm. Fact of life. Cost of doing business. It sounds like he spent $0 training you and that's what he'll spend on your replacement.
So go, follow your own path and bliss and move on to better kitchens.

Cate said...

Even though it was hard, you made the right decision. A new adventure could be right around the corner...

Michèle said...

Hi Molly, have a wonderful time on your trip. Whether people agree that you made the right decision or not to leave the restaurant, the fact is it was a decision you wanted to make and you can only go forward from there. Your future adventures sound exciting, I wish you all the best!

Molly said...

thank you all for your comments! it is such a happy surprise to return from italy and find a new wave of readers. i greatly appreciate your supportive words. my trip was indeed wonderful (and filled with gallons of gelato) and i'm definitely looking forward to what will come.