Tomorrow I will be having my last shift at Cafe Sushi as a server. With my mind on the experience I’ve had these past 2 years working in restaurants, I opened up netflix and clicked on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservation”. Initially I was looking for an episode where he visits a location that I had some connection or interest in. I had already seen San Francisco, Osaka, Paris and New Zealand. My mouse hovered over Australia, Vancouver, while I scanned for episodes in San Diego and Boston. But in the end I clicked on the episode titled “Into the Fire”. Maybe it was life giving me an early preparation for the culmination. Who knows. But as I watched this episode where Bourdain goes back to his old workplace for a double shift, all I could think about was my own personal love affair with restaurants.
No, I did not work 28 years at a restaurant. No, I did not work at a busy New York joint. No, my service wasn’t top notch, and no, my food wasn’t that great. I know all this. I’m not pretending like I’ve experienced anywhere near what those guys have gone through on the show. Yet in the last 2 years I have also developed my own love affair with restaurants. I’ve loved it at times. Enamored by the ideals, experiences, love, and food it had to offer. Other times I despised it. The drama, the jerks, the endless hours and effort put into it felt like it wasn’t worth it. In the end though, as I watched this episode and remembered everything about the relationship, I was filled with memories. All the actual restaurant shit. Being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of orders coming in, carrying plates along my arms, asking the chefs to hurry on the food, and all the spanish that gets thrown around in the kitchen. There’s also the people and the food. I remembered all the crazy, odd, and unique personalities that I had the fortune of working alongside. And the food that the wacky geniuses in the kitchen dish out are brilliant, delicious, and just as memorable as the people who make them. And of course, the life lessons. Oh so many life lessons.
I’ve always described restaurants as a war zone filled with pride. You have the front of the house that works directly in enemy territory and the back of the house that prepares the weapons. You have officers that orchestrate the entire process, expediting the food and managing the staff members. The officers wouldn’t be anything without the soldiers, but the soldiers couldn’t do what they do without the officers. And the thing that really gets me is that they all take pride in what they do. At least at the best restaurants anyways. In such an environment you’re bound to learn. A lot.
I don’t want to bore you or myself by writing out all the crap I’ve learned while working in this battlefield. It would take forever, really. But I do wish to share it with you someday. Because a meal that’s enjoyed by myself is just a fleeting memory. I would much rather make it an everlasting story with you. Now that’s just one of the things I’ve learned from this love affair.