• de Martinez

To Eschew, Final Part

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

There must always be some sort of catalyst for change. When you're talking about baking, the catalyst may be the fact of preparing the dough or turning on the oven for preheating. Catalyst in another sense--as, perhaps, in the sense of starting your own business--might also be straight-up fear: Are you doing everything right? Can you even afford to do everything right? Do you really have something that's going to matter to anyone? What about taxes, and what about safety and security and web presence and social media and marketing? Those questions may seem fairly answerable to one who's already been through it; who might be able to pat you on the hand or shoulder and tell you everything's ultimately going to be okay so long as you keep doing what you're doing.

But that does not negate the fact that despite all we might have to fear, is fear itself, even still what we tend to fear the most is the unknown. Not so much when we're children, per se: When we're kids--teenagers, even twenty-somethings with the way things are nowadays--we own the world and nothing can stop us. As we get older, we tend to figure out that sometimes you have to do things in order to ensure you're going to be able to pay the bills, or take the cats to the vet, or pay for repairs on your piece of shit vehicle. We adult. And more often than not we may tend to get stuck in a rut and simply get through the grind. We don't try to improve our situation so much as we begin to take it for granted. It becomes what it is, because that's always what it was.

However that does not mean that's how it always has to be. Maybe I can thank the churros, maybe I can blame them, probably in the end it's going to be a little bit of both. But because it was an incident having to do with them, and their preparation, and what amounts (to us) to be a confirmation of their potential (because why else would you ask for the recipe when we weren't around, if not to obtain it behind our backs and then possibly dispose of us, later on down the road?): That's how and why they serve as the catalyst for this change. I will own the fact that I was feeling vulnerable in general, and that I showed my belly and possibly even overreacted when the beast lifted its head; but that doesn't change where we are now, does it?

Even still: To grow up and act our age though we may all be destined, that doesn't mean we have to keep adulting in your way.

In some ways I want to be bitter and overtly cynical, something like a voice for the people. That was always the way I viewed myself (essentially), once I became serious not only about cooking, but also management. The task became making sure the staff didn't feel the chaos of which I often felt I was a part; making sure they had answers to their questions, that they could understand the whys and hows; making sure they got enough hours, or offering advice or just a listening ear when needed. Certainly not all the time, to be sure: There have been plenty of times that I've snapped and cursed and muttered under my breath, connived and schemed both overtly and almost accidentally. I'm no saint; but my ideal version of my managing self, has always been something along those lines, pulling insights from the bubbling brew of experience still on the stove.

Moreover, a lot of my time I've spent alone, in a sense: I've generally proven myself reliable wherever I've worked, and there have usually been fairly few complaints about the food or speed of service, even if some of my past behaviors might remain in question. I don't mean this to be a cause for pity, I'm just saying that I've not ever really made myself part of the cooking, cheffing, foodie-ing communities. For one reason or another I've always tied myself to whatever expo station, line work, prep work, or admin work I could in order to avoid too much interaction either with guests or even colleagues. The less I showed of myself, the less I might have to deal with anything terribly personal along the way: So who the hell am I to think I can be a voice for "my" people? I've probably ignored and judged the vast majority of them throughout my career just the same as I'm sure I was the subject of their own contempt and ridicule, at least some of the time.

In any case, being by myself has meant that if anything went wrong with the food or the kitchen, it probably fell on me. Although specifically true relative to the guest ranch experiences, this is still a notion I carried with me into the general restaurant scene, whether or not I held a chef-titled position. And, in the end, that means that if there's a lot of bad things to say about the restaurant industry or the experiences I've been through, or that others I've known have been through, then maybe I was doing something wrong. It would have, in some way, to fall on myself, just as much as blame might be placed easily on others.

The fact of it is, I don't think I even want to talk about it. I don't even want to say anything much about the industry or the people I've met--at least, not in a sense of non-fiction, seeing as how I've met some pretty amazing characters....It's nearly impossible for me not to relate any number of situations to something to do with a professional kitchen, that is true. I have long held the belief, that everything in a kitchen is perfectly applicable to real life (even if real life is not always applicable to kitchens): And in this, I've yet to be proven wrong (even if, admittedly, it may take a good-humored stretch and not a little bit of wordplay). Chances, then, are more likely than not that some of it is going to seep through the cracks simply for the fact that, by now, it's an intrinsic part of my whole being. But as far as what it's going to be? That, to be sure, is what we're both going to be finding out together.

Once I'd developed my core set of savory and baking recipes I was able to focus on the business side of things. With much greater ease, having written everything down or distilled it and written it down again, I could access the food knowledge and be able to produce or create, devise a menu or come up with something special, while still absorbing and observing what was going on around me in an operational and logistical sense. Taking notes all the way, both mental and physical. At times it seemed I took more notes on what not to do, than what to do. More ingredients for the brew, more matrices and bubblies, derivatives and ratios and whatever else. I began to want to build a business; to create or at least help to create a real brand behind which I, and anyone else working for whatever company, could stand. I began to want to seriously expand my knowledge of marketing, in all shapes and sizes.

If I did in fact take more notes on what not to do than what to do, maybe it's because I was lost in the muck and mire of someone else's mess, and what I really wanted was a fresh start--hence the appeal of helping to open a new restaurant when the opportunity arose, despite the fact of lingering symptoms of burn-out--but I was unaware of it because I couldn't see the wood for the trees. Clinging too hard to that self-imposed tradition, the devil that I'd both summoned and created.

...Convenient circumstance, if not always comfortable; all unfolding quite neatly unto the current Present and Now. Well they say be careful what you wish for, yeah?

In the meantime, and probably in a lot of the time, I'm likely to be hustling those digital media and English language services, and figuring out the best way to harvest and mill mesquite beans for flour. I didn't really get into chefery for the same reasons others might; and yet, I probably did, just the same.

But if all things in the kitchen are applicable to real life as I claim, then am I really eschewing the devil I knew, or am I just adding more ingredients to the brew? Was that the secret all along? That I've had nothing stewing and percolating on those back burners at all--nothing that doesn't get added to the big pot in the end, anyway?

Maybe so. I'm just me, you know. Whether anyone likes it or not (sometimes including myself, to be sure), that's how this layer of consciousness plays out. We are (and must be) our own worst enemies, in order to continually better ourselves. If at any point we find we are content, then so be it: Because that means we can honestly accept who we are, who we've been, who we've become. That sounds like quite a fine end-goal to me, and anything but honesty is a lie--not to others, but to yourself. Not that you're asking, but if you can live with that, I simply don't think we can be friends, in the long run....But as for the churros? Oh, they'll be back.

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