My coworkers, rather my ex-coworkers, when I lost my job, their immediate heartfelt reaction was to not let this minor inconvenience get in my way of pastry domination- a catchphrase that came out of my lips multiple times on a daily basis during my reign as a Pastry Chef at two top Chicago restaurants. Pastry domination, taking over the Chicago dining scene, being one of the best pastry chefs in the nation, making pastry relevant again, was my dream. I worked so damn hard at pastry domination, at being successful, at making badass dishes that people loved and remembered and talked about and Instagrammed. I was in multiple magazines, I was on television, I sold a rather large percentage of dishes, I was for a brief moment successful.
So when that unexpected ax came for my head, when my success wasn’t actually successful, I gave up the fight.
I did. I gave up. I don’t give up on anything. I am a fighter, I am determined, I don’t let anything get in the way when I have made up my mind on something. But I did, I gave up. I throw in the dirty towel.
I have been cooking since legally allowed to start earning money. I didn’t have much background before that- I didn’t learn from grandma, I didn’t grow up in the kitchen under mom’s apron. But once I picked up that knife, I didn’t put it back down. I have 19 years in food service. I have been a part of every angle, in every corner of the industry, learning and experiencing the entire gamut of food service- fast food, catering, cafeteria, fine dining, modern casual dining, large restaurants, small restaurants, serving, busing, prep cook, line cook, pastry assistant, pastry chef, menu development, costing, management, dishwasher. You name it, I have done it.
I thought that this would be important, I thought that this would prove to be an asset. Everyone needs to eat, right?
Well yes, but as it turns out, people don’t really care about what they eat so much. They care about fashion, they care about cocktails, they care about gossip, and movies, and politics, and social media. People care about taking pictures of their food, but they don’t actually care about food. Cooking and cleaning is a nuisance, and eating out is expensive. So the people want something fast and cheap and easy. This leaves me irrelevant.
Not only do I have the years of food service, I put all my eggs in one basket. I gave up everything to pursue my dream. I gave up making any kind of money. I gave up having a life of my own. I lost my friends. I gave up holidays with my family. I gave up on the physical self- I gained weight, lost muscle, stopped going to the gym, got veracious veins, developed asthma, had a bout of psoriasis for about 3 years, got acne, developed alcoholic tendencies, ran myself into a car on my bike which resulted in sever bruising but couldn’t take any time off work, got very sick many times but still worked my 12+ hour shifts, got burned, got cut, worked mornings, worked nights, worked the night and then the next morning, I got mugged on the way home from working a late shift, I got pink eye, I never had vacation, I could hardly even request a day off. I had two full-time jobs at once multiple times so that I could pay rent.
I gave up my dignity- I got yelled at, verbally harassed, degraded, threatened, treated like a child. I never got complimented, nobody ever said “good job”. I didn’t get breaks of any sort, I ate my one meal a day standing up while still trying to get my prep work done. I never had health insurance, (don’t even ask about dental, that’s hilarious) never had time or money for the doctor. All for nothing. All to be a servant. I never made any money. The most money I ever made a college grad would turn their nose up at, and say no way in hell would I work for so little, even at an easy job.
I thought it was worth it, but when that ax came down I felt like a damn fool.
My coworkers told me not to give up, they told me that I was very skilled, that I had something. They looked me in the eye and said to keep going.
They still ask “where did you end up?” I reply I am on welfare.
So I am not following their advice. I am not following the path anymore. I am going to carve out my clearing by giving up.