I Don’t Think This is How Julia Did It

 

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I had every intention of posting a blog yesterday. However, I had one of those weekends where you just want to push the delete button and make the whole thing disappear.

As a chef and expo (basically I do what Gordon Ramsey does only with a little less edge), I have to have my brain completely free of random junk when I work. So I have a technique that I use to clear the “noise’ out before I head to work.

I get up, I shower, I have an energy drink, then I spend quality time cuddling with my cat so that I am relaxed and free of worry. I do not do dishes or clean the house or check the mail and usually I do not get on the computer in the morning so that my positive energy is focused on work and my head is empty (I like to refer to it as the zen spot because literally my head is empty and free of thought. If there was a camera in there it would be a black abyss). Zen allows me to hear everything that is going on around me and to process it quickly, respond fast and stay extremely focused on my job. In zen, I can read my QA’s lips, hear what the servers are saying, hear what my grill line is doing and be aware of all the things that go on at once in a busy kitchen as well as get food in the window.

I went to work Saturday morning in zen.

By 11, I had fallen….no..was PUSHED out of zen. Our open counts hit 65-75 at any given point over a two hour period. The restaurant was full and on a wait during that crucial time when we are making the transition from breakfast to lunch, which can be scary on a normal Saturday. This was not normal.

THEN came the “seeing jesus” moment every chef has at some point in their life. That moment where your brain can literally no longer process what is going on, your focus disappears and it is like an out of body experience. Your head gets swimmy, your eyes glaze over, and you can not hear anything around you other then the buzzing in your head.

These moments rarely happen for me anymore but when they do, the recovery can be hard. When you reach that point, it is like a domino effect….every ticket after that is simply a piece of paper with words on it, like hieroglyphics, and you have to decipher the code.

I like to make the joke often that its not really Jesus I see but  John Lennon, Mother Mary, and sometimes Janis Joplin. Its that trippy.

After the lunch crush, I had my usual Saturday break where I had the chance to regain composure and get my head back in zen. Second shift (dinner) is never the same level of zen for me because by then my brain is tired and has to focus a little differently since the pace is a little less aggressive.

Saturday night was not as bad…steady ebb and flow. Nice pace, not rough but rather calm.

Then Sunday morning hit. Before I even climbed out of bed I made the random decision ( and I say random because this is totally out of character for me) to email a group of Indie writers/publishers that I have been following for sometime and ask them to critique my work. I do not know what possessed me to do this-on a Sunday morning. I was not even out of bed yet. I am a big fan of stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring new things, seeking honesty in everything I do…BUT this was one of those moves that I just should have thought out first.

By the time I left my house at 7:30, I was still not in zen. My head was filled with thoughts of my grocery list, the pile of laundry I had to do, what I wanted to make for supper, and whether my new camera was going to arrive so I can start taking food pix again.

Then came the tornado. It was like an F5 on the scale of bad kitchen days. One half of my kitchen seemed to not be 100% for whatever reason (and we all have days like this), and because my mind was not cleared 100%, my fuse was a lot shorter. And it progressed-quickly.

At one point, I actually heard myself say “Ya know what? All I am hearing from you is blah blah blah”[insert the duck bill finger movement one does when they are referencing talking].

I do not know who I said it to, not even sure what brought me to that point but I know the words came out of my mouth (much less scary then the “bloody red ticket” incident a year ago where I lost complete control and screamed in my best Gordon Ramsey accent “I do not want another bloody fucking red ticket!”. I needed an exorcism after that shift).

By the time our breakfast/lunch transition took place, I had gone beyond the checkout point mentally. I was completely on mental vacation. I had seen Jesus, John, Janis, Jimi, Elvis, AND Micheal. I was at the “talking to myself” stage. The point where I hold whole complete conversations with myself out loud…hahaha.

When the shift ended, I was able to slow down and browse my email via phone. BIG mistake. HUGE mistake.

You know that old saying “be careful what you wish for…you just might get it”? Well, it applies to this.

I popped open the email from “Dave” and low and behold he gifted me with utter ugly honesty. That honesty was like the sting of 10,000 angry wasps on my pinky finger.

The words “your cover is crap” was at the start of the email.

Now I am not arguing with his email and I truly truly am thankful for his honesty. Honesty can be a motivational tool, although I do not think Julia Child ever asked a total stranger for their honesty and got it so glaringly in the face, but hey…you get what you ask for.

He said that he liked the inside (formatting issues still plague the Kindle version but I think that has to do with which one you use) and found the inside photos engaging. But the cover was crap. Now, normally, a woman might take this as a criticism to her looks. BUT I think what he was trying to express was the fact that no one was buying the book because I was the hot ticket item on the cover. They wanted food. Hmmmm…now THERE is a novel concept. Food porn on a cookbook cover. Hmmmm….

So I came home yesterday, and despite my growing need to pour the biggest martini ever, I sat down at the computer and spent the next 4 hours creating a new cover.

Then I emailed him (yes…I kept it pleasant and thanked him for the honesty).  What I wanted to tell him was that I thought he was blatantly rude and insensitive and had hurt my feelings and that he needed to learn to be nice. I wanted to tell him that he could go F@@K himself. BUT by the time I got home I was already beaten into the ground mentally and took it as sage advice from someone with more experience then myself (this is not to say that I didn’t cry a little on the car ride home). So my email to him was pleasant and to the point with no bitterness.

He liked the revision on the cover 100%.

I wish I could say with a loud resounding voice, that being a writer and a chef (cookbook author) is glamorous and exciting. That its all cooking all the time and wonderful parties. What it really is is a daily lesson in humbleness and a constant need to keep the inner self in check. A big ego is the greatest destroyer of a chef.

And that is why Julia, even til the day she died, never called herself a chef but rather a cook. Humility is a virtue we all must possess in kitchen.

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