Chef’s Life: The Day I Became a Chef
I always enjoyed cooking for people. I remember cooking all of the holiday dinners, because I loved entertaining.
This is what Chefs like to say so it sounds like a pretty story.
“Oh, she’s always known that she would one day become a chef.”
Most of us ended up in the kitchen because we didn’t have a choice. I cooked at home because it is the only time ever felt I belonged in the family. In that moment, whatever was happening in my personal life didn’t matter and I wasn’t judged for being a teen mom, divorced, rebellious…you name it.
Quite honestly, growing up in my parent’s restaurant, working in the kitchen was like working at the bottom of the totem pole. Working in the kitchen is brutal, hot, messy and it wasn’t a place for a girl.
I was expected to work the front of the house. I have a great smile and I love making people happy. But, I had a soft spot for our cooks. They were my friends.
I never saw the dark side of alcoholism or drug use and the messiness that my parents wanted to protect me from. All I saw, was a kitchen of hard working individuals, knocking out service and then at the end of the night listening to Spanish ballads, smiling and cleaning up. I have always admired cooks.
When I bought my restaurant, which was practically handed to me by the previous owner (that’s another story), I wanted that fantasy of having happy cooks and running a happy-go-lucky kitchen. Instead, I inherited a head cook that despised me.
I remember the day he walked out on me with a full house of reservations, two weeks into owning the place. He was such a douchebag.
It was all calculated (yes, I just said that). I had informed him of all the reservations. I was doing my thing hosting in the front of the house and he called me and handed me the key. I remember thinking “what’s this?” and then it hit me. “Oh shit, you are walking out. I see.”
I remember feeling vulnerable and a bit lost because honestly, I wasn’t planning on working in the kitchen. I went to culinary school to learn to how to manage my kitchen staff, not to cook. I wanted to be the one to inspired the next Marco Pierre White. I wanted to be a mentor.
That night my customers were subjected to what I believe is the worst service they have ever received at Provecho. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or where a spoon was. It was so bad that I didn’t charge anyone a dime. My poor mother, who walked in with a decorative floral arrangement, was put to work bussing tables. I was embarrassed, humiliated and the evening was an utter disaster.
I sat there at the end of the night trying to figure out how was I going to make this work. At that moment, I made the decision to become the chef of my own restaurant. The words surprised me as they exited my mouth. “I’m going to be the chef of my own place.”
I put on my big girl “calzones” on and gave it a go.
My dad, who felt sorry for me, sent two of his cooks from his restaurant to help me get started. I still didn’t know what I was doing. These two cooks knew more, and fully realized that. They took care of me and showed me everything I needed to know to run the kitchen, including building my confidence.
I won’t lie, I was scared. The one thing I’ve always had in me is a will to never to give up. I’m tenacious and I’ll come back again, and again until I get it right or get what I want. I earned their respect, got myself going and I worked harder than ever before. The grind was tough, and hustle was real, as they say.
For two years I struggled, praying to God to move the needle forward so I could keep the doors of my little restaurant open. Today, as I sit here reminiscing, I can’t believe that we’re celebrating our sixth anniversary. It makes me feel blessed to realize how far I’ve come in these 6 years.
And to that cooked who walked out that day, thank you.
If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have known how strong I was. Because of you, I’ve met a lot of good people. I’ve found myself and have fallen in love with the craft. I’ve earned the title of “Chef” and I don’t take that lightly.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think you’re a douchebag, but the universe put you in my path for a reason, and I’m a better person for it.
Gracias! And Happy Anniversary to my little restaurant, Provecho, to my super supportive crew and to all of our customers and friends who gave us the chance to share our passion for food with you.