My passion has become this restaurant life. I want to do it better than anyone else. I spend any free time I have trying to learn a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more. And the more I learn the further away I feel. The knowledge needed is endless and the motivation is not.
I can write about the long hours and other hardships but much better writers have done that much better than I ever will.
What I will say is that I'm in the Spaghetti and Meatball business. A "red sauce joint" it's called. It is what it is, a restaurant that people are slowly but surely are coming to love. It is what I and many other people in this world know Italian restaurants to be. Pasta, red checkered table clothes, "That's Amore" playing in the dining room. I am told that the food is great but I can't help but want to push it a little more. To show the people what they're missing. You see I love what I've learned and I want to show this to the people I've met. But there is a one small problem, not everyone wants to learn. What they want is their fucking Fettuccine Alfredo. What I have established is a good thing that I, at times, get pretty tired of.
I travel to San Francisco as often as possible to see my girlfriend and there I get to see these places packed with young people interested in food. Excited about that new ingredient or by some chef's concept they line up to have a taste. I see people that care on both sides of the counter. In a hurry I come home and run to blank stares at the local produce store when I ask them if they have ramps. "Handicapped parking is on the end of the building" the clerk tells me. That's when I know I'm home. There's no food culture here. There's dining out. There's good food. There's no food culture. And I am stuck in the middle of it.
Imagine knowing that The Beatles exist but you can only get your hands on the Dave Clark Five. That's where I live in the food world.
Which leads me to ask myself, "What am I doing here?" I've thought about leaving for Italy for a while to learn. Or maybe I'll move to San Francisco and work my way up in a good kitchen. Really put myself into the scene head first.
Then yesterday something happened.
Mother's Day. People are all dining out yet not thrilled that they have to do it with their families. A young couple with two small children came in for dinner. As kids do they grabbed the forks and knives and began banging them on the table. So I go over there to see if there's a way to defuse this bomb and when I get to the table the mother tells me that her child is Autistic. My inner monologue tells me, "You know what, Guy, let this one slide." I listen.
I call in the order to chef with instructions to get the food out fast. Front of the line. They eat, I check on them once or twice and all are happy. They all get up and we wave goodbye, "Happy Mother's Day!" I say with a smile. Before he can reach the door the father comes back and puts out his hand, "My kid never eats. He's never eaten like this before. Your food is really good." Then they left.
So I guess that's why I do this.
My restaurant might not be everything I want it to be but I can be confident that what I do is good. I know that my food however simple it may be is good. I know it when my regulars sit at the bar and share their day with me. I know it when people choose my place to celebrate a birthday.
I can't make my place all of the things that I want it to be, but you know what, it couldn't be anything else. A meal is 10% what's on the plate and 90% who's in the seats around you.
I do this because it's my job and I have to. I push myself to learn because I want to. And in doing the things you have to do you find the things you want to do.