As the hours stretched and the tickets kept spitting out of the machine faster then I could cook them, I took a moment. I closed my eyes and breathed. Nothing difficult or strenuous just simple breathing and lightly closed eyes. I pictured all the parts of my life that made me smile, I mean deep down smile. It wasn't difficult and it was sadly a short list. I pictured all of those moments that I could have made a different decision, a decision that would have me sitting in an office, worried only about beating the rush hour traffic home and when is a good time to take a vacation...but I didn't make those decisions, instead I picked this moment. This is the life that I wanted.
My eyes open as my hand reaches out and grabs a few more orders that had just come in. An endless slam. No matter how well prepared a kitchen can be, there are times when life seems to reach out, line up the stars and deliver a beating like most people can't imagine. It's hard to fully describe the feeling when one is in it, fear, anxiety, stress, joy, exhilaration and pride. Chefs and cooks around the world are just wired differently. Where some experience this chaos and insanity just once and have the intelligence to simply walk away, the rest of us experience this and think, "THAT WAS FUCKING AMAZING"!!!!
There is sort of a religious experience in the kitchen. One where you realize that the only way to survive the day is to lean on the person beside you, to forget niceties, to laugh, to cry, to forget everything else but that one dish that's in front of you. On most days kitchens are routine and calm. But every once in a while the magic that hides in the kitchen, that hides beneath the knives, pans and aprons shows itself. And it's on these days that one needs to close their eyes and remember the reason. The reason is why it is that you are standing here in the insanity and you keep cutting and cooking. You burn or cut yourself, you just put on a plastic surgical glove and keep going. A dish falls on the floor and shatters into a million pieces, you simply kick it out of the way and keep going.
For every person the reason is different. For me it's a dream. A wooden house, two cozy rocking chairs on a porch, flowers causally tossed in here and there, a warm inviting light coming from the windows and a wooden fire place that adds a little warmth on the cool winter days. I hope that one day, I can have this. But it is the dream of it that keeps me going. Even when all the other parts of me wants to stop.