Here is a story from my youth. It deals with the same feelings I get whenever I have to serve a wedding cake from Layers.
A country store, hidden in the mountains 25 miles from the Carmel coast. Home of A Moveable Feast caterers, local organic foods since 1976.....Brendan and Michael Jones...a restaurant, a pub....and much vicious gossip
In your last email you said it was good to hear that I’m living the dream, and in my last email I too felt like I was living a dream – the Spanish cooking adventure – but you probably noticed that my dreaminess also left me giddy and confused – dreaming in the wrong ways – and that there was a certain basic stupidity to the way I was going about things. (Immature, unprofessional, naïve, et cetera). I mean, my plan was to start staging at a handful of places that I really didn’t want to be staging at just because by that point I had gotten desperate for anything, and I suspect that I seemed like a child lost in the dark to you as I tried to convince myself (vicariously, through you) that I would be happy and learn a lot and be on my way to bigger and better things if I just got started somewhere, anywhere…your silence has actually been very helpful to me. Not the night-light of encouragement I thought I was looking for (as I stumbled around groping the walls, trying to find my way to the kitchen) but something better: a different kind of light, a light for me to turn inwards and examine the reasons why I’m stumbling around looking for the kitchen in the middle of the night anyway...and I realized that maybe the cookies in the cookie jar aren’t really so great as they sound, and maybe I should be looking for other things instead…
Real life: after one week of staging at that first place – the place with the traditional and innovative mix, where the chef wasn’t so great but living with his brother was interesting – I quit. I couldn’t handle it. I mean the food was shit, but probably more importantly for me the people were shit, so the whole experience was shit, and I realized (inward light) that I don’t have enough genuine cooking integrity to persevere through such things. I’m too picky, too idealistic, too sensitive, and probably ultimately just too weak. I don’t want to work in anything but my ideal conditions, which is an impossible way to start building a career, and (more inward light) by this point I’m 99.9% sure that I should be looking for whatever it is I’m looking for (a “good life,” I guess) elsewhere.
So I left that restaurant and spent a few weeks at a farm/restaurant in Bordeaux, and now I’m back in Spain at another farm. Outside-living, and working hard without an asshole-boss, and getting dirty and tired and cooking/eating good food (instead of shitty staff meals) makes me very happy. I think farming would be a good way for me to live, but also a difficult way to provide for any kind of uncertain future…so I’m thinking to start studying existential psychology in London in January. Maybe this sounds crazy to you (the lost child in the dark again), and sometimes it sounds that way to me too, but also I see it as a good way to deepen my focus on what matters most in life. For me cooking was always mostly about trying to get to the essence of human life anyway. (Which of is a fine idea, but of course another bad way to start building a career in professional kitchens).
The jamón we have curing here, the wine fermenting in the bodega, the rabbits we slaughter and eat with potatoes slow-cooked in the ashes of the fire; the fire from the oak-tree we cut into pieces on that sunny afternoon with the Pyrenees filling the horizon and the cold wind sweeping down their snowy slopes and blowing at my face – this is much closer to the “good life” I’m looking for than the endless compromises and petty bickering that seems to constitute life in most restaurants that serve their guests anything like a decent meal.)
Anyway, don’t want to take too much of your time. Hope you’re doing well.
All the best,