It was my first day back in a kitchen after a 2 month long vacation/job hunt, and while the day had only lasted about 9 1/2 hours, it had been rougher than I remembered. I have a tendency to romanticize things in my head and looked fondly back on my last job as pure sunshine and fun, forgetting all the frustration. But now with my sore shoulders, aching lower back, and pounding headache, I remembered the reality. It was a well-earned, familiar kind of pain, but that didn’t make it hurt less.
Our crew stood waiting for the Chef to inspect the kitchen and walk-ins before dismissing us for the night. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky this evening.
“What the fuck is this? Who prepped the corn? It’s still covered in fucking hairs!” Chef appeared in the doorway of the larger walk-in, shaking a cob in his hand. “Everyone grab a lexan, now!”
There were 18 lexans with over a 100 cobs in each and 9 of us. Shit.
Everyone put down their knife rolls, and rebuttoned their jackets. Without a word we all did exactly as we were told, circled around a table, and began picking the cobs clean of hairs. As the clock crept closer and closer towards the early morning hours, the silence dissolved into laughter as one by one people began joking around, and giving each other some affectionate shit. The later it got the louder and more joyful we became, laughing harder and longer, because, well, we were stuck here no matter what so we might as well try to enjoy it.
But despite the laughter I was grimacing with pain on the inside. My back was aching, and with every pinch of a hair my thumb and forefinger burned worse, then eventually began to tingle with numbness. Yet the thought never even occurred to me to stop, not even for a second.
It was the first time I had ever worked with these guys, I had to prove I could handle it. More importantly, I had to prove to myself I could handle it. All of my past work experience had been in fine-dining and at small catering companies. This kitchen was extremely high-volume, producing food at a level I had never experienced before, and I certainly had my own doubts on whether or not I could hack it. So I pushed back against the pain, laughed a little harder at the jokes, and challenged myself to clean the corn even quicker.
I noticed a couple of other guys stretch their backs a bit, or crack their necks. But not one of them complained, everyone just kept on cleaning corn. Mainly because stopping wasn’t a choice. It had to get done, period, and we were the only ones to do it.
It’s times in the kitchen like these, when I feel like a complete disaster and hardship has occurred, that I try to remember that actual tragedies and disasters are occurring all over the world. Every day people endure real moments of challenge. Events that truly test one’s strength and endurance. Times when you discover if you really can keep going despite the fact that everything around you has shifted or disappeared. And I’ve found, that when it feels like your world has ended, if you can keep on breathing, keep on pushing despite the pain; then in the end, it will always be alright. There will always be another moment of joy, and happiness, and laughter, if only you just keep going.
Until the next bite,
|This? Is what pure joy looks like. Also known as my dog Butter with a rib-eye bone.|