Rolling Pin and Flour

Rolling Pin and Flour

Monday, November 4, 2013

ISO: My happy place

You could say that I'm a little bit of a dreamer.  Like most human beings, I am never satisfied, constantly in search of greener pastures; daydreaming of that happy place where there is no stress, no struggle, just bliss. This search is what eventually led me to the Farmhouse.  And while the job definitely had moments of hair tearing frustration, it was truly a happy place for me.  It was a place where I could wind down from the day, surrounded by my fellow kitchen staff, working with simple ingredients in the hopes that the end result would be something beautiful and delicious. But as more and more shifts passed, inevitably the question of the future began to nibble at the back of my mind. I found myself frequently asking what the purpose of all of this was.  Where was this going? What was it leading up to? Or, worst of all, was it just a dead end?  Simply a hobby and a source for entertaining stories?

Originally, the main purpose of my Farmhouse experiment had been to find out if I did, in fact, enjoy working in the restaurant industry. If my time at the cafe was any indication, my hypothesis had been proven correct. I loved it.  But I was fully aware that I had eons more to learn.  When I had first taken the job, I had hoped to find a mentor in Louie and I think he had truly wanted to be one.  In the beginning, he brought me a collection of cookbooks to leaf through in my spare time and tried to share industry tips and tricks every now and then.  But it turned out that the Farmhouse had other plans for him.  His chefly duties consumed all of his spare time until he finally said enough was enough and got out while he still had some sanity.

When Pam took over she had shown me a few things, but that quickly dwindled.  She was an eight hour shift kind of gal - she put in her time in the morning and got out.  She was rarely around when I was there at night. If our paths did happen to cross, she showed little interest in spending any time working with me.  So I was on my own trying to make the most of it. After more than six months however, I was starting to realize that I couldn't possibly continue learning from my mistakes or research on the internet.  It was taking too much time and wasting too much product.  I needed some guidance.

The thought of culinary classes was increasingly on my mind.  I wanted to learn about ingredients and how they worked together, influenced one another.  I wanted to learn about ratios and techniques, mass production, supply ordering and menu writing.  In terms of schooling, there were plenty of options to choose from in the city, but most were pricey.  I'd also heard that many of them gave a lot of empty promises to their hopeful young chefs - leading them to believe they'd get all of the tools they needed to be successful in the industry, only to graduate without a clue where to begin.  I was wary.  Plus, that nest egg I had been saving up was really meant to go toward a first home or better yet a business - not another education. 

I could also take a leap and get a full-time job baking somewhere if anyone would have me, but the thought of this was more than a little terrifying.  It was a well known fact that you wouldn't get rich baking for someone else.  The money was crap.  Leaving a job where I had good benefits and a nice paycheck for a job with no benefits and a very tiny paycheck seemed more than a little nuts.

But I was getting restless and I needed something to happen.  I felt less and less confident and fulfilled in my work in web development.  The industry was constantly changing and I was struggling to keep up with it. Most days left me feeling empty, dissatisfied and insufficient.  Recently, the company I worked for had taken on a project for a huge pharmaceutical company that required me to spend hours of my life tweaking code to match a design specification that asked for pixel perfection.  I would get vague bug reports from someone in their QA department in China requesting that I move a logo up two pixels and a navigation bar to the left by one pixel, decrease a font size by a point, darken a horizontal rule by one shade.  I couldn't make myself believe that this work mattered.  How did this make the world a better place?  At least with baking I was fulfilling one of the most basic human needs.  The result was tangible, something I could touch and feel and taste, something that I knew other people would get enjoyment from.

As much as I thought things over, I couldn't reach a conclusion. I desperately wanted someone to tell me the answer.  Discussions with my husband only led to frustration.  He works on something we like to call 'Brian' time.  He talks a good game, but when it comes to execution, it takes him a while.  It took him four years to propose.  It takes him a year to make a dentist appointment, days to take out the garbage, you get the point. I work on Ceth time, which usually equals immediate results.  Being stuck in limbo drove me crazy.  Brian was also not much of a risk taker.  I found that when I would dream out loud to him, I'd be confronted by a dear in headlights look. Something that said, 'I didn't sign on for this.'  And it's true, he didn't.  When we met I was just a boring corporate girl that wanted to play tennis.  Now I was an unstable woman that wanted to throw her professional life down the toilet.  This was all my crazy dream, not his. I couldn't expect him to help me find the solution.  I would have to do it on my own.

For now I would just have to be satisfied with dreaming and have faith that eventually something would happen to take me down the right path.

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