Throughout your professional career you begin to learn a series of cardinal rules: Never take a whisk to a pot of caramel. Make sure to hone your knife daily. Label that cambro with the date asshole. You also learn some lessons that apply on a broader sense outside the kitchen, such as the one every twenty something will experience at some point – stop stalking your old classmates on social media. You know your life has become a sad tale of morally debilitating age when LinkedIn & Glassdoor have replaced Facebook as your preferred medium of online comparison. Or is it just me?
You mean you don’t try to look up the potential salaries of all your high school and college friends? You don’t also begin typing in names one by one into the LinkedIn search box, trying to see how many ended up in investment banking making quintuple your salary? You’ve never sent yourself into a spiral of self-doubt about how you decided to leave a job in London on the table in favor of working a line cook position? Every time I stand in that walk in, trying to jam a container of arugula into a space it clearly won’t fit into, I still think what the hell I’m doing, wondering if it was a spectacularly stupid idea to waste a precious year here.
It’s always been acceptable for people who make six figures at a desk to hate their career. Congrats! You sold your soul to a life of corporate overtime for the sake of stability… Now here’s a free pass to whine about how you sat in traffic. On the other hand, I dare say those in the hospitality industry – especially in the back of the house – aren’t allowed to take part in the mindful complaining. We’re not supposed to make comments about the burn marks all over our arms, or the random micro cuts that don’t make themselves known until we decide to squeeze a lemon with our bare hands. Working late Saturdays is supposed to be a privilege. The days where we really, really, don’t want to cook are met with the argument, “But you’re following your passion!”
Yes, we are. Following a passion on some days is incredibly rewarding in intricate ways that are incommunicable by words, but so is being able to leave the office in time for happy hour. All that stuff about no health insurance or 401k? That’s not idiotic, that’s just romantic! Look at you – making so many sacrifices to do what you love! Being poor while people your age are joking about retirement funds and savings? Just a part of following your dream.
To anyone thinking of foregoing promising futures in business, law, or politics for the romanticized life as a starving sculptor, coffee artist, or line cook, remember this: there will be a day when you’ll talk to your friend about how he’s staying at Deloitte for at least two years so he can keep the ten thousand dollar signing bonus, in which you’ll think to yourself, “That’s over half of my annual salary”!
And later, while mincing that tenth bunch of flat leaf parsley, you’ll think either one of two things: how much greener this salsa verde would taste if you were making it for fun at home, or how lucky you are that you chose not to sell your soul to Deloitte. Some weeks, you think of both.