Soul-Searching for my Next Move

Working on Me

Officially unemployed, but still finding a lot to doRelaxing with Mom

I’ve been struggling lately, trying to figure out what to do with myself now that the closure is official and I’m unemployed (by choice). I had no desire to work in our sister restaurant, a restaurant that does more than 100 covers on a nightly basis and is open for lunch. It is just too much for me. I have loved my restaurant coworkers more than any other aspect, which is crazy thinking about the fact that the actual cooking is what originally pulled me into the career. If I were a great cook, I would stay because I would love every aspect, but I just do not have the skills or drive anymore.

I decided to take a few days to myself, no boyfriend, no friends from work and visit my family. I got to go to the river and camp two nights, I shopped with my mom (not my most responsible part of this episode) and just relaxed. I needed a bit of perspective and I enjoyed the crap out of it!

My recent soul-searching has led me to take many career and personality quizzes. Apparently, I am a tribe member, a high-octane collaborator and an ENFP. I never saw myself as an extrovert as a child, but I know now that I just did not learn to be one until more recently. Working in the kitchen–and not being near my old friends, or my overly supportive family, who I relied on too much—has led me to become a more active extrovert who is willing to get shit done. However, I have not done much of anything constructive outside of my last job, too tired to write, too preoccupied to think about anything other than paying rent really. Now that I have this opportunity to take a deep breath—inhale relaxation, and exhale stress—I cannot let it pass without learning about who I am. Therefore, I took the quizzes as a basis for my soul-searching.

In summation of the quizzes, this is what I have gotten:
Energizer bunny that you are, your dream career is probably heavy on action and involves lots of hard starts and stops: a journalist, a project manager, a chef, a doctor, a firefighter, or anything fast-paced that relies on quick response time. And as an extrovert, you’d be great working in customer service, HR, or any role that involves reading and interacting with others (Bornforthis.com).

I also “love to interact with all kinds of people” and have an “expressive and warm manner that ideally sees lots of affirmation flowing both ways” (http://www.celebritytypes.com/test.php). According to my results clarityonfire.com, “To you, there’s nothing more rewarding than working toward a big vision with a team of people you love.”

I am clearly very motivated by working on a team and collaborating with my coworkers. I will shy away from solo projects because I find the interaction more motivating than just working by myself. As a tribe member, it is beneficial to me to eschew the ”responsibilities of business ownership, … use your leadership prowess to manage a team, take the reins on a project, and get to spend your valuable time doing what you’re good at” (clarityonfire.com). I want to be the one coming up with cool ideas and having other people work with me to reach unique, exciting, team-engaging goals. Most of all, I just want to feel like I belong to a group and am a necessary, contributing member of the team.

The last weekend

Aziza’s last weekend as Aziza, as I’ve grown to love it, is now upon me. As I sit on my ass during my lunch break, I have started to worry a little bit. Finally it’s hit me that I won’t have anything to do for an undefined amount of time–other than a much-anticipated trip to Harry Potter land and a baseball game for my birthday –this summer. I have decided that I’d like to avoid burning bridges and promise to come back when we reopen, but I’m also still intending to use this time as a respite to go visit family and see if I can’t improve my resume a little.

Proper Training

If given free rein to change something at a previous job, I would insist that all employees be trained properly. At most of my jobs, I was trained like a monkey, to just do the job and not to strive for anything greater. There was no learning other than how to make one version of one singular recipe. I feel like this is an easy change to make, but most chefs don’t have the time or energy (understandably) to train their employees in this manner. However, when they also tell me that culinary school is unnecessary because you can learn it all on the job, I feel this is misrepresenting the facts. Not all cooks have the drive (or at least know where to begin) to learn everything they need on their own, even if they know what they want.
To check if the chefs are training their hires properly, I would ask the cooks to make me something of their own, to riff on an existing recipe at that restaurant or think of and execute a recipe for a component that would complement a current on-menu dish. I believe Michael Ruhlman was correct in that chefs need to know the appropriate ratios, not just one recipe. This is something I have struggled with in the industry because I learned it this year instead of three years ago when I started out.

Random Thoughts on My Career Path

I sense a lack of passion in my life, which I am desperate to feel. Maybe I do have a passion, I suppose, which isn’t necessarily food, but people. I also still really would love to attend culinary school.

I like food television, seeing the passion on which other cooks thrive. I sense a lack of passion in my life, which I am desperate to feel. I know i’m looking for it in the wrong places. I love learning and reading and singing. I realize the third isn’t applicable to the work environment I love so dearly.  Maybe  I do have a work-related passion, I suppose, which isn’t necessarily food, but people. I crave interpersonal interaction. In restaurants, I get that, but I also get to work with food and the brilliant minds that create it. I think what I love is doing prep work because I feel like i’m supporting the team. At least I don’t like being on the line at my current pastry job, which may have more to do with my environment and not the actual job. At the Cliff House, I liked plating food. However, I also loved helping the men on the line, getting things from the walk-in refrigerator, or helping them with their prep work. I don’t know if this was simply a default because I loved the guys like family or because I wasn’t being trained to actually do the pastry prep work (I tended to get pushed aside by the tiny Asian women who didn’t have the time or patience for my inexperience).
I love acquiring new knowledge/information and I think I would love to involve traveling in my future job tasks. Trying new foods that could blow my mind would be amazing. Writing about food in some aspect, or researching stuff about food might allow me this luxury of travel. Otherwise, I’d love to help a restaurant thrive by maintaining a blog related to the daily goings-on of the restaurant, like whether there is a special du jour, direct from the kitchen. S0, I guess essentially working as a restaurant’s Director of Public Relations would be awesome.
I also still really would love to attend culinary school. I want someone to teach me how to be more efficient–faster, focused and engaged in what I am actually doing. I’m well aware that efficiency can be learned on the job, but I’ve yet to find someone willing to work with me, other than the wonderful Lauren at Seaglass. I stupidly left her to work in a fancier place for which I was yet again unprepared. I’m impatient to learn everything kitchens want me to know in the time it would take me to learn on the job. I made many mistakes in my life, but I don’t want to make the big one again. I didn’t go to culinary school after college; I went to graduate school. Sometimes I feel that I wasted the loan I took out for it because I did nothing with it and I withdrew from the university rather than completing my master’s program.

Job Update

Since my last post was a long time ago, I know that there is a lot I have not written about… I have been working at a Michelin-starred restaurant since early January. I am proud of where my journey has taken me in such a short time! I feel I haven’t entirely earned working in a Michelin-starred restaurant by any merit, since I am currently doing a job (for essentially the first time) which I would not ever have expected myself to be doing; I have been a food runner at Aziza! It is a wholly different experience to not be cooking or baking but still working in a restaurant. It has been a relief not to have to worry as much about the plating or getting in trouble for not being an experienced enough cook. All that I have had to do is be nice, eloquent and have the menu and all its ingredients memorized.
The only bad thing about working in a restaurant as a food runner is that I still want to go to culinary school. I am learning a lot about ingredients and sourcing and guest relations, but it is not hands on cooking. However, I still have too much debt even to consider attending culinary school. With some credit card bills from when I was in a transitional period called college, to the student loan I took out for two semesters of graduate school, I am afraid to take on more debt right now to get schooling for a career that just is not very lucrative. Consequently, I simply have to continue working as hard as I can and I am going to continue to work two jobs if that is what it takes. Of course, I do not want to entirely give up working in the back of house anyway. so, even if I’m at One Market Restaurant only a few days a month, continuing with two jobs makes more sense, unless I could work for a restaurant like Lazy Bear where the cooks are the servers.

Trestle Menu
Trestle’s Menu during my visit

Regardless of culinary school pipe dreams, I have been to some lovely restaurants lately, including Spruce, Trestle and Nopa; all three of which I was very impressed with. I think Trestle, being that it is so inexpensive and has just as good food as the other two, and therefore is a great value, takes the proverbial cake. All three were wonderful experiences, however, and entirely different anyway. I don’t have time before work to go into detail about them, but comment below if you’d like to see a follow-up blog about these restaurants.

The Hundred Foot Journey

In The Hundred Foot Journey, a young chef gets the opportunity to help a restaurant get its second Michelin star. The end left me a) wanting to move to France, b) wanting to cook. Of course, I was feeling sick so I did not do either of those things, but I wanted to! I had my emotions torn between food and France as I do every time I see a movie about food. Food-themed movies are typically about French food because French food is THE classic, quintessential cuisine. It is dependent on the careful techniques developed to make food look AND taste amazing.

Although the father in The Hundred-Foot Journey argued that there is a classic aspect to all cuisines, French cuisine is definitely the one that chefs developed into a higher art form first. France is where the restaurant industry began although, the label of first restaurateur is apparently up for debate. Nevertheless, the technique of French cooking: knife skills, the feeling of when different meats are cooked properly, the balance, and sometimes, delicacy of the flavors is what makes the difference.