There were two of them. Crumpled against the fence of a neighboring townhouse on East 92nd Street. Her head was rested in her hands, he had a cigarette in his mouth. And I could tell you their story without missing a beat. Their chef’s whites gave them away. The cigarette didn’t hurt, either.
They had just come off the line after a grueling 10, 11 hours at work. They prepped through the morning, grabbed family meal at 4–though he was always behind on his mise en place and only ever managed to sneak in a few bites of lunch. The first guests started rolling in and the pace didn’t let up for hours. And then they broke down their stations, wiped down the counters, and finally caught a breath.
I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And only last night did it really sink in just how much I miss it.
My year in the kitchen was quickly overshadowed by rote memorization of bacteria and viruses, muscles and nerves. My late nights working the line have been replaced by midnight cram-fests and early morning study sessions. My chef’s jacket is now a white coat. And I’m no longer measured by my knife skills and speed. It’s now communication skills, empathy, and professionalism.
I miss the rush of the restaurant. The nights I was so tired I could hardly move. The smells, the sweat, and the speed.
I miss the kitchen.