We’re traditionally brought up in a culture of being scared of the unknown. Play it safe, minimize risks, take the easy road. Our parents, friends and other loved ones warn us about the likely negative outcomes of risky moves… But sometimes it takes making big moves if you want to achieve big results.
After 36 years of growing up, getting educated, working in several different industries and finding my place in the world, there are two things that keep drawing me back in…. Experiencing all the different cultures and history that the world has to offer, and producing products that recall old memories and create new ones… Travel and food.
In 2014, after quite an agonizing decision-making process, including consultation from my family and a few key friends, I made the decision to drop what I was doing, to leave the success I had built in an industry that had allowed me to follow a great hobby of mine, to really follow my true passion. I had spent years out of the food service industry and I wanted back in.
In my younger days (granted, late for a cook), I started my cooking career (a second career for me) working through several different kitchens, some of the top ones, and some horrible ones. I had stopped working in kitchens due to 3 knee surgeries, paired along with some financial hardships, but after taking a trip to Europe in 2013, I kept getting that feeling… that itch. I wanted to cook again. I NEEDED to cook again. Cooking is such a creative outlet for me. It’s an artistic process that causes me to get into a zone, sometimes having tons of fun, and sometimes with hyper-focus. For me, there’s nothing else that creates that feeling that comes from taking an idea from deep inside your soul, turning that into a dish on a plate, then sharing it with people and have the flavours of your food recall old memories from their past and create new ones they will carry with them into the future.
Can I do it now, being close to middle-age years? It was a difficult time, I was getting married at the end that summer, there will be lots of expenses, and another person who I have to look out for. There will be tons of competition from the thousands of young, hungry cooks out there, at thebeginning of their careers, ready to do anything and stomp on anyone to get where they want to get.
Luckily for me, I had some things on my side. First off, I had a fiancée, now my wife, who would support me in anything that I want to do. To have such solid support behind you, is something that’s hard to find. Second, after I made the decision to get back into restaurants, I quickly found out that it’s not exactly as I remembered. Sure, there ARE lots of young, hungry, ambitious cooks out there ready to stomp on you or throw you under the bus if they can in order to secure their own success. But what surprised me was that they weren’t actually ready to do anything to get that success. They were willing to do anything that’s easy and quick, but they weren’t willing to do the hard work, to grind out the countless hours and give an extreme dedication…. they weren’t ready to put their heart and soul into this thing called cooking. They all wanted to say they are chefs, they wanted the title and the bragging rights since it’s now a cool and trendy thing to do, but few wanted to REALLY work for it.
I got lucky and eventually found myself on a new team, working at a new restaurant that found very quick success… No doubt in large part due to the owners who cared enough to not only build a strong team, but also to treat their team as real people with real lives, and treat their business like it was their child.
After a whirlwind of a beginning to this new restaurant, and with success still on the rise, I found myself hitting a crossroad of another difficult decision. Another difficult process, some sleepless nights, tough conversation, and lots of contemplation, another decision was made. It was time to take another major step towards achieving a dream. Without any commitment, a dream will always just be that. It’s not until you’re willing to take a risk that the idea behind the dream can start to become a reality. And off I was again. I resigned my position at the restaurant, with both sadness from what I was leaving, but excitement for what was to come.
As I write this, I’m just about to board a plane with my wife, on our way to Portugal. We’re going to celebrate her birthday in the land where she was born, get to visit family she hasn’t seen in years (and whom I’ve never met), and I get to start digging, start exploring and learning. Food is at the very soul of a country and culture, and it’s the food of Portugal that I will be immersing myself in. This begins the next chapter. It’s like looking into a doorway and seeing nothing but darkeness. You’re afraid to go in there, but also curious and excited to see what’s on the other side. You’ll never know until to have the balls to step through and see for yourself.
Here we go….