Made it to the end of the year.
Thank you for your patience during the radio silence over the last few weeks. It’s not something I’m especially proud of, but the headlong rush of Christmas preparations at the shop and a few personal issues cropping up meant that pretty much any time I was not working I was resting. Especially after my last post (and indeed reflecting more on the role of my spirituality in my life,) I didn’t want to scribble out some half-assed nothingburger post.
I know that “finished is better than perfect” but I’ve gotta have some standards, dammit.
Now that the rush is over and it’s time to look at the New Year and what that might entail, I figured I’d just let you know what’s been going on for me, the blog, and future projects.
Let’s start with some squishy stuff.
2022 was a year of ups and downs for me personally. The pie shop was taking way more out of me than I had wanted, and it led to a few moments when I was seriously considering throwing in the towel and moving on. I wouldn’t have been the first chef to move on from a kitchen and team they’d built for “personal reasons.” Instead, there was a lot of time learning to stand my ground and make my voice heard. My recent re-alignment with my spiritual goals and self is the ultimate pay-off of that.
Never try to tell yourself it’s just about the money. You are a person, and therefore at some level you have spiritual health to attend to- no less than your physical or mental health. Find quiet moments to really sit down and ask yourself the Big Questions. “Sit down to tea with your demons,” so to speak.
I still have a lot to work toward, of course. I need to re-establish some good physical and financial habits, take better care of my physical health, and remember that an excellent cup of hot chocolate has all the mental health benefits of a pint of beer.
Earlier in the year, I had been chafing under the amount of work that needed to be done at the shop and the demands it was making on my body and mind. I have now, however, seen the shop through a full year and two holiday seasons. My efforts and that of my team has raised our profile in the Portland Metro area- we are doing some of our best work and people are recognizing it.
This time last year, I had promised you all that my third book- the one about mentorship and leadership in the kitchen- would be out this year. That clearly has not happened, and it’s frankly because I have been spending this year getting honest-to-God experience. Leading a team of bakers and servers through stressful and uncertain times, answering their worries and concerns while holding the wheel straight and learning to strike a balance between severity and kindness has been an eye-opening experience to say the least.
Some of my ideas about leadership held true, others turned out to be nonsense, and I’m always trying to learn how to do it better. That might be the single biggest lesson in all this- Failing Faster, and always trying to spiral toward a better center.
The payoff is evident, however. We have new clients, new products, and new avenues for sales are opening to us. Don’t be surprised if you’ll be able to get some of our pies shipped nationwide in the coming year.
Most of all, however, and what I’m most proud of is my team. Every step of my career, in all the kitchens I’ve worked in, I’ve paid attention to what things worked and what didn’t. How to inform, how to instruct, how to guide, empower, and mentor… there’s as many effective methods as there are people on the Earth. If my career was to end today, and I was asked to look back on what I was most proud of, it would be building this team and this kitchen.
I have a small team of bakers who want to work, love to learn, and eager to do their best. They look after each other and after me, and I look after them. My assistant will officially become the Assistant Kitchen Manager this year. She will take over a few of my duties, learn to teach and train in her own right, and she knows way more than she thinks she does, but not so much she doesn’t think she needs to ask questions. To say that I’m proud of her and that I’m proud that I helped teach her is a colossal understatement.
I can’t wait to see what we all will do together.
Writing has, alas, taken a bit of a back seat to the pie shop this year. I’ve more or less given up on the idea of doing videos and Live Bakealongs as, quite simply, the technological zeitgeist has move on. Others are doing recipes and such on TikTok at a pace I can’t hope to match, and I have other priorities than trying to be the slow man at the sack race.
Instead, I’ve focused my efforts on making this blog a Thing Worth Reading. I’ve started offering my services both as a freelance writer/editor and as a remote baking teacher. That third book is slow in coming, like I said, due to what might be called “practical research,” but I look forward to having more time to devote to that project in the coming months.
In addition, I’ve been putting together a little something to thank all of those who subscribe to this blog- a recipe book.
No, not a cookbook- a recipe book. This will be my personal collection of all my best and favorite recipes. It will include ones I’ve created, some I’ve sold at the pie shop, and a few from others that I’ve made adjustments to.
What’s more, this will be a digital living document, getting added to and updated as I come up with new ideas, and everyone who reads it will be able to comment with their additions, questions and suggestions. I’m still in the organizing stages right now, but I’m very excited for this new project. Call it a thank you for sticking with me and an invitation into my creative process.
That’s enough for this post, I think. I’ll try to get one more out before New Years Eve, but until then,