“I’m not a mapmaker. I’m a traveller, making this trip just like and alongside you.”– Brene Brown
The last few weeks have been more than a little frustrating and chaotic at the pie shop, and I’m having a little trouble “getting comfortable being uncomfortable.” Over the past two weeks and the one coming, just because of timing, I will simultaneously be:
1. Preparing the kitchen for me to not be there for a week while Emily and I finally enjoy a honeymoon in Ireland.
2. Filling wholesale orders- including brand new contracts- for the coming weeks,
3. Making sure catering orders are in a state that my team can manage them in my absence,
4. Retooling our entire production system to be geared toward retail and catering and away from large wholesale contracts as we look toward warmer weather and possibly returning to farmers markets.
It’s all more than a little overwhelming, and as someone who starts to get static in front of their eyes when they stare too long at a crowded spreadsheet, one of my more toxic coping mechanisms starts creeping out: “DO ALL THE THINGS.” As late as last week, my boss essentially had to collar me and drag me out of the kitchen saying “No, Matt- you CAN’T do all the things. We are going to sit down and plan and work this all out.”
All the same, old thought patterns are hard to break. Intellectually, I know that I am just one person. I am not a machine, I am a squishy human that has limitations and gets tired. Regardless, my thought patterns start to run in circles like this:
“Ok, I can do this. I always figure it out. I always get the job done. I’m the only one who can do it. I need to do it. If I don’t, everything is ruined. If I don’t, people will think I’m unreliable and a flake. I won’t belong in the kitchen anymore. I’ll be worthless. I need to be the strong one. I need to get the job done. I need to show I can handle it. I need to show I can hack it- that I still belong here.”
“I am so tired, but I can’t rest yet. I need to get this all done. I’ll rest when I’m done. ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ Hahahahaha…”
Did any of that sound relatable? If so, I am so sorry… and we both need to admit when we need breaks and that not everything is going to, or NEEDS to, get done.
It’s the start of my weekend. After managing two weddings, wholesale, and retail baking, I am friggin’ exhausted and ready to relax.
That’s why I’m awake at 4:30 AM. I let myself sleep in a bit, and I think what I need first after the last couple weeks is just some quiet time. On my back porch, I’m sitting under our porch light wearing my pajamas and a fuzzy hoodie. My legs are wrapped in a Mexican blanket Em and I got for our last beach trip that still feels warm and smells sandy.
I can hear the traffic on nearby streets, my neighbors air-conditioner, and my fingers clacking on a keyboard. Normally I like having music or a sound generator on when I write to help me focus. Right now though that would spoil all this.
The sun is starting to rise in the East, and the moon is still hanging high in front of me. If I put on shoes and got started soon, I might be able to reach Mount Tabor in time to see the sun come up over Mt. Hood.
I’m glad I live here. I’m glad I’m awake. I’m glad it’s my weekend, and I’m glad it’s quiet for now.
“Must be able to multitask!” “Are you a multitasking master?” “Must be quick, efficient, and able to multitask…”
It’s a pretty standard line on kitchen job postings, especially production positions (as distinct from line or service jobs.) The ideal candidate for any given production job is quick, clean, polite, efficient, honest, methodical, able to be coached but also a self-starter… and possesses this legendary ability to split their focus across several tasks but perform them all flawlessly.
People like that do exist- I have trained a few of them- but that seemingly unique ability to multitask does not exist. Not on a mental level and, in fact, not even on the physical level. Regularly attempting to divide your attention across several tasks can lead to mental fatigue and even damaging your brain.
Why do people keep asking employees to do it, then? Why do people brag about “being a multitasker,” and more importantly, how can we fix the damage it causes?
I have been thinking about what to write in this blog post since I left work yesterday afternoon. In the time between then and now, I was preparing myself to sit down and write.
I also went for a long hike around Mt. Tabor, enjoyed a game night with my housemates, baked a pie, had a bit too much whiskey, slept in, ate breakfast, went for a run, meditated, showered, gamed a bit, and fixed myself a cup of tea.
All of it has been in service to writing this, because if you want to write about Life and Food and Joy and Good Things, a big part of it is getting those things in your life. The bigger part is actually sitting down and writing the thing. Far from being the sole difficulty of creatives, dreamers and nutcases like me, you can find difficulty in Doing the Thing in just about any human pursuit. I think it’s something to do with being sentient robots made of meat and untanned leather, stuck on a speck of dirt rocketing through the void.
So let’s go through my Five Simple Steps to Do The Thing together!
Service industries- especially the hospitality/culinary industry- are some of the most grueling and exhausting jobs in the world. There are certainly jobs that are tougher physically and come with a higher body count (linemen, miners, lumberjacks, etc), but jobs in the service industry don’t just exhaust you physically. Kitchen work absolutely puts your mind and soul through the wringer as well, leaving many of us exhausted and burned out- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In order to survive, we cooks have any number of coping mechanisms and habits- drugs and alcohol, unfortunately, being the most famous ones. More and more of us, however, are looking to better and healthier ways to look after our bodies and minds away from the rigors of the kitchen. The lifestyle changes of high-profile chefs like Greg Gourdet, Gabriel Rucker, and the owners of Joe Beef have signaled a change in the “work hard, party harder” atmosphere of the professional kitchen, and cooks- greenhorns and old hands alike- are starting to take their side work seriously.
It’s hard as hell, and the easiest thing in the world. Here’s a few things I’ve learned.