It is hard to think of myself without these two defining factors. I love to eat and I love to drink. But more than that, that’s what I’ve done for the past 18 years. Food and drink have become my identity. Starting as a barista at a hip drive-thru coffee joint that was light years ahead of it’s time for my sleepy hometown, to head sommelier at a luxury B&B, to numerous Michelin star restaurants. I’ve done it all. While in college I bartended 5 nights a week at a local dive bar where you got free booze for dancing on the bar top, and Sunday days at a college pool bar just for the hell of it. It was all I knew.
Over the past 5 years the places I worked switched from bars with live music 4 nights a week, to 14 course tasting menus. I was working my way up finally. If I thought that work was hard before, that all shifted when I started working at my first Michelin restaurant. I couldn’t keep weight on me no matter how much I ate or drank it was so physically demanding. At this level of training and cooperation from your staff you have to be very mentally invested. Your whole life becomes your job. Learning about new foods, techniques, wines, regions, trends. It never stops. You are the elite in your field. Eventually, that restaurant became my identity. On Tuesdays we wore turtlenecks, after work we drank at the same bar, on our days off we hung out with each other. I was seeing them 60 hours a week at work, then countless hours after. You gain a new family.
Then just as quick as you got that family, it can be ripped from you, as it was me. I lost my friends, social life, job, but most important, my identity. This was the first time I realized how deep it ran in my veins. I was living to work. That is when I started to take a deeper look inside.
I love all the artistry of mixology and cooking, and the preciseness of fine dining but one thing I’ve discovered about myself is that I am an artist with a taste and love for fine food and drink, not a hospitality specialist with an eye for art.
Since COVID gave the restaurant industry a mandatory vacation and a combination of things I have decided it is my time to bow out. I am ready to throw the towel in. But with that I feel I will lose a part of my identity. The company I keep will not all be disgruntled FOH and chain smoking BOH. The long nights closing down bars, then really closing them down will be no more. Slip proof shoes will be a thing of the past. But I am ready to let go.
Ready to hang up my bar apron and appreciate the luxury for what it is. I’ve been too close to the inside that I’ve grown tainted. It is a fine art that I am not appreciating for what it is. I do not have the guests best interest in mind all the time and that’s ok. For once, I have mine.