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Friday, May 11, 2007

A year from Opening Day

Danielandlucyby Daniel Patterson (see part one and two of Opening Day)

I know what you’re thinking: haven’t I said quite enough? Well, yes. But Pim asked for a “where are they now” perspective, and I can’t say no to her (and really, why would I?).

I’m not sure exactly where we are now, but wherever it is, it’s a long way from where we started. After a year out of kitchens, I was beyond rusty when we opened – I had dismantled everything I knew about restaurants, and it took months to sort through the piles of prejudices and preconceptions that had accumulated over decades, trying to decide what to keep and what to discard. I was also exhausted and vaguely depressed from having pushed myself so hard before we opened. I had no problem getting writing assignments in the first few months, but in the kitchen I wondered if I had anything left to say.

But then something happened.

I started to get excited about coming in to work every day. I bought more and more from farmer’s markets, until I was finally able to do without a produce distributor. I gathered wild greens and flowers near my house. I tromped around farms. And in doing so I reconnected with a place where I have lived my entire adult life, and with the people who live here. Little by little the restaurant grew busier, until finally even I had to admit that it was going to be just fine. I found an incredible partner to help me run the restaurant. I got married. And I fell in love with cooking again, with its incipient sense of wonder and discovery - I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed working in a kitchen as much as I do now.

When we celebrated our first anniversary a few weeks ago, those of us who had been there from the beginning – and there were several – reminisced about those early, clueless days. I even pulled the “Mental Notes” from their folder and read them aloud, which provoked much hysterical laughter. As I looked around the room I felt a satisfaction as profound as any I have ever felt in restaurants. I had, contrary to every bit of personal historical precedent, created a happy place, full of nice people who like what they do. We still have a long way to go, but I think that it’s going to be a fun ride.

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