I worked with John Smith at Cullen's in Clear Lake, TX for a time then hired him later when I was at Yelapa. We made some kind of bond and have managed to keep in touch. I asked John to share his story because I think that 'industry' people will be able to identify and hopefully get some benefit from these types of accounts. We'll keep these up as the Order of the Chef continues to grow. Please let us know your thoughts.
Thank you, and (as John would say) Namaste.
...trailing off from Part I of this series, the story of a young man riding the restaurant merry-go-round continues as he decides that travel may lead him to a new place...
...West, where I knew nothing or anyone, and better than that no one had heard of me either. And thus started my tour as river-guide/camp-chef. That lasted a season. A non-nudity clause was introduced into the employee handbook, as well as another adressing non-fraternization with clients. I had made my mark. Again. So a short 18 hour bus ride back to Houston it was. Again.
A short jaunt to Boston. To Colorado. Then out of nowhere it was 2006. And with my "charm" and "wit" I somehow landed a job at a stained glass collage of various, now defunct eateries back in the Houston medical center. And go-figure, by sheer coincidence they were owned by the same chef I started with ten years prior, back in 1996. He, of course, didn't run the show. That was left up to the hands of 'Sanchez' Lopez. Who, after hearing my fantastical story of travel and pseudo cookery, promptly hired me as his sous chef. Not only for one of the restaurants, but four of them.
My big break, I thought, and it actually was. Just not a break for fame or fortune. It was a break for the beginning of a path that I continue to this day. It took about a week for chef to realize that I had talent, a work ethic, and a small amount of finesse, when I was sober, which started to be less and less often. Yet he stuck with me. He never stopped pushing me to learn techniques that I either had forgotten or never learned when I should have. He began, upon looking back now, to show me what integrity and honesty and standards were.
Then, as I always seemed to do when there was any sign of success, I quit. I thought we were done. Until three weeks later when he called me back to come work for him again. I didn't stay long the second time either. Yet, the seeds were planted. Watered. Had begun to sprout. I took some time off - out of the restaurants.To be precise, I took two years. My desire and love of cooking never waivered. My return in 2008 found me with a renewed sense of purpose and drive along with a new found sobriety.
I started out again as the AGM of a corporate Mexican fast casual restaurant. That worked out for a very short time. Not due to any slight of mine, rather due to the fact that three years earlier that sprout had become a leafed stalk. A sapling. And running 17 year olds to the point of passing out was not my idea of fun. Also, in my spare time I was reading and making anything and everything I could get my hands on in attempt to get my style and chops back from being gone so long.
Then came Yelapa, and the auspicious reconnection with an old/new chef/beginning friend...