Dogs Surround Me

All the Dogs!

I think I’m only writing for practice. Practicing my HTML skills. I’m still pretty far behind the curve on this one, but it’s not that difficult, just memorizing what to use, when/why, and how: same as every other thing in life. Apparently learning to code is important for everyone, now that our world runs on the internet, computers and smart devices (phones, tablets, etc.).

When I did my internship with KeyReads, they gave me a few PowerPoint slides on SEO and HTML but I fell off using them because I finished my internship and ultimately dropped out of Graduate School, which was a mistake, to go into cooking, which wasn’t a mistake. I don’t know what my life would have been like if I stayed in my master’s program and maybe tried to cook part-time. It got me to where I am today, regardless. I have good friends and live in a place I love because I attended 1/2 of the program to which I applied.

P.S. are you still wondering why I mentioned dogs?

I only mentioned the dogs because I really am surrounded by dogs. My mom’s business is called P.E.T. Your Dog. She does pet sits, CPR/first aid training, and doggie day care, as well as overnight boarding. So, there are always dogs at her house, which my mom’s cat isn’t too happy about. Now that my mom’s business is well established, she can be more selective when it comes to taking clients. Sometimes the cat can hang out with the dogs, not too often, but it happens occasionally.

Ultimately the fact is

If you read my comments on this blog, you see her perennially saying she’s proud of me. I’m proud of her too.

As I Sit Here, Wishing to be Weird

As I sit here, completely uninspired and desiring to be, I watch other people. I always have watched other people; I watch them, wondering if they’re inspired or even happy. I’m not happy. I’m sitting here writing what feels like prose poetry, forgetting the definition I learned in school, catching every spelling mistake and getting frustrated because I hate prose poetry. Why can’t we keep the two separate?

And I realize that I need to cut my fingernails because it is no longer satisfying, but annoying to have them hit the keys on my keyboard. Maybe if my nails were stronger, but they don’t feel strong. I don’t feel strong. I’ve been sick for the last week, and I still feel exhausted. The coffee and bagel aren’t helping my energy levels…

2016-07-10 2016-07-10 001 003

I am still sitting here writing whatever this is. Whatever this is that is completely inspired by my utter lack of inspiration. My desperation nags at me. I don’t want to be writing right now. I want to read, reread The HobbitPride and Prejudice (no zombies please). I want to do something where it’s considered acceptable to do nothing but read all day, the same books I’ve read a thousand times, if I so choose. I always talked about going to culinary school while I was a cook. Well, maybe I am still a cook, but not right now, right now I’m funemployed, as I’ve called it… My little joke, euphemism for not having a job because my old employer lost interest in us.

And I remember how fun it is to have my hair “weird” colors. I miss pink and purple and I long to try “opal” and I can’t because I worry that I may actually get an in-person interview with a company who doesn’t want to hire people with “weird” hair. At least I grew out my faux hawk. Not to mention, this is San Francisco, the mecca of weird hair, weird people. WEIRDNESS. I long to be more weird, but it’s expensive to be weird. Tattoos, hair dye, piercings, unless you have awesome weird friends with talents they’re willing to freely give away. The services required to look “weird” are not cheap. Unless you wanted to look cheap as part of your weird. I don’t know. I want my hair to look artistic and cared for, not just weird.

I am still sitting here and I’m glad, knowing that my goal of forcing myself to write something down would make me write anything and would also literally make me feel better. I do. With my “normal” blonde hair, or maybe it’s bland, I don’t think so, yet. My shirt that says “but first, coffee.” Another attempt at normal I guess. If I stopped being so normal, I would be more brave. I miss being weird. When I first moved here, to San Francisco, I was more weird. I had more “muchness” to me. But I’ve been scared and become lazy too; I think that’s the problem.

I don’t know where to go to become inspired. I want people to call me to hang out and they don’t. I don’t know where to go. I want someone to guide me a little. Help me become weird again. Instead I sit in the cafe, drinking coffee. Pretending to be normal. Wishing I could play guitar. Maybe in an alternate life I learned to play and became a busker. Maybe that’s in the future.

Soul-Searching for my Next Move

Working on Me

Officially unemployed, but still finding a lot to doRelaxing with Mom

I’ve been struggling lately, trying to figure out what to do with myself now that the closure is official and I’m unemployed (by choice). I had no desire to work in our sister restaurant, a restaurant that does more than 100 covers on a nightly basis and is open for lunch. It is just too much for me. I have loved my restaurant coworkers more than any other aspect, which is crazy thinking about the fact that the actual cooking is what originally pulled me into the career. If I were a great cook, I would stay because I would love every aspect, but I just do not have the skills or drive anymore.

I decided to take a few days to myself, no boyfriend, no friends from work and visit my family. I got to go to the river and camp two nights, I shopped with my mom (not my most responsible part of this episode) and just relaxed. I needed a bit of perspective and I enjoyed the crap out of it!

My recent soul-searching has led me to take many career and personality quizzes. Apparently, I am a tribe member, a high-octane collaborator and an ENFP. I never saw myself as an extrovert as a child, but I know now that I just did not learn to be one until more recently. Working in the kitchen–and not being near my old friends, or my overly supportive family, who I relied on too much—has led me to become a more active extrovert who is willing to get shit done. However, I have not done much of anything constructive outside of my last job, too tired to write, too preoccupied to think about anything other than paying rent really. Now that I have this opportunity to take a deep breath—inhale relaxation, and exhale stress—I cannot let it pass without learning about who I am. Therefore, I took the quizzes as a basis for my soul-searching.

In summation of the quizzes, this is what I have gotten:
Energizer bunny that you are, your dream career is probably heavy on action and involves lots of hard starts and stops: a journalist, a project manager, a chef, a doctor, a firefighter, or anything fast-paced that relies on quick response time. And as an extrovert, you’d be great working in customer service, HR, or any role that involves reading and interacting with others (Bornforthis.com).

I also “love to interact with all kinds of people” and have an “expressive and warm manner that ideally sees lots of affirmation flowing both ways” (http://www.celebritytypes.com/test.php). According to my results clarityonfire.com, “To you, there’s nothing more rewarding than working toward a big vision with a team of people you love.”

I am clearly very motivated by working on a team and collaborating with my coworkers. I will shy away from solo projects because I find the interaction more motivating than just working by myself. As a tribe member, it is beneficial to me to eschew the ”responsibilities of business ownership, … use your leadership prowess to manage a team, take the reins on a project, and get to spend your valuable time doing what you’re good at” (clarityonfire.com). I want to be the one coming up with cool ideas and having other people work with me to reach unique, exciting, team-engaging goals. Most of all, I just want to feel like I belong to a group and am a necessary, contributing member of the team.

The last weekend

Aziza’s last weekend as Aziza, as I’ve grown to love it, is now upon me. As I sit on my ass during my lunch break, I have started to worry a little bit. Finally it’s hit me that I won’t have anything to do for an undefined amount of time–other than a much-anticipated trip to Harry Potter land and a baseball game for my birthday –this summer. I have decided that I’d like to avoid burning bridges and promise to come back when we reopen, but I’m also still intending to use this time as a respite to go visit family and see if I can’t improve my resume a little.

A Recap

Proper Training

If given free rein to change something at a previous job, I would insist that all employees be trained properly. At most of my jobs, I was trained like a monkey, to just do the job and not to strive for anything greater. There was no learning other than how to make one version of one singular recipe. I feel like this is an easy change to make, but most chefs don’t have the time or energy (understandably) to train their employees in this manner. However, when they also tell me that culinary school is unnecessary because you can learn it all on the job, I feel this is misrepresenting the facts. Not all cooks have the drive (or at least know where to begin) to learn everything they need on their own, even if they know what they want.
To check if the chefs are training their hires properly, I would ask the cooks to make me something of their own, to riff on an existing recipe at that restaurant or think of and execute a recipe for a component that would complement a current on-menu dish. I believe Michael Ruhlman was correct in that chefs need to know the appropriate ratios, not just one recipe. This is something I have struggled with in the industry because I learned it this year instead of three years ago when I started out.

Random Thoughts on My Career Path

I like food television, seeing the passion on which other cooks thrive. I sense a lack of passion in my life, which I am desperate to feel. I know i’m looking for it in the wrong places. I love learning and reading and singing. I realize the third isn’t applicable to the work environment I love so dearly.  Maybe  I do have a work-related passion, I suppose, which isn’t necessarily food, but people. I crave interpersonal interaction. In restaurants, I get that, but I also get to work with food and the brilliant minds that create it. I think what I love is doing prep work because I feel like i’m supporting the team. At least I don’t like being on the line at my current pastry job, which may have more to do with my environment and not the actual job. At the Cliff House, I liked plating food. However, I also loved helping the men on the line, getting things from the walk-in refrigerator, or helping them with their prep work. I don’t know if this was simply a default because I loved the guys like family or because I wasn’t being trained to actually do the pastry prep work (I tended to get pushed aside by the tiny Asian women who didn’t have the time or patience for my inexperience).
I love acquiring new knowledge/information and I think I would love to involve traveling in my future job tasks. Trying new foods that could blow my mind would be amazing. Writing about food in some aspect, or researching stuff about food might allow me this luxury of travel. Otherwise, I’d love to help a restaurant thrive by maintaining a blog related to the daily goings-on of the restaurant, like whether there is a special du jour, direct from the kitchen. S0, I guess essentially working as a restaurant’s Director of Public Relations would be awesome.
I also still really would love to attend culinary school. I want someone to teach me how to be more efficient–faster, focused and engaged in what I am actually doing. I’m well aware that efficiency can be learned on the job, but I’ve yet to find someone willing to work with me, other than the wonderful Lauren at Seaglass. I stupidly left her to work in a fancier place for which I was yet again unprepared. I’m impatient to learn everything kitchens want me to know in the time it would take me to learn on the job. I made many mistakes in my life, but I don’t want to make the big one again. I didn’t go to culinary school after college; I went to graduate school. Sometimes I feel that I wasted the loan I took out for it because I did nothing with it and I withdrew from the university rather than completing my master’s program.

Job Update: Culinary Work

Since my last post was a long time ago, I know that there is a lot I have not written about… I have been working at a Michelin-starred restaurant since early January. I am proud of where my journey has taken me in such a short time! I feel I haven’t entirely earned working in a Michelin-starred restaurant by any merit, since I am currently doing a job (for essentially the first time) which I would not ever have expected myself to be doing; I have been a food runner at Aziza! It is a wholly different experience to not be cooking or baking but still working in a restaurant. It has been a relief not to have to worry as much about the plating or getting in trouble for not being an experienced enough cook. All that I have had to do is be nice, eloquent and have the menu and all its ingredients memorized.
The only bad thing about working in a restaurant as a food runner is that I still want to go to culinary school. I am learning a lot about ingredients and sourcing and guest relations, but it is not hands on cooking. However, I still have too much debt even to consider attending culinary school. With some credit card bills from when I was in a transitional period called college, to the student loan I took out for two semesters of graduate school, I am afraid to take on more debt right now to get schooling for a career that just is not very lucrative. Consequently, I simply have to continue working as hard as I can and I am going to continue to work two jobs if that is what it takes. Of course, I do not want to entirely give up working in the back of house anyway. so, even if I’m at One Market Restaurant only a few days a month, continuing with two jobs makes more sense, unless I could work for a restaurant like Lazy Bear where the cooks are the servers.

Trestle Menu
Trestle’s Menu during my visit

Regardless of culinary school pipe dreams, I have been to some lovely restaurants lately, including Spruce, Trestle and Nopa; all three of which I was very impressed with. I think Trestle, being that it is so inexpensive and has just as good food as the other two, and therefore is a great value, takes the proverbial cake. All three were wonderful experiences, however, and entirely different anyway. I don’t have time before work to go into detail about them, but comment below if you’d like to see a follow-up blog about these restaurants.

The Hundred Foot Journey

In The Hundred Foot Journey, a young chef gets the opportunity to help a restaurant get its second Michelin star. The end left me a) wanting to move to France, b) wanting to cook. Of course, I was feeling sick so I did not do either of those things, but I wanted to! I had my emotions torn between food and France as I do every time I see a movie about food. Food-themed movies are typically about French food because French food is THE classic, quintessential cuisine. It is dependent on the careful techniques developed to make food look AND taste amazing.

Although the father in The Hundred-Foot Journey argued that there is a classic aspect to all cuisines, French cuisine is definitely the one that chefs developed into a higher art form first. France is where the restaurant industry began although, the label of first restaurateur is apparently up for debate. Nevertheless, the technique of French cooking: knife skills, the feeling of when different meats are cooked properly, the balance, and sometimes, delicacy of the flavors is what makes the difference.

Food is Love

I’m not going to talk about anything I don’t know about because then I’d just be letting gas escape and I’m better at doing that through my ass, than through my mouth. And it’s funnier when I do it that way.

I do plan to cook my way through Julia Child’s cookbooks one of these days; I just need to deal with the multitude of things that are on my figurative plate right now, first. I realized today that I had not even renewed my car registration. I was almost a month late doing it, and the DMV sure penalized me for that mistake. Although, of course, had the lateness been on their part, they wouldn’t have given me a discount or anything like that.

I keep seeing all of these food-themed movies coming out in theaters lately and I’m so happy that people are getting into the slow food movement. And they all have romance tied in somehow because food is love, as most cultures will tell you. For example, my boyfriend’s mother is greek-american and she is always trying to feed everyone, including me. She taught her children that food is love too, so my boyfriend is also always trying to feed me. Food is love because it gives us the nutrients necessary for living but also it gives us mental sustenance, which comes from the flavors of our food. So when a food reminds you of your grandmother or your first love because of a spice or something, it’s echoing the love you feel and it becomes comfort food. Food that makes you feel really good even though those people may not be with you at the time.

Cooking itself is romantic, though, don’t you think? The act of preparing food for your loved ones is special because you know you’re treating them to really great food to show them that you care about them and about what they put into their bodies. Foods can literally be made with love.

Even when you are cooking for hundreds of strangers every day and being paid to do it, it still feels romantic, even though there may be a paradigm shift where the romance is with the food itself since you don’t know who is going to consume it. You really have to love slicing up hundreds of onions and julienning carrots to do this for your living.

I feel like I could write entire essays on the different topics I touched on in this entry, so if you want more on anything specific, please comment below. Be sure to subscribe!

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