Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Contrast as Clarity

Everyone needs to make a living, not everyone needs to ‘work’. I believe that too many of us have allowed the fear of financial security, or the lack of it, to swallow us up whole and allow our circumstance to completely consume us; forgetting that work, or the pursuit of it, is a poor substitute for actually living our lives, connected to our families, our creative spirit and our communities.
At least I was.
Last month I wrote about the strange way life seems to work and the possibilities we find ourselves in if we allow them in to our lives. It looked like I had found a job that would challenge me intellectually and stimulate my passion. It would mean that I would be slightly outside my comfort zone and precipitate a steep learning curve. I believed in all of it.
Alas things didn’t work out the way I imagined. It wasn’t for a lack of trying; I put forth a mountain of effort everyday. The concept was solid, brilliant minds were in play, the future looked limitless. Yet something was nagging me in the pit of my stomach and I chose to ignore it; everyone needs to earn after all.
But in the last couple of months I had forgotten something fundamental, lost something quite important and it eluded me for many nights until one morning I went down to the beach, sat and watched the waves come in.
Then I remembered.
Twenty five years ago, as a hopelessly romantic teenager and half hearted dish washer, I watched two women work the kitchen in a restaurant. A local 24 hour joint called ‘The Big Wheel’ on Indianapolis Blvd in Hammond Ind. It was a Saturday night and the ticket wheel was full and spinning, guests jawing with one another about the days events; the stalwart gals behind the counter cracking jokes with the regulars and making them feel right at home.
Back in the kitchen, Artellia White and her compatriot moved together, assembling orders, wide grins on their faces; silently engaged in what I would come to call, ‘The Dream of the Dance’ – a perfectly orchestrated symphony of movement, smells and action.
It was at that very spot in time, in that very place where I said to myself, ‘I don’t know what that is, but I want me some!’ and set out on my course to become a great chef.
In the intervening years I was reminded of what Lori Walker, a sous chef of mine once told me, ‘Adam you weren’t a very good cook when I first met you but you have become an excellent chef.’ If you know Lori and have had the profound blessing to work with her, you’d know what tall praise that is.
I came to realize during this last work experience that I like being called ‘Chef’, I like the preparation, I like the music of the ticket machine during service and I love bangin pans.
It’s what I got into this business for and I owe a debt of thanks to Artellia White, Lori Walker and the legions of co workers, artisans and professionals who have helped to hone me into who I am today.
I had forgotten all about that, but I remembered.
As soon as I did, a position was offered, accepted and I am now joyfully back to cooking – back to my joy; all else in irrelevant.
Find out what gives you joy, celebrate it, do it – every day, stay with it – be consistent; all else follows, money, position, respect.
Coming from your heart is the only way to earn a living, everything else is just work.


  1. Sweet! The Big Wheel!! I'd almost forgotten it. I'm glad your cookin' again. It's good to be Chef.

    Passions...someday, when I can get just a bit of rest, I'm planning a comeback for passion..... Now really, just focusing on laundry & getting children out of diapers.

  2. Thats the feeling....there it is!!!
    The team is ready, focused, the curtain goes up, the seats start to fill. We begin the dance. And when it really clicks, everyone feels it, defiantly the "zone" of what we do! It's an energy that moves everyone and every dish. To me thats what makes it all worthwhile.