In restaurants nobody bats a thousand.
Everyday I wake up knowing I am one day closer to failure. That inevitably I will serve a bad dish, offer a poor experience or garner a bad review. Everyday, I write my lists, check my product, scan my feeds and cross my fingers for another service with no points against. I know in my heart that for every one way that I can succeed, there are a dozen that I can fail. Nobody’s perfect.
It doesn’t change the way I see the kitchen, or offer an excuse, and it doesn’t comfort my mistakes or help me navigate them with grace. It does however, give me purpose, and its my subconscious ideal. I can’t stop myself from measuring the distance to that place. The one I offer ever so often, where everything is just so, and the food, and the diner and the moment have a tiny window of unity, and something complete is captured, saved and shared, passed from us to them, and cemented in memory.
I know this won’t happen everyday.
Knowing it does happen though, is the reason I wake up at all; my raison d’ete. That rare spark, the completed connection, the moment of full resonance, it fuels my fire. It has me back at the plate, hot, tired, and anxious, fully vested, hopeful and reaching to find that place again.
Is it healthy to be a perfectionist? Is it worth the pressure, the stress, the investment? I don’t think so, but we all grasp at the intangible in our own ways.
What it has shown me is the value of working forward into something, even something as existential and intangible as perfection. If life is a journey and not a destination, then what is it exactly that becomes most important? If not the point on the horizon, then maybe rather it’s the force that sets you in motion. In that fashion, picking a point as unreachable as perfection sets the pace for a journey that’s much longer, and more extraordinary. Knowing how far, and aware of how short, perfection builds a pressure behind you from the vastness in front of you.
I may find, later in this life, that I struggled much for nothing and toiled greatly to climb a ladder that led neither up nor down, but rather only to itself.
I think though, if this is my truth, that I will still look back fondly at the hugeness of that effort, my commitment to the climb, and the blisters from the friction (kitchen). Evident and evidence, that on me and in me, were the marks of my journey. One that started and ended here. One that may not have had a conclusion, not outside my own, but still of the greatest importance to me and to my art.
I am one chef amongst many, but every plate I make IS me only. If today is the day that you choose to let me share myself with you, then today and everyday, I will make that the best version of myself that it can be. Though I may not be any closer to perfection, I have a point fixed on the horizon and I am committed to doing what it takes. Make yourself tired, fail until you don’t, keep an eye on the horizon and never let go. I may not bat a thousand, but I’ll be damned if I miss an a chance to swing.
(For all the folks these last few years who left us sooner than they should have, y’all still have words here and your work is still getting done. Thanks for the inspiration, there's a little of each of you on every plate as well.)