So, You Married A Chef? By Chris Hill

The  Staff Canteen

>>> This is the sequel to Chris Hill’s article: Dear Chefs (This is for you). I’m sorry. You waited up for me again last night. Work got the best of me and before I knew it, 10 o’clock was here.

We got our asses kicked, we got rocked, 3 hours straight, the normal Friday night. I just saw your call, and your texts. Shit. I’m sorry. I know what you are probably thinking, with my checkered past, but believe me when I tell you, I’m sorry. I’m hustling all night, not for me, but for you, and for us, for our family. Unfortunately, at times, I know you feel like my life as a chef gets in the way of that. I know it’s hard. Maybe you knew what you were getting into, maybe you didn’t. But, if we’ve gotten this far together, and you haven’t given up on us yet, maybe we can work things through. Keep reading, and I think, by the end you’ll appreciate me, what I do, and my love for you in ways you never thought possible. You see, I am trying to build something. Yes, I know, you are too. It’s what we’re all trying to do, build a life that’s meaningful and that matters. Every day seems like a tug of war, though. I’m trying my best to juggle the two things that mean the most to me: Our Life Together VS. My life in the Kitchen. They both make me feel alive. The kitchen is stressful though, goddamn it can be stressful. The hours are long and often thankless, leaving me thirsting for a few cocktails come quittin’ time. Unfortunately, that can be 10 PM, or it can be 2 AM, and when the crew wants me to meet them next door for a few, it’s hard to say no. Regardless, though, in a way similar as to with you, I’ve fallen madly in love with life in the kitchen, and in some of the most unexpected of ways.

Stop, please. I know what’s happening. I can see it, and I can feel it. I just don’t know how to stop it. My heart breaks with yours when I see resentment lurking behind those eyes I fell in love with not too long ago, because it seems I’ve chosen a career you’ll probably never fully understand. I get it. Your parents, they probably won’t understand, and neither will your co-workers and friends. That’s okay, but hopefully, by the time you finish reading this letter, you’ll be proud of me, your chef. The weekends, the late nights, the holidays, you find yourself alone a lot. We talk about kids, but I know you tell yourself, “I don’t want to raise a family alone”. I get that. There is no sidestepping around those challenges and if it’s not one thing, it’s something else, but if you think about it, that’s not just the chef life, that’s life, for all of us. Life is one big storm. We can either fight the rain, or we can learn to dance our way through it. The obstacles, they can stand in the way, but only if we let them. The problems, some of which have been exaggerated in your head, they are real, and can bring us down, but only if we let them. The hours, the shitty pay, the potentially debilitating work environment, they can destroy us, but only if we let them. The issues surrounding a life in the kitchen have been known to wreck families and destroy fortunes, and those things, they can happen to us, but why should we let them? You started falling in love with me, we had chemistry, and it “worked”. We enjoyed spending time together, I brought you flowers, cooked you dinner, rubbed your back after a long day at the office; you noticed the small things, and I enjoyed doing them for you. You, simultaneously, could see that I was falling in love with you, and there, trust started to emerge. We respected and appreciated each other, and as things got serious, communication laid the framework, allowing trust, as well as us, to blossom into something special.

But that’s not WHY you fell in love with me, that’s HOW you fell in love with me, and neither my career, nor yours should get in the way of that. Communication, it’s everything. It’s a two way street, but it usually takes listening more, talking less, and most importantly, paying attention to the things and people around us. It’s the first step towards building any relationship, intimate, working, or otherwise. In the kitchen, on a busy night, if communication breaks down, all hell breaks loose in the worst possible way. The same is true in relationships, we’ve all felt it, we’ve all been there before?, it takes being vulnerable, honest and feeling terrified at times, but it’s worth it every single time. Trust is born out of honest communication. Yes, with our partners, but also with our employees and coworkers. In other words, to build anything successful in life takes authentic communication. Through that, we see that whoever it is staring back at us, working alongside us, or mentoring us, we see that they are on the same team. What a wonderful team to be on, we trust them, and we can rely on them. Without trust, we have nothing. Hard work, or lack thereof, I believe is why most things in this world don’t work. Most failing restaurants die, not because of location or bad market conditions, but rather, because whoever’s in charge, they don’t want it bad enough. They aren’t willing work for it. The same is true in relationships?, they are fun, sexy and exhilirating out of the gates, but soon passion starts to fade and most of us don’t do much to keep the spark alive. Success takes fighting for something, and leaving no stone unturned when confronted with challenges along the way. It’s going all in. Hard work makes for a killer chef, businessman and entrepreneur, but makes for an even better life partner?, someone who you know is at your side, always searching for ways to make things work, make things better.

Pride is showing up every single day for someone or something?, not because we have to, but because we want to. How good does it feel to bring your partner home to “meet the parents” or your friends for the first time? It’s great, because we have the chance to brag about something we’ve found that makes living in this crazy world a whole hell of a lot better. Shouldn’t we approach our work exactly the same way? Find work that we’re head over heels for, and then tell the world about it? The things we’ve set out to accomplish, the dreams we’ve crafted for ourselves and the effort we put into realizing them?, ?those things merit our pride, but just as importantly, is the pride we feel from our spouses, friends and family, the ones who support us, who walk through life with us, and see us at both our proudest and weakest moments. Yes, it’s stressful. It’s hard. I bitch about customers, I complain about co-workers. At times my body hurts like hell, and after a weekend on the line, chances are I want nothing more than to sleep in for a few hours. I know it’s not easy. Whether you feel like you signed up for it or not, please know that I’m doing it for us?, it’s what lights me up. That probably sounds selfish, and on the surface I would agree, but at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, I’ll be a much more loving husband, father and confidante if I am able to do the work I love At the end of the day, I chose this life in the kitchen for a multitude of reasons, however, almost all of it boils down to the fact that I believed in it, found meaning through it, and most importantly I knew that it would make me happy. Ironically, those are the same reasons why I chose and want this life with you. Love, Your favourite chef

Chef Chris Hill left a job in the business world to follow his heart and passion into the world of cooking and the kitchen. Chris opened his first restaurant at 28 and grew into the role of executive chef. Having taken his experiences in the corporate world, as well as those in the kitchen, Chris has built a large social media following centered around TV appearances all over the Southeast U.S., his writing, TEDx talks, and his mission of helping industry workers to lead fulfilling, successful careers. Chris' first book comes out in the Summer of 2016 and is a dive into what makes for a successful career in the restaurant world, and includes exclusive interviews with some of the world's leading and most respected chefs. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th April 2016

So, You Married A Chef? By Chris Hill