When my buddy Ray asked me to write a blog post for the Line Cook Thoughts blog, there were a number of potential topics that we discussed. Among the topics we discussed were: challenges faced when starting up my own business, what I have learned since, and how we have managed during the pandemic. I hope to write about all of these topics soon and share my experiences with you all. One topic in particular came to mind though, that was on my mind and heart to share. That topic is my relationship with alcohol and the food industry. I hope that my experiences will resonate with you and encourage you in your own journey.
In many ways, drinking is an old friend to me. I was in the party crowd in high school, drinking was a part of most family celebrations and then I joined the restaurant industry, where typically every shift was capped off with a complimentary "shift drink" to de-stress and relax at the end of a busy shift on the line, which became a daily habit for me. My relationship with this old friend improved in college and beyond, occasionally drinking with the purpose of pairing or enjoying with a meal or celebrating a special occasion. This is the way I believe alcoholic beverages were intended to be used.
However, in high-stress situations later into my career and building a business, drinking returned to a daily habit, and often became a bad friend that I couldn't seem to get rid of. Before long, drinking wasn’t about enjoying or pairing flavors, but something that I felt that I needed to relax and “come down” from the day. I was living for that drink at 5 pm, which became 3 pm, which became 12 pm. Drinking was becoming an unreliable friend, that was bringing me down, rather than lifting me up. It was distracting me from my purpose, draining my energy, and affecting my mood and creativity.
The amount and frequency of my drinking probably wouldn't shock anyone or raise any alarms. If you polled 100 people, maybe most or many drink about the same, but the change in me was when I realized I was being mastered by the drinking. I’ve been doing personal and professional coaching and my coach, Mike Howerton reminded me of the biblical principle of “being mastered by nothing” as seen in 1 Corinthians 6:12, in that, in Christ, there is freedom, and all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial.
I think of the many functioning alcoholic chefs that I’ve worked with. I think of a funny, fun, father of 3, crushing 500 covers on saute, while barely being able to stand up at his station. I think of another chef who would go out to his car and swig vodka between rushes, and how he was supposed to be my ride home one night. I think of myself and my own journey. I think of my teacher in culinary school, telling us on Day 1 that being a chef is about the three D’s: death, drugs, and divorce. I think of the many cooks and chefs I’ve grown to know and love and cook with who have been mastered by various things. I want better for our industry, our families, and our communities.
In many ways, drinking is an old friend to me. Connecting with some good old friends (playing soccer, running, prayer) and new friends (therapy, coaching, writing) has helped.
Food and this industry can not be the sole source of our worth and being. There is a great discussion about this in the foreword of the book “Becoming a Chef” by Andrew Dornenberg and Karen Page (authors of “The Flavor Bible). I am pursuing and making progress on a much healthier relationship with this old friend, and I hope for the same with you all.
It’s time to make some new friends.