Goodbye Le Mary Celeste

Goodbye Le Mary Celeste. It’s time for us to part. It’s time for us to go our separate ways. But don’t think for a second you were never special to me. Don’t think for a second I didn’t spend the best two years of my life with you. Don’t for a second think I don’t appreciate the lessons, confidence, friends, opportunities and love you gave me. I do. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Here’s a little toast to all those who made LMC the greatest place ever to work.

Here’s to my bosses who trusted me and put their faith in me and believed we could do something special. Here’s to Adam. My half-Chinese brother, master of the drunk serious life talk, and the last gentleman in the world. Here’s to Josh. Bar-top dancing bearded hipster short short wearing sommelier party machine. Here’s to Carina. Beautiful inside and out. The only person I know who can get down on the dance floor and pour bottles of mescal down peoples throats while still be classy.

Here’s to Carlos. Work cyborg and one of the best barmen I’ve ever met. Always smiling, especially if there is a 5kg container of nutella in front of him. That first year working with you was just…so…good.

Here’s to Arash. You hairy goofball. I’m still trying to figure out why I love you so much, but I do.

Here’s to our awesome front of house team past and present. Sometimes I wanted to kill you. Mostly I felt honoured to work with such hard working, passionate people.

Here’s to the bar team. Simon: The most beautiful living thing I have ever seen. Consummate professional. Laser guided cocktail-making sexbomb. Here’s to Mika. Bearded part-time reggae-hip hop DJ guru, master of the manly cocktail.

Here’s to Jenny, Clementine, Christina and Kheltoum. You guys are so awesome it almost makes me want to vomit. Hard working, kick-ass, gorgeous. You showed the boys who the real bosses were. Marry me. All of you.

Here’s to those fools who hustled out on the floor. Enrico. You crazy bastard. You rapping, beatboxing natural wine selling semi-homeless Italian bastard. Peta. You were there at the beginning. Rad bitch to the core.

Here’s to Claire. You should know why I love you. But just in case you don’t, it’s because you’re just a teeny weeny bit crazy.

Here’s to Ashton. Soulmate, probable future wife. We kept it real Canadian in the eye of the French Storm. You have no idea how grateful I am for that.

Here ‘s to all the others that came and went and contributed in their own ways to make this such a special experience.

And finally, here’s to my team. Here’s to that amazing group of people that helped me turn that unventilated dungeon downstairs into a kitchen that produced food that people actually liked. Because I’m an emotionless workout robot maybe it’s hard for me to express just how much you have all meant to me. But believe me when I tell you, working with you guys has been one of the greatest things I have done. Ever.

Here’s to Mads. My sous chef. The ultimate soldier. The nicest, hardest working guy you’ll ever meet. Staff meal maestro. Sometimes your station looked like your hair, but I wouldn’t have traded you for the world. I hope we can work together again soon.

Here’s to Matthias. The first person I hired. Still with me after two years. Unbridled ball of crazy Colombian hipster-mustache energy. You are amazing.

Here’s to Olive. Mama bear. Tough cookie. Level 10 on the awesome person scale. Absolute, undisputed Queen of the dance floor. So proud of how far you came and how far you will go.

Here’s to Daniel. The one and only. Baby-faced-kitchen-Viking-semi-famous-Danish house-Dj -naughty-boy.

Here’s to Marco. My Italian. It’s been a pleasure. I hope your experience with me has given you the tools you need to open up your hippy yoga pasta resort in Tuscany! I promise I’ll be your first customer.

Here’s to Emma. My Spanish teacher. Picture of class and beauty…until you get white girl drunk off of one beer. The things you have done after a sip of alcohol have literally scarred me for life.

Here’s to Marion. It was short and sweet. But our Beyonce duets during service were so fucking epic they will probably stay in our hearts forever.

And here’s to every other person who made this amazing journey possible. Here’s to the customers, the reviewers and the people in the industry that supported us.

Here’s to all of you.

Women in the Kitchen: It’s Good

We need more women in the professional kitchen. I’m not saying this because I am a great champion of equal rights or because I got brainwashed by the women’s studies courses I took during university (though I do have a suspiciously high level of respect for women…God damn you Women’s Studies 101 and your feminist-lesbian trickery!!!). I say this from a purely selfish standpoint. I love what I do. I love this industry. I want this industry to be the best it can be. And, in my experience, kitchens produce better food and are nicer places to work when there is a gender balance in them. Plain and simple.

Now, before we get into the reasons for why I think this is, let’s deal with the haters first. I know what a lot of the boys who work in kitchens say or think when they are confronted with women behind the line: “women aren’t tough enough”, “they’re too emotional” or “I could never take orders from a girl”.

Ok. Right. Gotcha. I guess I agree? Wait. What? Didn’t you not come to work because you had a stomachache? Didn’t no female cook ever not come to work because they had horrible menstrual cramps?

Didn’t you tear up/have anxiety/doubt yourself/feel like shit/be in a bad mood after the chef yelled at you during service? Woah, bro. Sounds like you are pretty emotional too. Maybe you should rethink your career path.

Aren’t you a small, insecure person who holds on to outdated notions of gender roles in the workplace? Oh, you are? Good. Just checking. That’s why you have problems taking orders from women.

Haters dealt with. NEXT.

So, women in the kitchen. Yeah. That thing. Believe me, it’s good. It’s real good. Of course, I don’t have any hard evidence to back these sentiments up. No charts or graphs to prove to you I’m right. I just have my crazy ideas that I have developed over several years working in a lot of different kitchens. 

Really, it boils down to this: balance. Too much of anything is bad. Anything. (unless it’s Christal and you be pouring that shit on bitches y’all!). And really, there is just too much man in kitchens. I mean, take a look behind the stoves in most restaurants and tell me what you see. A lot of horny guys under 30. Check. Alpha male personalities. Check. High stress environment. Check. Dick jokes. Check. The only way you are going to get more testosterone into a small place is if you get two male bodybuilders to wrestle each other in a kiddy pool full of raw steak. It’s not healthy.This environment forces boys to develop their craft and their relationship to food through a very narrow male-dominated paradigm. This stunts personal and professional development.

It’s not that the way men do things is inherently bad. It’s more that the way women do things in the kitchen is worth learning from too. Because at the end of the day, women do do things differently, don’t they? It’s the way they move, it’s the way they interact with their co workers and their surroundings, it’s the way they treat products, It’s the energy they bring into a room. It’s just somehow a little less rough, a little softer.

I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s the result of them having evolved to be the sex that bears life. Maybe this effects how they view this world. Maybe not. Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is that there is a difference. And I notice this difference everyday when I work with my female cooks.

The point, though, is that this is not bad. In fact, this is awesome. These differences need to be embraced and cherished because, ultimately, they can make you a better cook.  How? Simple. They give you perspective. They give you the opportunity to look at how you are doing things and compare it to how somebody else with a different mindset is doing those things. And if you toss away your ego and you observe and you learn from what you observe, you know what? You might just start developing new and better ways of doing things and of interacting with people and physical space. You might start evolving more rapidly as a cook and as craftsman and as human being.

So yeah, like I said a few paragraphs ago, it all comes down to balance. This world we live in is full of counteracting yet interdependent forces that are part of a system in which the whole is greater than the individual parts. Night and day. Summer and winter.  Life and death. Man and woman. (Yin and yang fools. What you know about it? Ancient Chinese philosophy represent!) Kitchens are part of this world and are subject to its rules. They are simply healthier more grounded places and possess a higher potential to produce better food, better cooks and better people when there is a gender balance in them.

So, ladies, get your asses into more kitchens. Men, be nice and supportive to the ladies. Learn from each other. Make each other better. Make this industry more awesome. Go. Do it.

This Is Why I Work Out

I am a cook. I work 12-15 hours everyday. I am surrounded by unhealthy food, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes at all hours. If you are in the restaurant industry, you’re probably surrounded by these things as well. Hell, odds are, if you’re a chef, bartender or server, you’re not just surrounded by these things, you’re probably ploughing through that shit like it’s candy. In our line of work, we make being unhealthy an art form. It’s what we do. And, let’s be honest, most of us think what we do is pretty bad ass.

I get it. I really do. We have stressful jobs. You need a drink or two or three after a day’s work.

There’s never enough time to eat properly, so your meals usually consist of handfuls of chocolate you stole off the dry storage shelves while the chef wasn’t looking.

You do drugs because you want to have a good time, to decompress or because they are just…there.

You smoke because, well, you’re addicted, but also because everybody else does it and it would be hard to stop even if you wanted to, which usually you don’t, because, uh, its just how you roll.

Like I said, I get it.

So, for convenience sake, let’s just assume we are all, by normal people’s standards, alcoholic, drug abusing, sleep deprived wanna be rockstars, ok? Let’s just assume we are all going to be like that for ever and ever, fuck what the haters say. YOLO.

Fine. But here’s my case for at least trying to stay active. Here’s why I think that if the only form of exercise you do consists of lifting a shot of mescal into your face, you’re hindering your ability to do your job properly, to develop strong relationships and to live your life with confidence and energy. Here is why I workout.

Most people in the industry who hear that I work out 4-5 times a week usually either ask “How do you have time for that?” or “What’s the point?”. Well, my answer is this: I make time for it because for me there is a big point to it. And the point is quality of life.

Let’s look at my two preferred methods of staying fit: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and weight training. On a physical level, Jiu Jitsu keeps me flexible and maintains my cardio at a decent enough level that if that zombie apocalypse ever comes, you best know I’ll be able outrun those fools (unless they are the super fast ones).

The weight training I do gives me real, functional strength. It gives me increased joint mobility. It tightens my core. It improves my posture. It trains and strengthens my entire nervous system.

These are things that all people, but especially those that work in our industry, can benefit from. How many chefs do you know with stooped shoulders, a quasi-hunchback or chronic back pain? How many people have you worked with who have injured themselves putting away deliveries because they were too heavy or lifted up improperly? How many servers have you met who complain of joint pain and muscle stiffness? I think you get my point.

In the end, though,  and I think a lot of people who take exercise seriously would agree with this, the physical benefits of training are far outweighed by what it does for you mentally, even spiritually.

Let’s look at Jiu Jitsu. On the surface what I get is a great workout that also happens to double as a means of self defence. Sweet.

But really, this is what it gives me: confidence, humility, tranquility under pressure, the ability to face defeat and hardship and always, without failure, get up, learn from what I  have done wrong, and keep marching forward with an increased respect for myself and those around me.

It’s inevitable you learn these things when every time you get on the mat, you discover something new, you get put into uncomfortable, sometimes frightening situations, you get beat up/beat people up, you get pushed to your physical and mental limits.

Weight training serves much the same purpose. This is especially the case with my favourite lifts: squats and dead lifts. These are exercises that engage the entire body and enable you to lift the maximum weight possible for the longest period of time. This means they can make you suffer like nothing else. And, really, that is what it’s all about.

When you are in your final set and you are going for those last few reps, and you are trying to maintain perfect form, and your legs are screaming and you’re shaking, and you feel like maybe, if you accidentally shift to the left a few centimetres you might just soil yourself, but you still push through and you finish your rep and you rack the weight and you’re light headed and in pain, I’m telling you, you enter a very special place. I’m talking some Rocky Balboa at the top of the stairs meets the Dalai Lama floating on some clouds type of shit.

After the workout, you are destroyed physically but you are happy. You are purified of the stress that has snuck into you over the last few days of work. You know that nothing you do for the rest of the day is going to be as hard as what you just did. This gives you confidence and energy. You are content, you are peaceful.

This is why I work out.