I am not one to say, “I told you so!”
However, I should have said that, when my friends decided to take me to this one hip, happening new hot-spot, in town.
It is difficult to cook for another chef. I know, it is nerve wrecking even for me, especially when I cook for a Chef which I have come to love and idolize, from the beginning of my career.
I always try to put myself in the shoes of the other person. I never comment on other people’s food, because I know what happens in a restaurant kitchen and everybody is gonna have a bad night, or two.
I know , I had plenty of those myself. I am talking about those type of kitchen failures that make you want to run, right out the kitchen and dive right into the cold , blue ocean below.
As I grew older , I learned the art of facing up to my failures, especially when others, detailed upon me the intricate minutiae of all I did wrong. I still do not like it, but this is how you discover what you are made of.
Whilst I have learned to display an outward charismatic stance, even in the midst of my most flagrant failures, I know exactly how it feels inside when things go wrong.
It is a deep ache that seeps through your veins, and contorts your facial features into an abominable mask of self-hating shame. Ultimately it eats at your stomach lining, like a frenzied shark, feeding with ruthless abandonment.
I hate to fail more than I hate my own enemies.
Having so eloquently described the sensation of my most devastating culinary failures, I hope you can now understand why, I rarely pass judgment on others. No one deserves to feel this way.
However, every once on a while, you run into that one exception: a cocky, young punk, with no culinary clue whatsoever; a young person who, by some mysterious means, has achieved the accolades of the, so called, professional food critics.
Everybody deserves to get lucky, but no one can be excused for being a ruthless, self serving, pompous ass, with a curt demeanor and a disdainful look of superiority. Especially if the one in question could not boil an egg, bind a sauce or cook a piece of fish.
Self-righteousness is a most debilitating handicap. Having tussled before, with this alluring nymph of doom, I have grown to temper my own perception of self worth. You are only as good as your next dish, what is past is past. What you do now is what counts. Get it right, do it well, make it mean something and don’t waist time telling yourself how good you are, there is always someone who is better than you…. and better looking too.
Even though I wanted to tussle, when the young chef came by our table, I chose to behave.
When questioned, I politely praised the look of the place and the joy I experienced in the company of my dinner companions. Whilst I was, keenly selective with the subject matter at hand, I did not lie and I did not attack. That seemed to please us both.
I am not as young as I feel, I have no idea who is that old dude staring at me every morning, when I look at the mirror, but I will tell you this: “ I am one competitive son of…..a gun!”
So it should be of no surprise when I tell you that this one morning when I was pondering on the menu for my traditional family dinner, I decided to reproduce that ill conceived dish, which had been served to me at that infamous restaurant, and make it my own.
My nephew Andrew was on hand and joined me in the kitchen. Instead of me preparing, I had him do it all. A chef that cannot train a team to execute his vision is just a guy in a chef coat. I wanted to prove myself that I can inspire another man, to cook as good as me and better than me.
What started as a challenge to best another, soon became a test of my own mettle. You are only as good as what you do, not what you say you could do.
So, like they say in the movies: “ Show me the money!!”
It could possibly be that my nephew Andrew is far more talented than I care to admit, and that quite possibly, could be the case. However what this young man did in the kitchen, on his own, made my heart swell with pride. I forgot about the other guy, what started as a display of self-righteousness, my own, soon turned into a moment of unexpected joy.
I loved having him next to me, I was in awe of how quickly he was learning and more than that, I loved the fact that he wanted to spend time with me, because he liked to, not because I wanted him to do so.
We rarely understand the greatness of a moment when it happens, and when we do, sometimes is just too late. It does not matter how I got here, but when I did, I knew where I was and this, my friends, is what I loved the most.
As Andrew and I went quietly about our business, chatting, cooking and laughing together, I forgot what had ailed my thoughts. I found happiness in an unexpected moment, and for now, this is all that mattered.
Life felt good and I sipped it ,slowly, like a glass of fine wine.