Well a lot has happened since my last posting. I graduated school and had to bid adieu to my beloved Paris. Then I came home to the Bay Area for the holidays and was lucky enough to obtain an externship at Frances in San Francisco. For those of you who have been living under that proverbial rock, Frances is one of the most popular new restaurants in San Francisco. It has been open for barely over a year, but has already received a Michelin star and has been named one of the top new restaurants in the country by numerous publications. Yes, I know, quite impressive accolades and they chose me to be their extern. Though to be frank, being an extern is really a nice way of saying free labor; but as they say, you gotta start somewhere and that somewhere usually means the bottom.
I peeled, chopped, diced, sorted, carried, cleaned, and did whatever was on my daily to do list. It was by no means glamorous, but it was real. And it was nice knowing that no matter how mundane a task seemed, at the end of the day the ingredients would be brought together (by someone closer to the top of the kitchen food chain) with other ingredients to make a dish that a diner would eat and it would make them truly happy. The simplicity of that chain was remarkably satisfying. In my corporate job, I knew that I was good at my job, and I knew that in some very small way I was contributing to my company’s success, but I cannot say whether I ever felt true satisfaction. Wow, just writing that is fairly shocking, but it’s true. And I can say with complete confidence that I was not making people “happy” on a daily basis; certainly not the kind of unadulterated happiness that comes from food.
Being such a foodie city it takes something particularly special to make it to the top of the San Francisco restaurant scene. I do not know if I can pin point exactly what makes Frances so special; but as Elgin, the Sous Chef I assisted, would say, the food has soul; and in my opinion not just a dash of soul, but gallons of soul. I think that soul starts with the ridiculously beautiful produce. Every day countless local purveyors would drop off their goodies. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays the mushroom guy, with the accent that somehow swayed between Irish and Australian, would deliver pounds of wild mushrooms that had been foraged from Northern California. I discovered how intoxicating the odor of fresh maitake mushrooms could be and the meditating calm that comes from trimming and cleaning mushrooms for two hours.
I learned a tremendous amount in the Frances kitchen and truly enjoyed the experience; however, spending time in a restaurant kitchen reinforced my original desire to find a role outside of a restaurant kitchen that combines my passion for food, my love of writing, and also the intellectual challenges I enjoyed in my corporate job. Yes, I know that sounds like lofty requirements, but I’m willing to be flexible in the meantime, I just want to have an ideal in mind for the end of the road. I realize the road to a dream job is not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge. Which brings me to my first or many challenges: moving to New York City.
This past Friday, March 4th, marked my three week anniversary of being in NYC and drum roll please…I am still job-less and apartment-less. Though no pity party needed here, my glass remains half-full. (By apartment-less, I mean, not paying rent and living in my own apartment not home-less. You can stop picturing me living on a bench in Central Park, surrounded by my huge duffel bags of clothes, shoes and cooking utensils. I have been fortunate enough to stay with my boyfriend and his very kind roommate, until I can stand on my own two feet. Which for the sake of all of our relationships/friendships will be sooner than later, because even a baking-and-cleaning-free-loader is a free-loader at the end of the day). So to end this post, I raise that metaphoric half-full glass in a toast to myself, here’s to another week of countless cover letters and applications, maybe the fourth week’s a charm.