Thursday, July 1, 2010

Is it a job if it's your passion?

Due to the upcoming holiday weekend, I’m actually not working this week at my new, food-related gig. It’s kind of unfortunate since 14 whole days will go by before I can pick up where I left off; I hope I retain the information I learned on my first day!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my future over the last few months, and to be honest, I go back and forth a lot. I suppose “wishy washy” is a good term; my mom used to tell me that I always miss the boat because I spend too much time actually thinking about what to do, and by the I finally decide, the opportunity has passed me by. She was right- and it’s something I still do to this day. I suppose trying to change that habit is one of the reasons why I decided to take Nike’s advice and JUST DO IT before I wake up, 65-years old and regretting that I only daydreamed about owning a café or wine bar and never taking any steps toward making it happen. Still, as I look forward at all of the things one must learn in order to run their own restaurant- food safety, making relationships with local farmers and vendors, how to and how much to order, how to avoid overspending, how to survive while being “in the red” for at least a year, hiring trusted employees, payroll, insurance, inventory………my head starts to spin and it seems like an impossible dream. My fantasies consist mainly of the creamy, vermouth-scented mushrooms flavored with lots of garlic and thyme piled high on slices of crusty bread and flaky, seasonal hand pies topped with cream cheese ice cream that I’ll put together just so, and watch the faces of the happy customer as they “ooooh” and “aaaaah” over the food. I’m not thinking of what would happen if one of the prep cooks sliced her hand open with a knife or what it would be like to live with no paycheck, day after day, worried about when the business would become profitable. It’s a sobering thought.

I also wonder if turning something I love- cooking- into a job is a good idea. That said, my definition of ‘job’ could change…I’m not saying that running your own restaurant isn’t work (it’s likely backbreaking!), but would having the opportunity to do something you love be classified as a job? I mean, what exactly does that word mean? In my life I’ve only known it as something I do that I enjoy enough and earns me money. Enjoy isn’t the same as love. Like isn’t the same as passion. Someone very close to me makes his living doing what he loves- doing something he knew from a young age he was meant to do. It is a ton of work but it is still something he would do regardless of whether he’s making a living at it or not. He’s certainly one of the fortunate few that can say their passion is also their livelihood. The main downfall, in my opinion, of this is if it fails, it’s heartbreaking, because it seems like YOU failed. If the company I work for goes under, it isn’t a reflection of me personally, but if the restaurant fails because no one wants the mushrooms or hand pies………well, now that’s another story, isn’t it?

You’re probably wondering what on earth is the point of this post, other than me proving my wishy-washyness in print! Honestly, this space is here so I can discuss the entire process of considering a giant career change, and I’m hoping to get some feedback from readers who’ve either thought about doing the same or have actually done so. Doesn’t everyone, at one point, question what they are doing for a living? Particularly in this day and age when media, especially television, makes it so easy for us to believe that it IS possible to have the dream. I can’t recall how many episodes of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives I’ve seen where the successful restaurant owner/chef proudly states that he or she’d never even worked in a restaurant but that a love for food and passion for feeding people pushed their dreams into a reality. I’d be lying if I didn’t get a little burst of joy in my heart every time I see a story like that- yes, even a cynic like me buys into stuff on television and I’m not too proud to admit it! Another reason I think I could actually be successful is because I’ve spent way too much money on bad meals in my lifetime- why I just did last week, and twice the week before! I think to myself, “Is THIS what it takes to have your own place?” looking down at a sorry-excuse-of-a-dripping-mess-of-a-sandwich that I’d just paid $15 for. Who knows- maybe 50 fools like me willing to pay $15 for a sandwich is precisely why some restaurants stay in business. Maybe I’m a fool, period.

Anyway, I only wish my schedule would allow me to spend more time at the deli - they close too early in the day for me to go after my day job. I’m currently trying to find some kitchen prep work a couple nights a week which would give me some experience in an actual restaurant kitchen, so I’ll keep you posted if anything comes up.

Thanks for reading!