I’ve been thinking about this long and hard lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that I have ignored my passion. Not on purpose mind you, but because I didn’t realize it was a passion.
I have done so many things throughout my adult life with some reasonable amount of success. I suppose you could call me a serial entrepreneur. I’ve been in residential real estate, commercial real estate, the hospitality industry, accounting, website design, and publishing. I had been self-employed for about 14 years; until 2015.
I still do some consulting in the accounting and publishing world but I decided to head back to school to earn my Associate of Applied Science degree in the culinary field. Yes, you read that right. I decided to become a chef. And no, it wasn’t to become famous. I love cooking. I have always loved cooking and I wanted to take that love to the next level.
I graduated from culinary school with a 4.99 and was on the Dean’s list throughout most of my education. I was literally top of my class. I had learned so much but had so much more to learn. My first restaurant job was in a casual dining restaurant and I worked my ass off. I was getting ready to learn the next station when I received a job offer at a fine dining restaurant with a James Beard nominated chef. It was a chance of a lifetime for me as so many people were trying to get into that restaurant. Little did I know it was going to turn out to be a nightmare for me (you can read about it here).
It was at this restaurant that I questioned every choice I made leading me to this horrible situation. I was sick to my stomach each and every time I had to go to work. I hated what I was doing. I hated feeling isolated. I hated feeling stupid. I hated feeling inadequate and I most certainly hated my job and chosen field. I was ready to call it quits.
I stuck it out because I knew deep down part of it was me. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t running away from my problems. If I don’t figure out my issues, I’m just going to take them with me wherever I go. Eventually, I received a job offer at a fine dining steakhouse. The atmosphere there was much more conducive to learning.
I quickly advanced from the pantry station (salads and desserts) to the saute station. I was in second chair if you will. Then, I became first chair. I could run that station with my eyes closed. I was cooking, I was learning, I was collaborating with the chef on dishes. I was experimenting and I was in heaven. I understood the techniques, I understood the composition, and I understood the proper way to handle everything. Then one day, it clicked. Everything my old chef was trying to drill into my head clicked. I understood about the timing. I understood about the heat, I understood about working together, in unison. I understood the communication. I ended up texting him telling him I got it. I just got it. He told me he was happy about that and sometimes we have to go backward in order to go forward.
I genuinely liked this chef and that was the second piece of wisdom he gave me. The first was “It’s only a moment in time.” To this day I remember and still ponder, these statements because it’s true in everything we do. It’s only a moment in time. You can survive this.
I ended up moving back to Chicago and I work in a Michelin Recommended restaurant. Even though I’m having a great time, I realized something is missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
It was pointed out to me by a very wise mentor and adviser that when I was about to travel or I was on my way to the airport, I had butterflies and an excitement within myself because I was about to embark on some sort of adventure…It’s true. Was I in denial or did I just not realize this? I love cooking but I just don’t feel it in my soul. Which makes me sad. I can do the work, I get better every day, and I learn something new just about every day but the sudden realization that cooking isn’t my passion scares the shit out of me. It’s all I wanted to do for the longest time. At least I thought it was.
Maybe I miss the idea of being my own boss. Maybe I miss the idea of coming and going as I see fit. I don’t know. What I do know is I am in a field that I cannot work from home. I cannot work remotely from another country. I have to be in the kitchen, prepping and cooking food for the masses. Something in which I do love, but there’s a part of me missing…
Going back to the discussion with my adviser, he made me realize it was travel that I missed. The butterfly feelings I had? THAT was passion. The sense of adventure, visiting places, eating the local cuisine. That’s what was missing. Travel.
The only thing I can do at this point is gear up for my next adventure. I am working on re-entering the world of travel, this time with a food and drink theme. I need to explore the world. I need to discover the best dishes, learn how to cook them, learn how they came to be, and most importantly, satisfy the thirst I’ve been missing.
I thought I was finished reinventing myself but the way I see it, life is ever evolving. You have to change, adapt, and go with the flow in order to survive. If not, for me, I’m drowning in a sea of mediocrity and my soul just won’t allow it.
From here on out, I am setting out on my new path of traveling the world in search of food and drink, just like the name of my website suggests. Joe Eats World.
Also published on Medium.