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.