Ducking Retirement


I have been doing a lot of reflection about this blog and what it says about me and how I’ve been feeling.  I looked back over a lot of posts and tried to find any trends and what they mean.  What I noticed was that my posts are more negative and there are fewer narratives, less writing about topics and more snippet themed rants.  When I started this blog I wanted to give those not in the business a sense of what it was like to be a chef. The following is my first post, pretty much in its entirety.

“I am starting a blog about the daily life of a chef. Sometimes it will be fun and interesting, and other times it will simply be the mundane details of life for a chef in and out of the kitchen. I’m a poor speller, I have a potty mouth sometimes, and I sometimes write things after a bit of bourbon so don’t criticize me for the things I already know.”

“My purpose is to practice writing, something I used to be quite good at but have not done in many years, and as an outlet for some of the great stories, victories, frustrations, and thoughts that come out of life in the restaurant business.”

Being a chef is great, it has wonderful rewards, and can be a fulfilling life for those cut out for the commitment it requires.

As readers of this blog, and those familiar with the local restaurant scene will recall, I made a decision to leave the business when my daughter Theresa’s mother passed away in May of 2016.  That decision was made during a very emotional time, and the careful planning that should be associated with a major life move wasn’t done. Steve Barnes on Table Hopping showed me deep kindness when he allowed me to tell my story, and the support I received as a result was well needed at the time.  However, the time which came as expected, was still too soon and like many people in our situation were not prepared on many levels.

I declared that Theresa and I would be doing private catering under the Yawning Duck name, and we did some nice events.  I also had the opportunity to do some consulting projects.  Yet, things were not going well as she was not fully comprehending the loss of her mother and the sudden changes in her life.  The truth is, as an individual with Cerebral Palsy, it’s very difficult for her to understand what happened, and what will happen.  Also, we rushed into the situation without a proper business plan and marketing strategy. The lack of direction made the project unworkable.  Again, the emotions were high, and the sense of loss made it easy for me to make the choices I did. The truth is, we were not prepared for the days ahead.  I am grateful for the ability to have been able to take some time out of the restaurant kitchen and help not only Theresa adjust, but to be a full-time part of the overall adjustment for our family.

Last September I got a Facebook message from a friend that suggested I talk to Rob Gavel, the chef at Chez Nous in Schenectady who was leaving his post for another chef’s position.  While I knew I needed the financial security of a full-time job,  I really wasn’t looking too hard.  I had read many good things about the restaurant so I followed up and within a couple of weeks I was back in the kitchen full-time.

I have been cooking on restaurant lines for the majority of the last 18 years. Too many restaurants, too many hours and nights, and too many missed family events.  I’ve been pretty lucky with holidays, working mostly in places that close on major holidays in lieu of an as good as possible quality of life.  Quality of life continues to be lacking however. I’m tired, I’m sore, and the reality is I’m becoming increasingly bitter which is no fun for anyone.

Doing the daily grind at 53 has gotten tough.  There are too many aches and pains.  As some recall I had heel and bunion surgery a couple of years ago. The heel feels better with the bone spur gone, but there’s no improvement otherwise.  My feet range from achy to painful on a daily basis. My hips are sore, my knees on occasion, and the arthritis in my hands can make a long day and night in a commercial kitchen unpleasant.

I’m also starting to find the variety of personalities involved in this business both exhausting and difficult to deal with.  I have certainly had hundreds of employers, co-workers, and vendors over the years, and I have even liked some of them. Yet, at this point I just don’t want to deal with the myriad of individuals I come across every day.

It’s time for me to exit the restaurant cooking line for now as it just isn’t fun right now.  I’ll continue with The Yawning Duck Culinary Services at this point and I can enjoy my family and home more, and I can be of greater help to Theresa who is a project and at some point in her life will be without me and will need some skills she does not have at this time.  No, I don’t expect to make tons of money, but I can make life become better for all of us for a while.

I will remain a member of the Chez Nous family, helping as I can in the weeks to come and I am grateful to be a part of their experience. More to come on this topic.

I have some wonderful events planned as The Yawning Duck including our Kick-off on June 10th. More to come on this topic too.