This is a follow-up to my last post Cooks, Are You Doing Ok? One of the things I mentioned that could help those of us out of work get through our days without wallowing in self-pity and debilitating depressive episodes is to write a prep list as if you were at work. Regular people call it a to-do list, but we’re not regular. In truth, what I’m suggesting you to do is write a list of goals each day. That list needs to include goals for the morning, for the day, some short-term goals, and how some of these goals relate to long-term goals
That’s really what a prep list is, a list of goals that should be accomplished, generally before service starts. In fact, the ideal time to start a prep list is the night before, allowing you to have a plan in mind and have a head start on the next day. Waking up with a plan is a wonderful way to fend off depression.
Make the goals important to you, make them serious, useful, and attainable self-improving goals. Think of these goals as you would a prep list used to prepare yourself for a better life with better focus, just as you would prepare for a smooth and successful dinner service. The goals can help you have reasons to get out of bed, and into the shower each day.
This will take some work, and certainly some changes in habits, or even the start of some new habits. Again, as a restaurant cook you are likely already familiar with writing prep lists. Right now, you need to repurpose that skill in order to keep yourself from getting lost without direction.
For example, I set a list of goals for today, and within that set of goals were a set of sub-goals. One aim for today was to write this post. Before writing I wrote an outline, sort of a list of steps towards the final goal and a guide to keep me on track. As I write, I follow my writing “prep list” which concludes with hitting each sub goal of the outline. Think of it this way: You want to make a great chicken noodle soup. As you write a prep list you break down the project into smaller projects Make stock, which includes cut mirepoix, blanch chicken bones, collect aromatics…….Then you might make handmade egg noodles, cut fresh vegetables for the finished product, and perhaps a garnish.
As cooks, many of us do other things in our lives aside from cooking. I know some of you that fish, some hunt, some are avid readers (not many, we ain’t a bright lot), and some write. I also enjoy quiet walks on the beach, intimate dinners at home, romantic comedies, and snuggling. What happens when our livelihood of cooking is taken out of the equation? We’re lost. Now add a new occupation, like homeschooling. Now we’re Dazed and Confused (‘m listening to Zeppelin’s “How the West was Won” while writing). I can go awry quickly, can’t I?
Back on topic. So, I’m now in charge of homeschooling my kids who are in 2nd and 4th grades. This started out as a tough task because I’m not a schoolteacher. The first week was very hard, I wasn’t able to make much sense of the prepared lesson plans I picked up from the kids’ teachers. Sure, the work is easy, but the implementation seemed impossible. I tried very diligently to do it their way. The second week started the same way, then it hit me. I was trying to cook someone else’s menu, so to speak. I know what my kids need to learn, and now I understand I need to do it my way. My point is that you’ll find yourselves with some new and unfamiliar tasks that may get you down, be frustrating, or seem impossible to complete. Bullshit. We’re restaurant cooks, we figure shit out. Plan, set goals and sub-goals, and do it the way you think it should be done, like the chicken soup. Make it your chicken soup, don’t try to make someone else’s. You’ll be happier
Yes, things are going to be different for a while. You won’t be cooking a busy service, you won’t be running a kitchen, doing the ordering, working as part of a team of misfits, and stopping out for a few beers and a couple of shots after work. You do however have responsibilities. To family members, to kids, to roommates, and most of all to yourselves. The thing you need to remember is that you as a restaurant cook have the skills to get through this time. Repurpose those skills for a bit and do what you know. The task may be different, but the process is the same. Plan your morning before bed, write a prep list for the day, and work on making yourself better.
Depression is an issue for many of us, it will always be an issue for many of us. Please, If the task seems too insurmountable, get help. Call a friend, call a family member, or call me firstname.lastname@example.org for my #.There is help, there is hope, and there is a way to win this thing. We’ll be back to work, and we’ll get things right again. Peace.