Don’t Be Dazed and Confused

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  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.

Cooks, Are You doing OK?

Call it what you will, Corona Virus, Covid19, The Pandemic……Just don’t call it the China Virus like a certain idiot in the White House.

This is without a doubt a difficult time for anyone in the restaurant industry.  With restaurants are either shut down or relegated to take-out and/or delivery only.  This scenario has put hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers out of work and onto unemployment for a fraction of their pay and will put many in a position of not keeping up with their bills while the j-offs who run the Federal Government bicker over how best to help the Americans who find themselves in peril.  It has also taken many of us out of the kitchen where we’re comfortable and safe with our peers.  Many of us are now put in a position that will increase issues with our already fragile mental health.

Lexapro is a great drug.  The pharmaceutical company that produces it charges too much, but it works well. What it does is makes depression due to chemical imbalance manageable.  What it does not do is eliminate depression.  While therapy helps manage it, depression is a long-term mental health issue and it takes years to conquer.

I’m trying my best to stay positive, and to keep depressed feelings pushed back.  One day last week was especially tough, I felt a bit overwhelmed, and found myself shutting down. Shutting down generally means becoming unable to do anything but lay on the couch and do not much of anything.  The world can continue around me, but I just don’t care.  These episodes are far more rare then they used to be when my depression was at its peak a few years ago.  Anxiety is also a big problem, and current events are bringing that to the forefront.  A couple days ago I came as close to an anxiety attack as I ever have.  I’m not sure how close I was because I’ve never had one, but I was to a point where I had to go upstairs alone for a bit.

One glaring problem is that a lot of people who work in the kitchen either do not recognize their feelings as depression or could not afford to do much about it if they did.   Seen as depression or not, a large number of cooks find  “therapy” sessions available to them in a bar after dinner service with their fellow hash-slingers. I will interject here, off topic, but worth mentioning that the money spent on booze and drugs would be better used on professional help.  I’ll tackle that issue at another time.

Now bars are closed, and the all-important healing sessions are on hold.  Cooks are mostly stuck at home and there’s little outlet for the type of energy that only a busy kitchen can burn up. Often, the people restaurant folks live with do not fully comprehend the life in the back of the house, the comradery, and the need to be at work where you have value as an individual and life has meaning.

So, while I’m worried about all my brothers and sisters in the industry on so many levels, I am increasingly becoming worried about mental health as my own issues become magnified by the current circumstances. I know if my depression and anxiety are increasing, then it’s only logical that there a are too many collogues finding themselves with increasing trouble keeping their minds in good shape.

I’m not a mental health professional by any means, but I have explored the subject in great detail.  My advice is not a substitute for professional counseling, but if I can help a few people struggling with and problems they might be facing then I’d love to hear from them.

The best I can tell you is that seeking a therapist that can do some work over the phone right now is the best thing you can do.  I know that’s not a viable option for everyone, so I’m willing to help.  I want to hear from you if you need to sort through some thoughts, vent, or ask for direction.  I’ve been through the toughest part of depression and am dealing with some pretty difficult bouts of anxiety.  There’s no reason to go through it alone.

A few of the things I’m doing is combing through my favorite cookbooks for fresh ideas, reshaping the Amuse menu in anticipation of reopening, planning some great meals at home, and reading any material I can on restaurant life.

I also think its important to get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed and have a plan for the day.  I’ve had a horrible cold the last few days which hasn’t helped me stick to that routine but feel much better tonight and plan on forging ahead and being productive around the house.  Write a prep/to do list as if you were at work, do some kitchen maintenance, sharpen your knives, go through recipes and organize them in a recipe app.  I use Pepperplate and have been adding to it and getting rid of all the bits of paper and index cards.

The bottom line is, don’t just lay around (I know it’s impossible sometimes) and do nothing, force yourself to get up and do things to have you ready to go back to work better than ever.  Use this time to recharge your batteries and go into the kitchen once again with a new appreciation for your craft.  Most of all, don’t hesitate to get help in any form you can

Talk to a loved one, a friend, a professional if you can, or just reach out to me.  I’ve been there, I ‘m still there, and I’m sure I’ll be there in the future.  My email is  Hit me up and I’d love to help. Peace, and head up. You’re not alone.

Winding Down to Wind Up

People say that it’s a shame that kids aren’t learning cursive writing anymore. Well, they also don’t learn to drive a horse and buggy either.

Yes, they’ll be able to read historical documents, like the Constitution. That’s why Al Gore invented the interwebs.

Hey, I’m a chef, not a grown up.

It can be irritating when chefs take themselves too seriously.  You can take your work seriously, but remember, it’s food, and not a matter of life and death.  We’re cooks,  not oncologists.

I have a self-destructive behaviors.  What sucks is knowing it and continuing.

Please stop calling plant-based food meat.  It isn’t, so call it what it is.  Chemically engineered crap.  Eat meat, or eat plants, but stop pretending one is the other.

If you’re not already on a bandwagon don’t fret, another will be coming by sooner than later.

The rabbit meatballs have been selling well, I’m glad.

I’m rereading my entire blog from the beginning.  I’m aware that blogs are not overly popular anymore and my readership numbers will back that up.  So, I’ve decided to start podcasting.  I have already done one test session and will get the first one out soon.  I also have some new video equipment and plan on doing the blog in front of the camera.  I am aware however that I have a look that’s more suited to podcasting, I think it will be fun to show you the man behind the keyboard, and the bourbon.

The podcasts will be discussions on issues in the restaurant industry with perspective from my kitchen experience and corresponding thoughts by long-time service professional Peter Burleigh.

The camera stuff will be just me drinking bourbon and making an ass of myself.  An honest, somewhat well-spoken ass. The more bourbon, the honester I’ll be.

I’ve been on the edge of success more than once only to piss it away.

My wife asked why I don’t show her the same affection as I do towards the dog.  Who knew she liked having her belly scratched?  Ooooooo who’s my good girl?

I’ve procured some goat through Old Saratoga Mercantile for a Moroccan goat curry next week.

I’m not joining in on the bargain food.   No 3 course meals for cheap, no catchy phrases like “Taco Tuesday” and I’m trying to get in on fads like avocado toasts and Keto shit. What I will do is make great Mediterranean based food from quality ingredients and sell it at a fair price.   Remember, You get what you pay for, so if you want discounted food go right ahead, it’s your body.  My question is, where do the ingredients that make up a $9.99 dinner come from?

What will bring them in?  Discounts?  What discounts say is “my food isn’t worth the price.”

Good food, good service, and consistency.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be one of the healthiest in the world.  It’s no fad.

It’s rotten when you pull food pictures off the Googles and resent them as your own.   Two reasons:  Someone worked hard to produce the food and the pictures, so only they’re entitled to those photos unless there is an agreed upon compensation.  Second, when you post photos of good-looking food and people visit you as a result you are participating in what’s called the bait and switch. If you don’t have that food, then you’ve misrepresented yourself.

I tend to have an obsessive personality.

It was a real mistake giving a 12-year-old chocolate lab 2 hot dogs and the leftover baked beans.


See you on the airwaves or the youtubes sooner than later.

Speaking of the youtubes, check this outDerryX Dines Again