The last few months have been absolutely crazy. Since the restaurant opened, I haven’t really had the urge to travel and do dinners. I finally caved into the “guest chef” offers coming through my inbox and last October, I took a short trip each month to cook dinners at various spots around the world.
How could I leave the restaurant? Despite the excitement of travel, I still prefer to be at the restaurant, because traveling is a reminder that you are trying to touch people the way that I was touched on numerous occasions during my travels. Previously, I’ve been in the opposite situation in which I would be at the restaurant while the head chef was away for an event. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to both travel and have the restaurant run smoothly is with a strong team in place. I am truly grateful to have the same team with me that we started with. They all get along and actually thrive off of each other on a professional level as well as a personal level. Because we don’t have a large team, personality and drive are just as important as skill. With a small team, there is no place to hide in the kitchen, so if you aren’t pulling your weight, it will be quite obvious. And people will let you know… in the nicest way possible, of course. I can speak from past experience that when placed in a situation where you have to make decisions with no one to consult, your brain works in a different way. There is no one to ask for advice, therefore, you examine situations with much more criticism. I realized that this would only happen if I weren’t present. As much as I don’t like to be away from the restaurant, for the sake of the kitchen staff’s and restaurant’s growth, I had to leave.
So gearing up for these three months was obviously really exciting. The chance to see parts of the world and hang out with people that you never get to see because everyone is so busy with work was going to be amazing. I had an ongoing conversation throughout these trips about why chefs invite other chefs into their restaurants to cook. There are the obvious reasons like, creating a chance for their chefs to see new ideas or finding inspiration from cooking with another chef, but the number one reason? Just to hang out with someone that they never get to hang out with and have a good time. In short, all these guest chef “things” that go on around the world with different chefs is actually just an excuse to hang out. I could not agree more with this idea, because when it comes down to it if you’re not having fun then why do it at all?
Each and every trip was unique and the life experience that I gained cannot be measured in a value. I was beyond humbled to see the support that we have from different friends around the world. Conversely, it was energizing to see how proud chefs are about their hometown from the products they use to the people that are around them. The trips were so inspiring on so many levels. I was often asked what local dish has excited me the most while I was there. Most the time, I wanted to say that the food, of course, is always an inspiration, but really, the people and the culture that provoked me the most. Food is only skin-deep. You need to learn about where it comes from and the people behind it before it will truly touch your soul. I can honestly say that I had my soul touched on numerous occasions. Thank you to everyone that I came in contact with and a special thanks to the chefs that I am so honored to have cooked with on these trips: Blain Wetzel, Matt Lightner, The Kadeau Boys (Nicolai and Theis), Sasu Laukkonen, Shane Watson, Chris Kostow, and Andre Chiang.