Good evening, friends and neighbors!
Today, I was telling one of my coworkers about The Splendid Table, a radio broadcast/podcast about food and cooking that I enjoy listening to. Recently, they had done a segment on designing professional kitchens and the relationship between the chef, the business, and the space itself.
As I was talking, my coworker (herself with 30+ years in the business) and my boss started smirking and cut me off, saying "It's so cute that you still actually like listening to that stuff! Just wait- in a few years, you'll HATE hearing about food anytime you don't have to."
My boss laughed, "Yep- I'd give him six years and he'll be looking for a new field to work in..."
My coworker: "Pfft- ONE year!"
Obviously I was hurt, and it made me pretty damned angry. Here were my superiors in this job- charged with teaching me, training me, and guiding me- spitting on the passion and enjoyment of the food world that had brought me to this field in the first place, in an infuriatingly patronizing manner, and simultaneously DOUBTING my passion for the field.
Folks, not every one of my posts has a take-home lesson. I really try not to be that preachy, but if there is a lesson here, it is as follows:
DON'T DO THIS.
No matter what you do with yourself in life, there is more to success than passion. It takes hard work. It takes the ability to adapt, to learn, and re-apply. It takes imagination, fearlessness, and conviction.
Deep at the core, though- powering everything, sustaining you when everything else fails, and guiding you when all else is lost- is your passion.
That's the part of you that won't LET you quit, won't LET you accept the unacceptable.
It's the part of you that, rather than getting discouraged, tells you to Fail Faster.
It's the part of you that helps you give body and shape to your dreams.
It's the part of you that will not allow you to lay down and die.
You should absolutely listen to advice and guidance. Time does often come with experience, which frequently (though not always) comes with wisdom.
My boss and coworker are both very experienced people.
There are other experienced people I have talked to though. They've told me
"Don't let yourself get old."
"Don't lose your passion."
"When you want to quit, don't forget why you started."
It's important to learn what you can from everyone you meet- and it's just as important to learn to figure out when they are teaching you bull****.
There is a fire in the eyes of the passionate. Whether it's music, food, poetry, science, architecture, or whatever- when you give someone the chance to talk about their passion and to learn more about it, it is almost as if all the lights go on in their heads and their souls seem to glow.
Do not belittle anyone else's passion, and don't you dare apologize for your own.
I have no intent on doing so.
Good evening, friends and neighbors! This has been a busy last few weeks- there is a new menu on the website, and soon I will be adding a feedback page, where you can review your experiences with the Black Hat Bakery! Enjoyed a cake I made for you? Like what you read here? Soon, you'll be able to tell me- and everyone else- easily! Keep an eye out!
A while back, I assembled a basic booklist that every cook, culinary student, or pastry chef should have in their kitchen. You can find that list here, and I'm certain there will be more additions soon. Today, I began reading what might be the briefest, but most enlightening, entry on that list.
Good evening, friends and neighbors! Happy New Year to all!
I don't normally care so much for the actual EVENT of New Year as the things I do that evening/morning, and the people I share it with. This year was very different, and it forced me to reflect on the new year with a bit more introspection.
My day job is in one of the Atlantic City casinos (one of the ones still open and NOT up to its neck in debt) and New Year's Eve is a MAJOR money-maker for them. Lots of people showing up, eating, spending money, gambling, drinking, and then getting rooms so they can sleep it off conveniently. Therefore, the last two days have been balls-to-the-walls, all-hands-on-deck shifts, with mandatory overtime ordered- no one leaves till everything's done.
Obviously, being on day/swing shift, this messed with my New Year's Eve plans. The original plans involved a party with my parents, or at the very least a quiet night in with my girlfriend. My girlfriend unfortunately fell ill and cancelled, and I was way too tired from work to even consider going to a party- so this was the first New Year's Eve I could remember spending alone.
Just to be clear, I'm not complaining about my work inconveniencing me in celebrating a holiday. In the culinary industry, that's par for the course- we work holidays so that other folks can go out to eat somewhere nice on theirs. That's just the way it is.
My night alone generally seemed like living out a Tom Waits song, but the solitude got me looking back at the events of 2014, the events of that day and the months leading up, and what 2015 might bring.
2014 was a big year for me, professionally, and for the Black Hat Bakery.
I was inducted into the Chaine de Rotisseur, and was addressed as “chef”- unironically- for the first time at Roberta’s, where I helped in preparing my first Chaine dinner alongside Chef Joe Muldoon. I also catered my first wedding, and prepared desserts for my first Restaurant Gala.
I redid the Black Hat Bakery website, reimagined this blog and what it should contain, and added a host of new desserts and treats to my repertoire.
At the same time, 2014 brought me work at the casino.
While working at the casino has brought me money and security, it is not my ideal work or work environment. I find so much of my energy is consumed by the casino that I have difficulty finding time to focus and work on the things that I want to do, and mean the most to me. While my coworkers and some members of my management are good people, I still feel constrained and tethered to work that I can no longer find meaning in.
In this year, I have had to accept several facts about my employment:
1. My loyalty to the casino is misplaced, and certainly not reciprocated.
2. My career and advancement trajectory in the casino is nil.
and 3. The job is not likely to ever bring me closer to my goals. All it provides anymore is a paycheck.
I don't really do New Years resolutions- they are too much like aspirational statements and dreams than real goals. Instead, I am setting several goals, and I am determined to make them real within the coming year.
If I cannot find a new job closer to my ideals by May 1rst, I will quit the casino job and instead devote my time and energy to the Black Hat Bakery. Either way, come December 31rst, 2015, I will NOT be working at the casino, or any casino.
The Black Hat Bakery is the closest thing to my dream that I have, and I refuse to let neuroticism, fear, and doubt prevent me from making it the best it can be anymore. I have plans in the works to make this bakeworks in to something truly excellent.
As my grandfather used to say, "They may love it, or they may hate it- but they won't be able to ignore it."
2015 is promising to be very interesting. Keep your eyes open.
In the meantime-
About the Author
The Black Hat Baker, a.k.a. Matt Strenger, lives in SE Portland, Oregon as a professional baker. Here, Matt bakes, cooks, exercises, and explores, returning to his wife and their hobbit hole up Mt. Tabor to write about all of it.
Email the BHB at blackhatbakery(at)gmail(dot)com
Want to support the BHB and On The Bench? Click here!
The BHB Instagram