“I heard she’s only a cook…”

This weekend I heard a comment that someone had made about me. It went, “I heard she’s only a cook. When I’m thirty I’m going to have a really successful job.” My first thought was “Oh the blissful ignorance of youth.” Actually, that’s total bullshit. The first thing I thought was an incredibly mean (but funny) prediction for their future that sounded very similar to the Against Me! song, Thrash Unreal. ”  But anyway, that’s not the point. The point is it got me thinking about my job. Which made me think about my day yesterday.

Last night I decided to make apple dumplings for Thomas, and a friend of his showed up with a girl I don’t really know. As soon as she walked in the kitchen she said, “Oh God, this smells like my Great Aunt’s kitchen. I love it!” It started a conversation where she told me about learning to cook from her Aunt and some of her favorite recipes. I learned more about this girl in the 15 minutes I puttered around the kitchen that I would have over a whole night at the bar.

Then, I got to hear how my friends Great Grandma would always make apple pie on special holidays. You could see by the smile on his face that he was enjoying that memory. It was the most personal comment I’ve heard him make about himself to date. It wasn’t much, but it was cool to see.

Finally it was time to eat, and it was damn good. The four of us sat outside on the porch, with the twinkly lights and the sound of crickets in the warm evening air. (I know it sounds really dorky, but the South in the spring really is like a movie.)

I didn’t change any lives last night, I’m aware of that. But because of the skills I’ve learned from my job as a cook, I was able to make food for people and get to know them a little better. Cook for someone and you do more than feed them. It’s a way to show a person you value them. That they’re worth taking time out of your day to prepare something for. And you open up the conversation for people to talk about food and the role it has played in their life.  An excuse to talk about a memory that would otherwise seem strange to bring up in casual conversation.

Being a cook is hard work, and you’re not exactly raking in the Benjamins. You sweat, get callouses, cut yourself, constantly burn yourself, get dirty and work your ass off. You can forget going to any party, concert or event that is happening on a Friday or Saturday night. I can only imagine how it looks to someone from the outside. I can see that to most people a job selling insurance or working in a cubicle sounds like a much better way to pay rent.

What an outsider doesn’t understand is the passion that goes into cooking. The creativity, fun, challenge and straight up joy you get when you prepare something kick ass for people. (And I’m not even mentioning the fun you have with the guys  you’re working the line with.) On top of that, you get to take those skills home and share them with your family and friends.

Each day I go to work I do something I love, I learn something new and I feel more confident and competent at my trade. Every day I get to be creative,  spontaneous and work with amazing people that improve the quality of my life.

I’m not sure what other people’s definition of success is, but as far as I’m concerned I feel pretty damn successful….

  1. Liz commented on May 17th, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    this is awesome – and i couldn’t agree with you more. I hear time and time again of how much you and your food is able to touch people and effect them in a very real way. You’re an artist, for sure and as you grow with your knowledge and skill with food – i can’t wait to see what you will have to contribute to this world, our taste buds, our tummys and out hearts!

  2. Christy commented on May 18th, 2010 at 2:10 am

    OMG Melanie!
    You’re a cook!?! That’s so awesome! What a great way to use your talents and creativity in a very interactive and hands-on way… great career choice! I wish I could come to your restaurant! I put this blog on my “favorites” list so I can figure out what you are up to :-) But it sounds like you’ve found a place and a job that you really love… congrats!

  3. Erika commented on August 19th, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Love it!

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