If you’ve followed this blog since day one, you know I tend to get wordy. Subject matter is erratic- from a 1,300 word diatribe about where to shit in public, to a 2,200 word Q&A with Jeremy Johnson of Meta, I, in particular, have a propensity to push your attention span to the limit, and, more often than not, break the levee.
This post will be no different; for that, for once, I don’t apologize. This isn’t an inspirational entry. This will be void of my typical arrogance and snark. Maybe you’ll keep reading. It’s possible you’ll find something useful here. Maybe you’ll relate. I hope not.
This post will be what writing used to be, for me; therapy.
At 19 years old, I discovered I was going to be a father. Well, I discovered I was going to have a son. How ready I was to be an actual FATHER is up for debate. I had been cooking for a few years, and had three choices- Take It Serious, Go Back To School, Be A Complete Fuck Up. As you can probably guess, I chose Option One. It didn’t come without a healthy dose of Option Three.
I got drunk EVERY NIGHT. I don’t mean I went drinking every night. I got DRUNK. I was in denial. Sure, I paid all the bills, somehow. I wasn’t present, though. I worked my $10/hr job. I worked multiple $10/hr jobs. Erin was a good mom, and remains one to this day. I owe her a debt of gratitude- my son grew up well rounded, caring, and sensitive to other’s feelings. He has learned much of what he needs to know about life from his mother, and it doesn’t damage my pride to admit that.
When Brayden was two, things hit a breaking point. Erin and I fucking HATED each other. I left her for another woman. A woman I now share a child with, who is my life partner. It hasn’t been without it’s share of drama, and I’ve fucked that up a million times, too. That’s a story for another day. A long one, at that.
The Erin Thing wasn’t entirely my fault, though much of it was. She lacked empathy. She was a raucous asshole. Still is, if we’re being honest. I was selfish. Still am- IF we’re being honest. I’m a bit narcissistic. I’m always the smartest person in the room, even when I’m not. I don’t lose arguments, even when I do. It’s what makes me a good business man, a mediocre chef, and a shit significant other.
Ever seen Thank You For Smoking? There was a line in that movie that grabbed me. It didn’t so much change my tactics, it just validated and improved them.
“You don’t have to prove you’re right, you only need to prove they’re wrong.”
This is how I operate. It’s a flaw, and I’m working on it (kind of).
The thing about the restaurant industry is this- the further you rise, the more you work. The more you work, the further you rise. It’s a never ending cycle, and, to the point I’ve reached, it hasn’t changed.
There’s always “some day”.
It’s well documented that our wages are shit. Average salary for a chef in this city is in the neighborhood of $42,000 a year, which probably means you have a 60 hour work week, if you’re lucky. Peak hours are opposite of “normal” hours. I learned this the hard way.
At 21 years, I took my first “chef” position. It ended poorly. I was canned within 6 months, as any 21 year old Head Chef likely would be. I had two choices at that juncture, and I can summarize them this way- 610 Magnolia Dishwasher, Hammerheads Kitchen Manager.
I followed the money. I had “bills” to pay.
This move was indicative of the rest of my career, until recently. I ALWAYS followed the money. I’m largely self taught- I worked for a few great chefs, but not that many. I read. I watch documentaries. I fuck things up. I consistently employ people far more talented than I. I ask questions. I watch. I’m a workaholic, now, but in reality- I’m not a great CHEF.
Things could have been different, a million times over. I could have taken that opportunity with Nick Sullivan at 610. I could have quit cooking and gone to school. I could’ve continued down a path of crime. I could have worn a condom, or said “yes” when she asked me if I wanted her to have an abortion.
I didn’t, and here we are. I own a restaurant, and if you asked me 10 years ago how I thought that would go, I’d have given you a whole different answer than the one I’d offer today.
To be clear, I regret nothing. I am who I am today because of my choices. I love my son. He’s a fucking genius, and I don’t mean that in the way most parents say it. I don’t say it with adoration, or amazement; I say it very matter-of-factly. Brayden is brilliant, and he can ACTUALLY be anything he wants in this world. He has Driskell intelligence, with Paulin reasoning. His mother’s body type body type with Paulin Logic. He’s a bookworm. He has Paulin sense of humor with his mother’s sensitivity. He possesses what his mother lacks- empathy. He possesses what I lack- selflessness. He is quite literally the best version of his mother and I that we ever could have hoped for.
And he’s moving away.
Erin told me in October, less than a month before I opened my (very behind schedule) restaurant. I was hurt, but not surprised. For years, she put her love life on hold, for whatever reason hoping against hope that I’d “come to my senses” and “be with her”. Hoping we would be a family. In reality, we weren’t meant to be- we both know it, though I figured it out much quicker than she.
She’s moving to make her new relationship work. I don’t begrudge her that. She deserves some happiness. I have put her through a lot. She makes excuses- “Brayden will have so many opportunities”, or “I want him to grow up where I did”. It’s mostly bullshit, but, really, I don’t blame her.
Her new guy (Boyfriend? Fiance?) is some sort of app developer. I don’t really know what he does. I’ve never cared to ask. I prefer to think of him as a douche, but he’s probably really nice. He’s probably responsible, knows his boundaries, and isn’t out to “replace” me.
Not that he could. Self deprecating as I am, I am actually a good father (now). I don’t see Brayden as much now that Mirin is open. I’m really tired. I put in anywhere from 60-100 hours per week. Hours outside “the norm” are no longer a thing- I work ALL of the hours. But, when we do see each other, my world stops. I’m not on my phone, tending to my daughter, or thinking about work- I’m hanging out with my kid. The dude who taught me that it was time to be a man.
Talk about bad timing- my son is moving away, I’m working more than EVER, and though I knew he was going, even before he did, I didn’t get to cherish these moments.
I’m really fucking sad. I hurt in a way I didn’t know possible. I was selfish. I followed my passion, which was never parenting. My own decisions led me here. There is no one left to blame, no arguments I can win by proving someone else is wrong. I’ve always wanted to succeed, if only for my own ego. I no longer have a choice.
Success is the only option. If I fail, I’ve laid waste to everything I’ve discovered I care about. If I fail, I’ve failed more than just myself. I’ve wasted valuable time- time that could have been spent doing what was important. I crave success now, for different reasons.
I can’t lose. Still, I might. And, if I do?
These are the decisions I made.
Editors Note: This was a heartfelt, opinion piece. The opinions in this piece in no way reflect the opinions of KitchenBanter, it’s contributing writers, or lack of sponsors. This is in no way meant to be a picture perfect portrayal of Miss Brayden’s Mother, or the Louisville restaurant industry as a whole.
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