This is my fridge.
As a food lover and sometimes food writer, I have not bought groceries from a Harris Teeter or Whole Foods, let alone a farmers market, since late July. This empty shell reflects the sorry state of my kitchen.
How did I get here? Having found myself at a work-life crossroads, I decided to take a break from my teaching career to follow my passion for food, restaurants, and cooking by embedding myself in the four-star world of Restaurant Eve.
For the past six weeks as a server, I’ve been memorizing mother sauces. Sampling veloutes. Learning about aigre-doux, nage, and elixer. I’ve been admiring tarte tatin. Sneaking bites of mission fig or ciabatta bread and sampling habañero sauces on the side. I’ve been wishing I could sharpen my own knives with a stone, like the chefs on the line.
I am also learning more about wine without tasting it. And I’m being trained on how to “coddle the guests,” as mixologist and General Manager Todd Thrasher requires of the people who work for Meshelle and Cathal Armstrong‘s Eat Good Food Group.
I’ve also met a crew of extremely hard working people who are so passionate about food they’ve dedicated their lives to it, for 60 hours or more a week. There’s Justin, a server making his own cheese in his spare time. There’s Jeremy, the chef de cuisine, who moved to the area after working at Per Se. There’s Amanda, a server whose knowledge of food and farmers and trends is encyclopedic. There’s the unflappable Leonard, who just passed the first sommelier exam along with Guy, a server who got hitched on a Sunday, his day off. There’s Chrissy, the manager whose library of food books might not fit in an 800-square-foot apartment.
And of course, there’s Thrasher and the Armstrongs. You may have heard about them. They are everywhere in food news.
On a personal level: Since my working hours have changed from days to nights, I’ve found it a little isolating, since it’s challenging to keep in touch with friends. Dating seems next to impossible. I can’t get used to not waking up at 7 a.m., yet I’m going to sleep at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. I drink an eighth of the booze I used to. I’m always standing.
And I wolf down beautiful staff meals. Instead of luxuriating over food as I had the privilege of doing in my past life, eating has become a furtive act. It’s fuel. It’s nourishment. Food has become a work of art, as evidenced by guys on the line who stack and assemble, dress, and garnish. I fantasize about my old relationship with dishes and drinks. I am constantly hungry. It is humbling.
Maybe someday I’ll visit the farmers market with the intention of cooking. Or maybe I’ll hit up a Whole Foods to stock my fridge. In the meantime — with the blessing of the Armstrongs, who have granted me permission to write with candor — I’m learning about food in a new way and passing some observations along.