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Living the Dream

April 1, 2012

Last November I started a job as a SQL Server developer doing ETL for the company’s Data Warehouse. It is a pretty good job and there are many things I like about it, but I am not as happy as I thought I would be. It is a large company and there is a lot of the typical politics and red tape that goes along with that. I started to think about finding a new position, but realized that it would most likely be the same thing in a different place. I enjoy technology and I am starting to get involved in the SQL Server community, but I decided to take a hard look at what I really enjoy in life. I enjoy spending time with my family, I enjoy reading, I enjoy running, and after last year I can truly say that I enjoy cooking. When I head in to the kitchen and put together a meal that I know I (and others) will enjoy it is calming. There can be stress related to getting the meal done just right, but everything else fades away while I am working on a delicious creation.

It was this realization that led me to take a big step in changing my career. I decided that I would take the oft heard advice and “Do What I Love.” The money will follow, right?

I decided to become a professional chef. With my lack of experience I knew it would be difficult to get into a kitchen at a good restaurant. My skills are very much at an amateur level, but there was one place I knew all the recipes on the menu and had cooked them at least once. I decided I would give Mitch and Cynthia a call and ask if they would let me work at Hell’s Kitchen. To be honest I didn’t know if I would be able to handle the pace of a professional kitchen or be able to learn things quickly enough, but I wanted to give it a try. I had to do something to escape being trapped in a Dilbert cartoon for the rest of my life.

After my big party last year Mitch joked that I could cook in his kitchen any time I wanted to. Time to see if he was serious.

Long story short – He was serious and after signing a bunch of legal papers and getting some kitchen clothes I was put on the line for a trial period. For the last week instead of going in to my SQL Server job I have been going in to work and train at Hell’s Kitchen as a line chef.  Hell’s Kitchen has a reputation in the Twin Cities for being a great place to work and after just one week I can see why. It is hard work, but it has also been a blast. Everyone there is willing to help me out and point out when I am doing things wrong. Boy, do they like pointing out when I am doing things wrong. I’ve developed a lot of bad habits cooking in solitude, but they are whipping me into shape.Even with all the hard work and the heat of the kitchen there is always a feeling of levity. People enjoy working here. What we are doing is creating great food and the audience for this creation renews itself about every two hours. It is incredibly rewarding to listen to all the compliments about the food and know that I had some small part in making it.

My shifts so far have been the “easy” ones according to everyone else. Weekdays get a burst around lunch time, but I am usually heading out as things really start to pick up for dinner. In a couple months Steve says I might be ready to work during brunch. The other day I cooked over ten dozen eggs during lunch just for all of the Huevos Rancheros being ordered. I’ve been assured that this is nothing compared to a brunch day. I can hardly wait.

It’s definitely a strange new journey I have started on and I’m not exactly sure where it will take me, but I am having the time of my life.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2012 11:56 am

    Wow! You fooled me big time on this one, even though I’m really late for April Fool’s Day. Keep on living the dream!

  2. lhertzel permalink
    April 3, 2012 10:38 am

    My favorite part of this post (besides the photographic proof) was the line that says you “signed a bunch of legal papers” before you started working in a kitchen.

    • April 3, 2012 10:58 am

      Those Kitchens are very dangerous places. Lots of liability issues.

  3. Cyn & Mitch permalink
    April 2, 2012 7:56 am

    Liar liar pants on fire! All in good fun, Mike. Hope you had a blast playing chef 😉 cyn

    • April 2, 2012 2:42 pm

      I had a blast and thanks for helping me live my dream for a few minutes last week.

  4. April 1, 2012 8:54 pm

    WAIT A SECOND, it’s April Fool’s Day.

    Snap. I fell for it, didn’t I?

    • April 2, 2012 2:46 pm

      You are not the only one. Thanks for believing it could be true.

  5. April 1, 2012 8:41 pm

    Your pants caught on fire? *cough, cough* That’s a story that must be told. Hope you’re okay now.

    Anyway, I’m so happy for you! That sounds like one of the best jobs in the world, and I hope you continue to grow and improve there. Give Cynthia and Mitch my best– they sound like great people. Someday I’ll come visit, and test your cooking/Hell’s Kitchen’s hospitality for myself.

    • April 2, 2012 2:43 pm

      As Cyn has pointed out the pants on fire story is the one you just read.

  6. Enrique permalink
    April 1, 2012 7:45 pm

    Mike,
    You insipre the rest of us who have a dream and want to fulfill it, Last night I sang in front of 250 or so guest at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Gala, it was a bit odd since I sang during dinner and felt more like i was back ground music, but it felt right!..Maybe, I will continue to read your blog and continue to get inspired!…..Congratulations and Sandra and I can’t wait to go and enjoy dinner there soon!!…

    • April 2, 2012 7:34 am

      Enrique, I hope your story is true, but I am alas only Fooling.

  7. Dad permalink
    April 1, 2012 4:55 pm

    Your Mom & I know about living your dreams. That’s why we’re planning to liquidate all our savings and buy a place in Hawaii when I retire next week!

  8. Cyn & Mitch permalink
    April 1, 2012 3:15 pm

    Mike, the guys love having you but you’re right; it’ll be awhile before they let you step into the busy brunch weekend…it’s NUTS there on weekends. But all in all they say you’ve picked up the pace a bit since that first day when you couldn’t find your ass with your hands, and even the line cooks that were rolling their eyes at your those first few days now have a nice healthy respect for you, especially how well you came back even after that day your pants caught on fire. (Hope you’re better now…are you going to write about it?)
    Take care; it’s fun having you here in Hell.
    Cyn and Mitch

    • April 1, 2012 3:53 pm

      I was going to write about the fire, but I wanted to give the incident some time so I thought it was funny. (I still can’t sit down.)

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