I Told My Chef “No”

angry chef pointing fingerI got the call. After two months outside of my favorite professional kitchen, after two months of existential uncertainty and genuine concern for the future of our industry and out collective lives, I got the call. I told my Chef “no”

Covid is still upon us. Last Friday, on May 8, 2020, our local leadership put the word out that certain non-essential businesses could begin a gradual re-opening, within a specific set of parameters. I had to get some groceries. The traffic was back to ridiculous. The parking lot at my grocer was full. The door was no longer regulated. There were entire families shopping again without masks. I am an imposing presence, so getting bumped into and stepped on aren’t usually a problem of mine. Not the same for others that were shopping. They were jostling an bumping into each other, without masks. I went to the gas station; the signs requiring masks for entrance were gone, and too many people were happy about that. I told my chef “no”.

A cook friend of mine texted me after Sunday’s Mother’s Day brunch:

“We got murdered…”

Three cooks, 289 covers, plus 80 full meals to go. 25% capacity.

The kitchen I am currently absent from is so small that contact avoidance is nearly impossible during our busiest times. That is not an exaggeration. Shoulders and hips bump constantly. Bellies bump into each other. Nether regions make contact (not in the good way). Sweat is shared. I told my Chef “no”.

I don’t fear pain or death. Innate knuckleheadedness and years of street life have deactivated that concern for me. However, I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend. I fear for others. I have no desire to learn-the hard way-that someone I love is susceptible to this illness. I have no desire to be the one responsible for that lesson. I told my Chef “no”.

I spent the first part of my taxpaying career in cubicle farms and behind desks. Corporate jargon, telephone headsets, break rooms, and useless meetings. Political correctness, break times, metrics, and birthday cards. “Go across the street to smoke that cigarette”. Don’t get me wrong, I flourish in the corporate environment. I’m good at everything I do, but, dammit, I’m a pirate! Thief, hooligan, thug, drunk, ruffian, door-kicker, debt collector, room-clearer, womanizer, and general piece of shit. I told my Chef “no”.

Last Monday, I put on a headset for the first time in 15 years to begin training in a cubicle farm.


I told my Chef “no”…


6 comments on “I Told My Chef “No”

nicko August 29, 2020
You did the right thing. I had no idea chef that you spent time in corporate. What type of work did you do?
    redbeerd cantu August 31, 2020
    I started selling long distance for THE long distance company after college in the mid-90s, when long distance phone companies where sending checks to customers for switching. A few years later, I found myself selling mortgage refinancing and home equity loans. I did taxes for car dealerships across the country, after selling them the tax preparation service and training them in use of the info processing software. PS.. I'm not a Chef...yet.
phaedrus August 29, 2020
Probably a wise move, but be careful in the cubicle farm. Some of them are pretty hard to social distance as well. My brother works in the disputes division for a big bank and just got authorization to work from home, which is awesome. My sister is a medical biller for medicade and has been on WFH for much of the year. Hopefully that's the future of work. For those with (and I mean no disrespect) 'bullshit jobs' that have a large computer and/or phone component, WFH makes a ton of sense for the worker and the company. If this trend starts to become standard, businesses could save a ton of money by not having any call centers (or just a very few) and not need to pay taxes, utilities, etc. Not needing to maintain (and of course purchase) ten big buildings would save money. For the employees a lot of carbon emissions would be eliminated by cutting out the commute and it would give them many hours of their lives back that are wasted sitting in traffic. Less traffic, less traffic deaths, less gasoline used, less heating oil for big buildings, etc all sound like a win. Will you have a WFH option, redbeerd?
macstrat August 30, 2020
You can take the cook out of the kitchen, but you cant take the kitchen out of the cook. You did what you had to do for your own well being. Sometimes that's not the easiest choice. I'm proud of you.
Seoul Food September 4, 2020
I'm happy for you that you were able to do this but unfortunately a lot of people in this industry just do not have that alternate work experience background to fall back on. The only issue I would have (as being someone who has had employees do this to me) is not really giving enough notice. If you weren't planning on returning anytime with Covid-19 active maybe it would have been better to just end the employment relationship early on so they had time to look for someone and not be playing catch up at the last minute. I know you have your own self and family to look out for and that's your right, it just sucks being on the receiving end. When stuff like that happens it forces everyone else to work longer, harder hours and shifts to compensate because they may not be able to do anything else. Again I know that is not your responsibility and a lot of that depends on your relationship with your work and co-workers.
Aqua_theCook2020 September 10, 2020
im proud of you too its all fun and games till you loose someone close to you from COVID-19

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