« The Professional Edge | Main | Le Bernardin: How to Butcher Bluefin Tuna (Kindai) »

October 12, 2008



My first thought after the first words was that if Gordon Ramsay heard stuff like this, he'd launch into a half an hour tirade that most definitely wouldn't be possible to show before ten o'clock without a ton of bleeping :)


Perfection is unattainable. We all know this, but yet we strive for it. We'll say "oh, I'm just trying to be almost perfect", but even that doesn't exist. We clutter our minds with the things that we've done wrong, yet instantly forget those that we've done right. Perhaps it's because we've trained ourselves to say "OF COURSE it should be right". But the truthful fact is that there are very few people in this world that will build us up and legion that will rip us down, even if not intentionally or with malice.

So when I find myself trapped in that spiral with the wrenched stomach and the fitful nights of poor sleep and those horrible mood swings, I take stock. I say "what I have I done correctly and better than anyone else around me?" And it helps, it really does.


My own personal mantra in situations like this is: "Will it matter in 50 years?" I fully admit that it doesn't always help, but it's a good starting place.

Of course, on the other side... there are those occasional meals which WILL be remembered in 50 years (I wrote about one in my own blog a week or so ago), but I can only imagine remembering famously good or fabulously horrible meals--and either way at least they're remembered, right? ;-)

Good luck!

Michael Laiskonis

My two cents...

That is perhaps one of the best descriptions I've read of being "in the weeds".

I've been known to say, "At the end of the day, it's just food." But the emphasis is indeed on the first part of that phrase.

At some point you come to realize, that when it needs to be about the food, nothing else matters. That's when the stress becomes fuel. You're controlling it rather than it crushing you. You switch to right-brain mode and everything else slips away.

And it's all about the process- learning it, getting it right, no matter how long it takes. That is the true reward.


You'll get into the groove soon enough and you're defintely not too....fill in the blank.
Our favorite saying was.."we're not saving lives, we're serving food" Hang in there, this too shall pass...


Oh, and a favorite quote of mine from Emerson:

Finish every day and be done with it. For manners and for wise living it is a vice to remember. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. To-morrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.


I have a colleague who panics. I have to say that it gets everyone edgy. I keep telling her to zen out because at the end of the day, what are we doing? Saving lives? We're secretaries for crying out loud.

I hope that someday? She gets it.


Hi Amy,
Hang in there, the weeds get even the best of us :) And you're not too old! Ellen

josh smith

i admire you! don't give up and don't take it too seriously (all the time...)


Wait a minute, everyone...

It's not "just food"...

What Amy is talking about here is a contract. Both written and unwritten.

I'm a musician, and remember distinctly sitting up in my digs 'til 4am (and even later on some nights) trying to write out the music for a show I was doing, ready for next day's rehearsals and/or performances. It was a NIGHTMARE - or at least it would have been if I'd actually been able to sleep! It seemed to go on for weeks - every day and every rehearsal brought more edits, changes and re-writes of the music.

One night after rehearsal I went to the car park near my digs to get my briefcase and begin the long night's work. The stage manager of the show was standing outside having a cigarette. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Oh, just starting another long night's work to try to get this music ready for tomorrow," I replied. "But it's only a pantomime..." he said.

Only a pantomime? True, the show was "only" a pantomime. But it was a professional show, fully advertised and sponsored, and with ticket sales already having given us several sell-out nights. What was I to do? Abandon the work? Just go to bed? Not bother? So when the public turn up, having paid for their tickets, and hear either sub-standard or no music, I can just stand up and say, "Ah... but it's only a pantomime!"? No, of course not!

When you're under contract to deliver, you deliver! It's your JOB to deliver - on time and to a good standard. When you have customers in the restaurant who are paying for their meals and expecting good service, you DO YOUR JOB, no matter how much effort or stress you're under. It's your contractual duty.

If you can't handle it, then you need to re-negotiate your contract. I'm not saying that we never need assistance or that employers are always delicately considerate, but if the job needs to be done it ought to get done, and done to a good standard.

What the stage manager had really said to me that night was, "It's only a contract of employment..." Now that sheds a different light on stuff, no? If it's "only" a contract of employment, then the "only" thing I have to worry about is losing my freakin' job!

Good luck, Amy. Sometimes a little stress and pressure enhances your performance! :-)

VA Refinance

Great psot Im so glad that I found this blog you have some great info keep them coming.

Sara Goldrath

Don't worry, after this week you'll have a nice relaxing Sunday with me! We can bitch together :)

girl cook in paris

What a great post. You have clearly expressed what I have so painfully experienced myself. I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN! No exaggeration. I don't know why these things happen to otherwise normally competent people! Hang in there. I think it's really mostly about getting used to the new job & all the stress with being the new one on the block. This is the first time I've responded to anything on your blog, but I love your work! A bientôt!


Well, it *is* just food. But everything in life is "just" something. OK, maybe with the exception of surgery. But really, most of the things we stress over are pretty unimportant if you view them in the totality of your life. And food IS just food. No matter how great it tastes, or how beautiful it looks on the plate, it ends up in the same condition as the 79¢ burrito from Taco Bell.

The difference is that you've made a commitment to deliver your food to a certain criteria, and of course you feel pressure to meet those expectations. That's why people are in your restaurant. Just like writers stress over every spelling and grammatical error that escapes their eagle eyes, and builders bemoan every crooked nail and paint splatter. We know that in 50 years it won't matter, but in the moment, it DOES matter.

The challenge is in finding the balance between impossible perfection and acceptable quality, and enjoying the effort. When you're not having any fun, when you don't want to go back, not just one day, but any day, then it's time to find something else to do.

Doesn't sound like you're there yet. Sounds like you're in a new place, learning new routines, working with new people and going through the frustration of knowing that you can do better. You will, of course, and then you'll look back at this post and laugh at yourself.

Have a Manhattan Glaze (still working on that recipe!), kick your clogs off, and take a deep breath. You'll be fine...


It was sage advice, but not quite what you want to hear when you feel like you're in the weeds.

Hang in there... eventually everything will click and you'll be working as if you've been a pro all your life.

Ms. Glaze

Martin – I'm not sure I understsand your comment! You mean Gordon Ramsey would find my post a bunch of bullshit or he'd be screaming in my face making my neurosis worse?

Drago – You're absolutely right. I never have truly focused on the positive during these nightmare-ish moments. It's a hard thing to do in the middle of it all, but a great way to round out the evening and start the new day.

Robert – I've always gone with the: will it matter in 20 years? philosophy but, I think adding another 30 to that makes it more palatable ;-)

Chef Laiskonis – You're right about switching to the right brain mode. It's hard sometimes when so many egos are in play and insecurity weighs in. But, I must say, your pastry creations are an inspiration (as is your blog) and I am truly flattered by your comment. A demain.

Marla – "This shall pass too" – sage advice. Maybe that will be my next tattoo – on the back of my hand so I can remind myself every 30 seconds.

Drago (again!) – Love the Emerson quote. I've always felt that service is service and when it's over it's over. I try not to let it carry on to the next day. But, when you're tired it's difficult. One day flows into the next without a true break inbetween. Thanks for the encouraging reminder...

JChevais – There's nothing worse than knowing that your chi is off and not being able to fix it. It DOES stress out everyone around and it IS annoying. But I think being cognizant of the problem is the key...hopefully your co-worker will get that eventually... ;-)

Ellen – Thanks for that!!! I turn 35 in 2 weeks so the stakes are ever increasing!!! It's not the age, it's the mileage baby – it's the mileage!

Josh Smith – Staying positive and keeping your sense of humor amidst total chaos is important. I haven't mastered it, but hopefully by the time I retire I'll have achieved faking it professionally....

Gordon – As a former professional actor/director/teacher I can fully relate to your story. The show will be ready when the curtain goes up. Perhaps a bad dress rehearsal means a great opening night?!?!?! And yes, a little stress and adrenaline does go a very, very long way. Thank God.

VA Refinance - Thanks! Merci bien! Thanks for your note!

Sara – To my old drama student who is now a college student. I'll see you this weekend, but I"m not buying you beer :-). Be prepared to sing me your newest song...

Girl in Paris – Hope you're holding up in Paris. I don't know where you're working, but if you're cooking in France, trust me, I know what you're going through...thanks for your comment et bon courage avec tout!

SAS – What can I say, your comment kind of hit my heart like an arrow. I know you've been commenting on this blog for years, but it never ceases to amaze me how you read between the lines. Thanks for this, I'm up for the Glazed Manhattan and also for not being the new kid on the block again...

Angela – No advice is sage advice when your in you're in the weeds especially from people who are younger and faster and quicker. But, at the end of the day, it's all a learning process. The day we stop learning is the day we die. BUT, I still hate being in the weeds...


It's just... (fill in the blank). Yep, I know something about pressure, panic and deadlines. The sense of losing the moment and then... Good grief... mistakes. It's miserable when it's happening. Hoping, hoping it gets better! Het


I empathize- totally. When things don't go right in the kitchen I get very cranky and prickly. I take it personally and feel like a failure (and with gluten-free allergy-free cooking this is a common outcome!). My husband always says to me, It's just food. It's just a muffin. And I know this, intellectually. But inside my gut I feel like I have somehow let everyone down.

No one is as hard on us as we are on ourselves.

Bob delGrosso

This works overcome the anxiety that is dogging you and, if you practice it every day, you will learn to float above yourself while your body does the grunt work of cooking.
The day before you go to work, find a quiet spot, close your eyes and imagine yourself at work and doing everything you know you need and want to do. Imagine all the sounds and smells of the kitchen: make everything real and be sure to imagine that you are happy and smiling.

I swear it works.


So....then what happened, Amy? How did everything turn out?


Ah, the aches, the pains, the weeds of coming that much closer to true MASTERY! What have you done with those gems of knowledge? Awareness of your shortcomings makes you smarter/sharper/better -- fundamental keys to the making of the exceptional!

Love your blog, take heart - hang in there, it's supposed to feel like this when you care deeply about your craft.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blogher Ad Network


Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 10/2005