A Chef Reconsiders

Sometimes, on a dull-feeling day, maybe when I don’t have to be into the restaurant until later than usual, I start to ruminate over the good, the bad, and the unresolved feelings I have after 30 years as a chef. In moments like these, I begin to reflect: How did I get here? Have I really accomplished anything? Sure, I’m the Executive Chef of a large, usually busy restaurant. We have lots of regular customers who frequently praise the quality of our food and service. Is that enough? Am I enough? This business has provided for my…


The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya

Despite growing up with parents who were devoted members of Chögyam Trungpa’s Buddhist community in Boulder, I was never pressured to follow or even explore Buddhist teachers or leaders, and never found the call within myself to seek out a more formal relationship to the tradition. Sure, I was exposed to ceremonies, incense, colorful shrine rooms, and stories of Siddhartha, but I wasn’t instructed to pray, or made to think there was some ever-present higher power I had to locate outside myself. I’ll always consider that freedom from pressure a gift my parents gave me. We would do a chant…


It was Friday, March 13th, 2020, and I was about to leave the restaurant I’ve been the Executive Chef at for the last five years and head to LA for a three-day weekend. This was a trip I’d been excited about for some time, to see a friend that I had worked with twenty years ago and recently reconnected with. I was nervous. Not about seeing my friend (not exactly), but what I was feeling in the air all around me. In my thirty years as a chef, I have been through every imaginable challenge in the restaurant business, but…


Use the force, I heard in the back of my head. It was 4:30 in the morning on a day more than twenty years ago, and I had just walked/stumbled into my little one-room apartment and collapsed onto the bed. Tomorrow was going to be rough. I had a 7am shift setting up the lunch line for a busy Friday service. The restaurant was only a five-minute walk around the corner, but 2 hours of sleep was not enough. It was in this moment, head pounding, eyes scratchy and irritated from being open too long, that I had an idea…


As a young Sous Chef, Valentine’s Day presented me with the first big challenge of my career. When I created my first Valentine’s Day menu, our Executive Chef was out for the entire month of February, recovering from foot surgery, and I was tasked with creating our V-Day specials. I’d been helping to create our Daily Specials for well over a year, spending countless hours at the library reading cook books on my days off ( the Internet was not a thing yet ). But Valentine’s Day was the ultimate challenge: a day when you were called to do your…


Fire Kissed Flank Sizzles

Spicy Hips Move in Time… Heat

Hearts Throb all Night Long

Even months before the pandemic hit, I was searching for another creative outlet. I was a little burnt-out on food, as happens from time to time. Food is an art to me and sometimes I’m just not inspired. Thinking about food all day everyday can get tiresome. Usually I just sit back and wait for the inspiration to return.

I was having a flirtatious texting relationship with a woman I had recently connected with. We had a bunch of mutual friends, were both single parents…


It’s a dull-feeling day. I don’t have to be into the restaurant until 2, which throws me off a little. I’m usually there by 9am, at the latest. Lying in bed until almost 10, I don’t feel much enthusiasm… for anything. Business is slow, both because it’s January and because the ongoing pandemic continues to disrupt and change almost any plans we make. I need to start writing some menus for a virtual cloud kitchen concept we’re working on and I’ve been avoiding it for the last week. After 30 years as a chef, this is where I’m at? Writing…


Thinking back on the last thirty-plus years of my life in the restaurant business I can’t help but wonder: did I take the easy way out, or the hard way forward? I started bussing tables and washing dishes when I was sixteen because the service industry provided cash flow that most of my teenage friends didn’t have. It wasn’t easy on my social life. Often, I would show up so late to a party it would be winding down. (Then, my job was to take care of my wasted buddies!) Other times I would miss a special occasion altogether. At…


After high school I moved to Burlington, Vermont and landed a line cook job at a little bar-and-grill downtown, called Reuban James. The kitchen manager was a rotund hippy who wore tie dyes, smoked a lot of weed. and when he wasn’t in the kitchen had a side arm strapped to his waist. Mike (“Mikesta” as we called him), was a real character. He introduced me to “Safety Meetings,” Everyday, right before we opened for lunch, we would adjourn to the alley and get high. Apparently, this would ensure that nothing went wrong and would all be safe! Mikesta had…


A deep fog hangs in the air this morning. It’s the morning after a snowfall, the sun revealing the last few flakes lingering in the air. It feels like a good day coming. Frosted trees have always brought me a sense of peace. And now, turning the key and walking into the empty restaurant, I smell the fragrant aroma of the beef stock that’s been simmering overnight, coaxing out the deep flavors of the roasted bones, wine, herbs and mirepoix. There’s something about being the first one in the kitchen that gives me solace. No one waiting to ask me…

Chef Paolo Neville

Executive Chef and author with 30 + years in the service industry. I have two amazing sons and a passion for food and the restaurant industry.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store