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 a take-out food menu to send to people I’ll never meet? I won’t get to go out to the table and see the smiles that the fruits of my labor have created, and so it just feels sterile. I’m ready for the world to open back up. I’m not particularly sad or depressed. I just can’t get myself pumped up.

It’s moments like these that 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 two boys. They are loved and cared for, and have a roof over their heads; they’re happy and well. But I’m never sure if I can keep them truly safe. The teenage son of a good friend of mine ended up in the ER yesterday for the second time in the last few weeks. It seems he and his buddies have developed an appetite for Xanax. It scares the shit out of me. My boys have yet to get into anything dangerous and I’m grateful for that. I spent a good portion of my teenage years and twenties ingesting whatever drugs and alcohol were put in front of me. It’s a wonder I never ended up in the ER or jail.

I guess all I can do is offer support to my friend. And love my boys a little harder. Be an example they want to live up to.

But I ask myself again about this word, success. What does it actually mean? I’ve been through some struggles and I’m still here. We’ve managed to keep the restaurant afloat through this pandemic and it looks like we’ll make it at the end of the day. Also, I continue to create. I’m writing for the first time in my life, with a book on the way. I’ve launched a YouTube channel with cooking demonstrations. I’ve started this blog in the hopes of reaching out to others in this difficult time, and of getting noticed. Moving out of my comfort zone and pushing through feels good. Helping both the people and the business I love feels great. But I keep looking for that elusive answer to the definition of success. When will I feel that I am enough? I know in my heart that the answer must be that I am. I am enough (we all are). Yet I still have my doubts.

So today I’ll try to change my context. I won’t try to define what I’m doing, or quantify it. I’ll just try to bring more value to the lives of the people around me, be extra kind and helpful. I am able to do this. I’ll keep following my passions, new and old. I won’t forget for a moment that my boys love me and that I’m in love with this business and this restaurant family that has held me up through the years.

So, in fact, yes: sounds like success to me.

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.

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