I started out my culinary adventures busting suds for a restaurant in my hometown, and from there the homicidal chef taught me to make salads and finally hot foods. An odd assortment of strange characters assured me this was the world for me. No running off to join the circus for this young lad, my destiny was to be found in the freakish family which would be come to be known to me as “Restaurant People.” Maniacal chefs, egotistic managers, sexy waitresses, drug dealing bus boys, and the legion of pot washing, shrimp peeling, meatball rolling minions of the back of the house. The rest as they say is history. Once I realized I had taken it a far as I could on my own I needed to up my game. A friend suggested I go to the CIA. When I told them I had no interest in become a kitchen spy they informed my naïve ass that I should enroll at the Culinary Institute of America. So I trotted off to cooking school for two years of studying under even more maniacal chefs who probably should never be allowed to use knives outside of the school. But what an education! I was at the top culinary university in the nation, learning the dynamics, science, and art of cooking and culinary management. After years of working for chefs with vein bulging foreheads that seemed in a constant state of sublime irritation, and two years of continuing that line of abuse at school I was ready for the real world of foodservice.
The time had come for me to fine tune the skills and knowledge I has acquired and I wanted to go straight to the top. Thats how I ended up with my first position as a tournant at Windows on the World on top of the World Trade Center in NYC. Look Ma, I’m on top of the world! Or so I thought. The prestige and honor that puffed my chest with pride at landing a tournant position on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center was soon deflated when I learned just what exactly a tournant was. It’s French for to turn, and I guess it translates to every other cook takes a turn kicking you around until the next newbie comes along. You so all the scrub work for the other line cooks. Every day the first task of the new tournant is to chop the parsley for everyone else in the kitchen. You get handed a huge bag filled with the curly green garnish and take them to your cutting board along with two of your largest knives and commence chopping until you think your wrists are broken. That huge shrub bush of a garnish you were handed is now a finely cut brick of chopped green vegetation. Then commissioned into cheesecloth, strained and broken into 15 separate cups. I still have a vivid memory of the time someone new started and I was given the honor of handing the newbie the bag of cumbersome curlies complete with instructions. And I was one of the fifteen recipients as I was awarded my own station. Saucier, the one who gets to sauté veal, chicken, shrimp, and liver an make the appropriate sauce. Oh happy day!
Chopping parsley was only one thankless newbie tournant job. The list went on and on. The position of tournant was actually created to cover any station left unmanned because of a day off or a sick out. One day sauté, one day roast, maybe one day the veggie or fish cook etc. Thats what they taught us at CIA at least, what some jobs call a swing shift. But it is in reality it is the “legal” term for a line cook. We were all tournants which gave the chef autonomous power to place us wherever the hell he or she wanted us to be with no time limit as to how long we worked it. It’s a tool for the chef to use to place you wherever he decides for any purpose he desires, including discipline. If you screwed up you can ret assured you will work a few days in Garde Manger, (gar-mah- zhay) which is the cold kitchen. Hours a day breading veggies, skewering meat, cutting lettuce, or making dressings. Low level Garde Manger is tedium at its finest. Your day over in the cold kitchen starts even worse than parsley. You begin with separating a minimum of 30 dozen eggs by hand. The whites go to the pastry dept and the yolks are to make gallons of mayonnaise and pounds of hollandaise. From there its on to some long and repetitive chore that uses little to no knowledge acquired. Garde Manger is the McJob of the restaurant world. Its tournant torture! I spent way too much time there in the beginning and learned quickly get things done right or cover my ass.
But it wasn’t all bad, not by a long shot. Maybe it was because of the high level of ass busting and the pressure of getting over a thousand meals served in 4 hours or maybe just experiencing the same culinary drudgery but a camaraderie developed that rivals the most prestigious fraternity. The other cooks have your back and would give the chef coat off their backs if it wasn’t so sweat soaked. And I would do the same for them. The line, the area of cooks stations with stove tops, was about 800 degrees hot with eight ranges blasting constant heat. Either way, in my two years working at Windows I learned more than I would ever learn anywhere and it set me on a course which would eventually find me as an executive chef, complete with high stress level and mandatory vein popping forehead. I was certain I was headed for one of the top chef positions in the city, or at least a real good ‘B‘ level chef job.
Back then I knew everything. Now I am older, not much wiser, and instead of the top of the world cheffing I have become a baker. Making cupcakes day after day, specializing in cold food. Not quite as tedious as Garde Manger, but still Karmic revenge. Yes Karmic revenge served to me as it should be, COLD!. That’s right, revenge is a dish absolutely best served cold, after you’ve had time to make your plans. But I did misspoke when I said karmic revenge, as there is no such thing as revenge in Karma. Revenge is a human emotion. So what then of Karma??? Well here’s my take.
Karma. Its something many of us say that we believe in. I myself say I believe in Karma but I feel it has gotten a bad rap these days. Many people believe Karma to be the universe exacting revenge, but revenge in and of itself is a negative. Karma focuses on the positive. I hear people say things like “ There can’t be any true karma because bad people get away with shit and good people get shit on.” That has nothing to do with Karma guys, that’s life. Karma isn’t payback for doing wrong or reward for doing right. Doing the right thing is its own reward and Karma is just the positive energy that goes along with it. That’s how it get its bad rap, because lack of Karma is negative energy, not bad Karma. It’s the law of attraction that confuse good Karma with bad. The more positive you and your actions are the more positive energy will be attracted to you and vice versus for the negative. The universe isn’t sitting there waiting to get revenge, that goes against everything that’s good about Karma. If you choose to do the right thing because you want good Karma to reward you don’t hold your breath because Karma doesn’t work on demand. When something bad happens don’t wish bad Karma on the person that screwed you because your just festering negative energy. Let the universe take care of things. You may not see it but lack of Karma will surround negative acts with negative energy. Concentrate on keeping your life positive. Distance yourself from negative people and embrace positive people. Walk away from negative energy and walk head first into the positive. No one should need a religion to tell them how to live the best life, the “Golden Rule” is just common sense. I’m not saying abandon your religion and stop the rituals, by all means if that’s a positive action for you embrace it. Take all the positive vibrations your religion grants you. But don’t rely only on your religion to tell you how to treat others, that’s your responsibility. When my daughter was very sick and so very helpless a quote I heard has always resonated with me. “A man is never so tall as when he bends to help a child.” Many men and women went out of their way to help my daughter and in my book they all stand taller than any monument ever constructed. They weren’t standing in line asking where’s my good Karma, they did it selflessly. They were rewarded in positive energy and good spirit in themselves in the satisfaction that by simply doing the right thing they had a feeling of euphoria about themselves. The fact that many feel that doing the right thing should be rewarded is a sad statement on the times.
I’m sure many of you, like myself, have bought watched and hoped “The Secret” was the answer we need. Obviously a motivational CD is not going to make anyone rich unless you are the ones selling it, but the Secret raises some great points. It stresses believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy being around. People you admire. People who will bring into your life the harmony and happiness that’s waiting for you. Maybe it won’t make you rich, you won’t find yourself in your dream house with thousand dollar check arriving daily, but if you read between the line of what they say you can find happiness and self worth. That may not help pay your rent but it will fill your world with reason to enjoy life.
In a way I believe The Secret CD is what we hoped it was, but not to give us wealth of money but rather a wealth of good feeling. So here is my Karmic advice or Karmic wisdom. Don’t look for Karma to bring you money and good luck. Don’t hope Karma brings misfortune on others who have wronged you. Don’t search for good Karma, allow your Karma to find you. Keep your life as positive as possible and surround yourselves with as many positive people as possible. Do your very best to avoid negativity and negative people and live your best life. You are not responsible for anyone else’s Karma. One can’t rent or purchase Karma, one must live it. In essence, never buy it from used Karma salesman, don’t get ripped off by Karma rental services, and never pay sticker price for Karma… Move forward and keep focused on what truly matters..…Peace