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 had acquired and I wanted to go straight to the top. That’s how I ended up with my first position as a line cook at Windows on the World way up on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center in NYC. Look Ma, I’m on top of the world! The work was incredibly hard and the kitchen reached temperatures approaching the sunny side of hell. I worked my proverbial ass off and could be seen ordering a new one from the ass store at least once a week.
But it wasn’t all bad, not by a long shot. Maybe it was because of the high level of the ass busting and the pressure of getting over a thousand meals served in 4 hours or maybe just experiencing the same culinary drudgery as all the other cooks but a camaraderie developed that rivals the most prestigious of fraternities. The other cooks have you covered and would give the chef coat off their backs if it wasn’t so sweat soaked. And I would do the same for them. It was a tight nit family of sweaty hard working aspiring chefs. The line, the area of cooks stations with stove tops, topped out at about 800 degrees with eight ranges blasting constant heat. It was so hot that a cold beer clause was written into the union contract. True story. We each got two cold beers at the end of service. If you did screw up there was a punishment that was above and beyond the realm of mere cruel and unusual. You got sent to “The Cold Kitchen.” The cold kitchen sucked because it was a constant, repetitive everlasting list of tedious tasks designed to send one on an asylum train. Perhaps three and a half hours of placing small pieces of chicken and scallions on skewers followed by the slicing and breading 5 cases of zucchini. It was the icy version of hell and just as feared. None of us enjoyed being sent there. We loved the high pressure of sauté or grilling and despised time in the cold kitchen.
Either way during the 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. I was an excellent saucier and that was my specialty. Back then like everyone else I knew everything. Now I am older, not much wiser, and instead of the top of the world cheffing on a hot line I have become a baker. Making cupcakes day after day, specializing in cold food. I am not complaining, jut pointing out the irony. Not quite as tedious as the dreaded cold kitchen but still a kind of 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 misspeak when I said karmic revenge because there is no such thing as revenge in Karma and I have come to love baking cupcakes.
Revenge is a human emotion. But I did want to somehow incorporate Karma in my cupcakes so I took a closer look at just what Karma is. Its something many people say they believe in. 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 for the ride. The universe isn’t sitting there waiting to avenge people. That would go 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 9 month old daughter was very sick and so very helpless a quote I heard has always resonated with me. “A person is never so tall as when he bends to help a child.” That’s Karma!
I have a deep love of rock and roll and that is reflected in many of the cupcakes I have engineered at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes. (stuffedcupcakes.com if you want to take a peek) . When I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show way too many years ago it changed my life. I evolved politically and philosophically along with them and other rock stars and that’s where I got my interest in Eastern religions and concepts like Karma. To this day I embrace the many lessons I learned from “Eastern Philosophies” I live a positive life and surround myself with positive people. I don’t fight negative people I avoid them. They bring nothing to the table. I truly believe the positive I put into my baking remains there until consumed, at which time its absorbed by the one enjoying it. One of my best selling cupcakes is inspired by both Karma and my favorite Beatle, John Lennon. We call it “Instant Carma” the “C” intentional as a play on words. it’s a vanilla cupcake with an intense caramel mousse, topped of with vanilla and praline icing. I know, I know, shameless plug, but hey….Instant Carma’s gonna get you, gonna knock you off your feet.
Plug aside, embrace Karma, don’t expect it to exact revenge for you. Stay positive, lend a hand, pay it forward, live your best life, and spread the love……PEACE