I thought I was just fine at cooking scrambled eggs–until I had to make them for Julia Child on her 86th birthday.
The restaurant I managed the kitchen for wasn’t open for breakfast. But when Mrs. Child decided that she’d like to have breakfast with twenty or so of her closest friends at our place, well, we opened for breakfast. Cooking for The Queen was an honor, a lifelong memory, and a great opportunity to learn how to make perfect scrambled eggs (medium-low heat, be sparing and gentle in your interactions with the eggs, and leave them more than a little runny).
Somewhere between making those eggs and speaking with Wolfgang Puck about the grilled pizza I had just made for him, I came to two realizations: One, I had made it! I was cooking at the best place for the best customers–and not just cooking, but actually managing the entire kitchen. Two, if this is what “making it” feels like, life isn’t quite what I had hoped it would be.
We’re all looking for the right fit.
I had been working long and hard since the age of 13 in restaurants and bakeries, never doubting what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to cook. By age 23 I was successful, had a bright future ahead of me, and was completely burnt out. I still loved food, but I realized that I didn’t love it enough to endure the charmingly masochistic life it demanded (praise be to great cooks everywhere). I had to face facts. Career-wise, food wasn’t the right fit.
Not long after, I offered myself as a free intern to Newfangled, and the rest is history. My honest pursuit of the right fit paid off. Today, I love my job–I really do. It is as difficult as I can bear often enough, and we’re always working toward an ever-evolving goal that seems to be just out of reach, but I never wonder whether or not I’m doing the right thing.
I had one of my private “I love my job” moments on a recent Sunday night when I couldn’t fall asleep. It was getting late and I had to be up three hours earlier than usual for one of my “there and back” days. These days include traveling a total of 1,500 miles and anywhere from 2-5 hours of in-person meetings/presentations–all while waking up in and finally going back to sleep in my own bed in the heart of the North Carolina country. These kinds of days are intense, but great. Not sleeping the night prior? not so great. Nonetheless, there I was: not sleeping and thinking about how great my job was.
Why was I so giddy about how much I loved my job at this moment? As always, it came down to the same two things. The next morning I was about to get on a plane with two fantastic employees to meet with one of our best clients to talk about how we could make their site into something really sensational. I thought of how intense the next day would be, and I thought about how much I was going to enjoy every minute of it.
My favorite part of each day is seeing the people I work with. After that, it is speaking with people who are interested in working with us to determine if we might be a good match. It all comes down to fit. I have found that if I’m honest with myself about that, everything else will work out just fine.
I encourage our employees to do the same. I know firsthand that I was a far better employee to that restaurant when I had my heart set on making a career out of food than when I decided that there was something else out there for me–I wasn’t doing them any favors by sticking around after my time was up. At Newfangled, we’ve let people go because we could see that their role with us wasn’t what they really wanted from their lives. Likewise, we’ve turned many otherwise solid client prospects away due to the fit just not being right.
We all take this fit thing seriously, and although we know that nothing lasts forever, we appreciate the great thing we have going today.