One of the many, many things that I appreciate about my job is the work-life balance it gives me. I am now home most nights, and off on most weekends. Planning a vacation is much easier these last three years, knowing that I have a solid support structure at work, and being in a closed ecosystem not open to the public. I have never really known this realm until I came to work at Walt Disney Studios. Like most chefs in Los Angeles (or any big city), I worked long days, and my days off varied from week to week. Time off from work during the holidays was unheard of, as I worked at a location that is a major attraction to both locals and tourists. Mother’s Day brunch at the restaurant was an all-crew event and always a challenge no matter how many times we had done it. One of my sous chefs broke into tears and a cook passed out on me during these brunches. One of the worst dinner services I worked in my life as a chef was on a Valentine’s Day, when my team and I could not catch up with orders no matter how hard we tried. We were defeated. We went home with emotional bruises that took a while to heal. However, it was all part of the gig, the long hours, the volatile schedule, the occasional beatings, the unpredictable fireballs. It may sound horrible but I loved all of it, and I wouldn’t change a single ticket.

I am now at a different place and time. One that is right for me. I do not foresee any Mother’s Day brunches or Valentine’s dinner services in my near future, and I am fine with it. Now I have a better understanding of that time’s value. Time with the people who are important to us is priceless. Time for ourselves. Time to have peace, solace, and serenity is essential. I have spent my “time” in many ways, mostly doing mundane things I never knew I love. I have lazy days with my son and my dog. I have Sunday morning coffee with my husband. I read more. We see movies. We do nothing.

With my “time,” I also get to visit my family in NorCal more often. It is often a quick weekend visit, but a visit nonetheless. I see my mother more now. In fact, I was just there last weekend for my youngest sister’s baby shower. My older sister, mom, and I took care of the venue and food for the event. We did not officially celebrate Mother’s Day, but in my mind, I thought it was a wonderful time to cook together in celebration of my sister’s upcoming baby boy. We are all mothers now and of different generations. We have different levels of worries for our children. Between the four of us, there is that unspoken language of understanding of alliance. We are bound. We are screwed. We will always be protectors of, champions of, and providers for our children. They will make us proud, and they will break our hearts, but our stance will never waver. We will always be there for them.

I am middle-aged now, and I know that my mother still worries about me. I have a child of my own, and I know that my mother will still be the first one I call when I am in trouble. We do not always see eye-to-eye, but we understand each other.

It sounds very cliché, but the older I got, the more I understand what her role in my life had been. She was not perfect (and I am certain I was not always a dream). We did not have the heart-to-heart talks about boys. We did not have the luxury of time to have chats and do girls’ stuff. My mother was a working woman from a very young age, and provided for her parents and family. However, my mother taught me many things that I did not appreciate until my thirties. My mother taught me independence. She taught me to trust my gut. My mother taught me to be a fighter…and to be resilient. My mother showed me that it is okay to start over…and the importance of always looking ahead. I know now that I did not want (or need) a perfect mother. What I wanted (and needed) was her. Just her. She is the right fit for my sisters and me.

Mother’s Day is coming soon. I got my mother a gift card for a home improvement store that she likes. I also bought her a blue summer scarf, festooned with gold dandelions. I also found the perfect card, inscribed, “You taught me how to fly. Because of you, I believe anything is possible.” But my real gift for my mother is to let her know that I will always try to make her proud. I will always value her opinion. I will always love my sisters. I will always be generous. I will always give my best. My son can always count on me -no matter what! – and will know the importance of family. I will always get up when I fall. I will remember where I came from. I will always make time for her. I will be grateful for her. I will always love her.

Last weekend, my mother made Chicken Wings Adobo for my sister’s baby shower. I know how to make this dish, but for some reason I always eat more when she makes it. I thought as part of honoring her, I would share her recipe with you. I hope you find time to make this dish and share it with your mom, or someone else you really love.

My mother’s cooking always bring me home.

Please enjoy my Mom’s recipe for Adobo Chicken Wings.

– Chef Mayet