Still Thankful

The Day After…Still Thankful

I love Thanksgiving for all of its meanings: the tradition, the feast, breaking bread with family and friends, and being thankful for all that I have in my life. While Thanksgiving is quite a special day for many, the day after is when I secretly have the most gratitude. The laborious meal is over, clean-up is done, and I am left to enjoy the leftovers however and whenever I want. I am no longer confined to follow the traditional steps of a meal, and I am no longer trying to impress anybody. I will eat in my pajamas if my heart so desires.

The last two weeks have been hectic at work with multiple events happening all over the campus simultaneously. For people who are in the same industry as I, there is a universal understanding that this time of the year is the most demanding. The holiday season in the food service business can be physically straining, mentally exhausting, and, at times, have caused emotional breakdowns among chefs and foodservice leaders. To add to all of the stress, all of these challenges and emotions are only allowed to happen behind the scenes. We want the guests to have the great experience they expect…how it all comes together has to be seamless and magical from their perspective.

Just a few days ago, Chef Sara Levine of Circle Seven Café fed 1100 guests for lunch offering traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with all the classic sides. I’ve done many Thanksgiving meals for large events in my life but when I see 600 pounds of perfectly roasted turkey, 400 pounds of well-seasoned whipped potatoes and 140 assorted whole pies all in one event I still get amazed. It takes real skills to do this kind of job, the amount of time to plan and execute this task is no easy undertaking and a job that is unimaginable to most people. My mother stresses out on roasting a 20-pound turkey!

Looking at the two full racks holding 40 full pans of perfectly sliced turkey, and engulfed in the satisfying savory aroma, my thoughts drifted to the idea of what I would do should any leftovers happen to be in my hands. I would be happy to have slices of turkey simply pan-fried in a little butter, served over hot steamed rice, over-easy fried egg and wilted spinach, topped with some gravy. Now, that’s a meal I will always be thankful for!

At Buena Vista Studio, Chef Estevan Bautista and Catering Director, Priscilla Valere along with their team members executed almost 200 events and served 8300 guests in different capacities in the last ten days, from simple meals to served dinners to elaborate receptions. It gave me an eye-twitch that lasted for three days…and I didn’t do the bulk of the work! It is quite a team, and remarkable that such a small group can deliver such astounding volume with grace and the right attitude. For that, I am thankful.

I am proud of being a chef and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the culinary world, but I’ve said many times that there is nothing special about what I do. Food is part of everyone’s life…we all have to eat to survive. I don’t save lives. I don’t deliver children. I don’t fight crimes. I don’t invent cures for illnesses. I am not a school teacher. My schooling took 15 months, not 10 years. I simply make food…food that if I’m lucky brings joy to people who eat it. I am grateful to have a creative job that makes me happy, pays my bills, and lets me do fun things with my family every now and again. The truth is I am lucky to be here and to have the life that I live. I am also grateful to have a team that comes together to support each other…for that I’ve been fortunate in these many years as a chef. I cannot do the job that I do without the beautiful people who work alongside me.

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