Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half Baked.
We chefs rarely see the light of day. In fact, I can't tell what day it is until I consult the day dots. This is something we all know going in, so we accept it. But it does make it a challenge to find a partner. Can you imagine trying to find someone who puts up with the horrible hours, constant state of poverty, plus the requisite foul mouth and short temper that comes with most kitchen workers?
Even if a date can get past all that, then the constant aroma of onions and sweat will likely derail him or her. Seeking love, we go through stages. First, resentment about the job causing our love lives to suck. Then, after time, we move into a state of hostile acceptance. Then, we learn to control this condition (or on a bad day, exacerbate it) with a borderline drinking problem. Well, as the saying goes, it's only a problem if you stop drinking.
In a kitchen not long ago....
"Billy's supposed to be coming by to check the stuff for the dish pit. I don't think it's temping right, so make sure he calls his guys," Chef leaves me these instructions as he hustles out the door to get to a meeting.
"Ooooh... Billy? No problem," I smile.
"Yeah, Billy. Why?" Chef notices my reaction and leans into me a little bit. "You think he's cute, don't you?! The Ecolab sales guy? That's hilarious!"
"Shut up," I snap, but still Chef leaves cracking up.
I'm over the hot stove making marinara. Pouring the sauce into a Lexan dish, I manage to splatter my coat.
"Fuck!" I angrly wipe the sauce off.
"Getting dirty again?" Billy's sudden appearance startles me.
"Yeah, it's a messy gig." I blush at his clear blue eyes and big smile.
"I'm just going to check on things back here," he says, and wanders into the back.
I relay Chef's message and get back to work. I forget that he's even around until...
"Billy, my man! Good to see you!" Chef's out of his meeting. Billy tries to get Chef to hear his new product pitches, but Chef's not in business mode.
"Billy, Billy, Billy. So what kind of things you like to do?" Oh dear God! I know where Chef's going with this. Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of something, otherwise I'd be hiding in the freezer!
Chef gives Billy my number and arranges for us to go out on Thursday.
"I'll call you later," Billy shouts over to me. I'm at the stove, dying of embarressment.
It's ladies night and the board is still buzzing at 9 pm. I'm supposed to meet Billy in a half hour. With no chance of making it, I drop a quick text to push back the meet.
Finally, I fly off the line, stop at my place for a quick de-kitchening, and race off to be nowhere near on time. When I arrive almost two hours late, Billy's already nursing a beer at the bar.
"Chef basically set this up -- and he still makes you late," he jokes.
I brush off the hectic day and dive into the typical first date chit-chat. I'm not even self-conscious any more about not having time to wash my hair. But soon, my 14-hour shift takes its toll. I fend off the exhaustion as long as I can, but it's only a matter of time before my eyes are shutting. He gently rocks me to see if I'm awake.
"You must be beat," he smiles. Surprisingly enough, he still wants to make plans for Saturday night.
Very late Saturday night...
By the time I get off work, it's too late to go out, so I accept the invite to watch a movie at his place. I arrive to find he's going to dazzle me with his "mad cooking skills." I help him plate the visibly overcooked chicken and frozen vegetables cooked in a microwavable pouch.
"I probably shouldn't have tried to cook for a chef, but I figured you'd be hungry." He pours me a glass of wine. I choke down the leather and mush, trying to make up for my nacolepic episode the other night.
After "dinner" he sets up a movie. We get comfortable on the couch with some wine. I didn't even make it through the opening credits.
The next day, Chef gets a huge kick out of this. "You passed out again!"
"I fell asleep on his couch," I'm laughing sadly.
"Yeah, he won't be calling you again," he jokes.
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