Sunday, December 8, 2013

How Working in the Restaurant Business Changed My Life

The old saying goes, "We are a product of our history". Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe, I just made that up. But if it's not an old saying, it should be. Because it's true.

A big part of my history is having had the pleasure, honor and experience of working in the restaurant business. While I realize for many, the restaurant biz is a stop on a proverbial train called life, for others, this is a career choice. And for many years, I made that choice.

My life in the restaurant business was as formative as my early childhood. It was part of the path that has led me to where I am right now; propped up in my bed with the football game on and a laptop on my lap. As a 15 year old girl, I marched my ass into the Kennett Square Inn (actually, my mother drove me there but that's besides the point) and became part of a family. A family I still have today.

There is something so unique about the experience of working along side a cast of characters that would have never crossed your path had you not walked in that door. Because that's what a restaurant is...a cast of characters you'd find in a sitcom or a drama or a reality show. It is all of those things.

People who have not had this experience cannot appreciate the conditions you work under. The stress is immediate and at times, overwhelming. You will rise to the occasion or you will fall apart. I've done both.

You will be a giver, and receiver of insults unimaginable. And then you will have a drink together and forget what it was that you were fighting about. You may even dodge sharp instruments coming at you at a very high rate of speed. You may walk out. And then come back later to find that someone stepped in because the rest of the world doesn't care that you are having a nervous breakdown. Someone needs to get the Chateaubriand to Table 12.

While the majority believes that Happy Hour starts at 5pm, you know that, in fact, it actually starts at 11pm. And while the general population braves the crowds on Fridays and Saturdays, you know that Sundays are by far, the best night of the week to be out. And even if you retire from the business, you still feel lost on a Friday or Saturday night because most of your friends are working.

And for those of you who waited tables or tended bar to make some extra money or put yourself through school, you may find that the ones who choose to stay will probably work harder than you ever will again. They will hone their craft and become an expert in their field. Just like you.

While I left the Inn several times over the years, I always ended up back at home. With my friends. I made new friends every time and those friendships have defined my adult life. These were the friendships that stood the test of time. Even after we had gone our separate ways. Some of us left the business, some of us just moved on to different places. But these characters were the best characters to have.