It's all there
I was having a pretty rough time a couple of months ago. You could probably see it more clearly, actually, than I could. I have never, ever, done something as consuming as this opening-a-restaurant business. Even writing a book doesn’t compare. People had warned us that projects like these always take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect them to, and dude, that is Seriously. No. Joke. It’s been like Little Shop of Horrors over here, only the role of Audrey II, the man-eating plant, is being played by a small neighborhood restaurant called Delancey. This thing, it eats up more hours, and more cash, and more human flesh – last week’s tally: 1 splinter, 1 blister, 1 army green bruise, and 3 burns – than I could have ever imagined.
The truth is, for a while, this restaurant scared the crap out of me. I didn’t want to say it in those exact words, but it did. You might remember that when I first announced it, I said that Brandon was opening a restaurant? That’s how it started. It was his idea. I was wary. My love for food has always been about home cooking, not the restaurant industry. I like the intimacy, the quiet, and the scale of home cooking. A restaurant is a different beast. It’s exciting, to say the least, but it’s also unrelenting. It means that you work when everyone else is playing. It means long hours, little security, and even less money. I should also mention that I’ve seen a restaurant gleefully chew up and spit out one marriage and cheerfully maim a second. As far as I know, home cooking doesn’t mean, or do, any of that. This is the kind of stuff that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Still, I wasn’t going to stand in his way. I knew how much he wanted it, and I wanted to support him. I knew that his vision for this restaurant was a humane one, more like an overgrown dinner party than a scene out of Kitchen Confidential. I knew that this restaurant, either way, had the potential to turn our lives upside down – to take us over, really – but in the beginning, it was still pretty abstract. It was easy to brush off. It was easy to pass him power tools and Cool Ranch Doritos, and to cheer. Until it actually did take us over, and then I had a lot of thinking to do.
And what I decided, ultimately, is to stop thinking so much. Rather than fight it, or worry that the shape of our lives is changing, or what the hell are we doing, or whatever, I decided to get right in the middle of it. I decided to work in the kitchen at Delancey, full-time. I had originally thought that my involvement there would be on the periphery, that I would help plan the menu and develop desserts, and that I might be the host a couple of nights a week. But a few weeks ago, when we cooked our first practice dinner there, a thank-you for our designers and a few friends, I was in the kitchen with Brandon, making arugula salads and washing about eight million dirty dishes, and it just felt right. I was so happy to be working with my hands that way, to feed a room full of people and give them a good night. I felt like a part of the place. And it reminded me of something that Brandon said to me a few months ago, when the construction seemed like it would never end. He said that even though I couldn’t see it yet, this restaurant would embody everything that matters to us. And he was right. It’s all there.
So I’m going to be in the kitchen, manning the pantry station, when we open. That means that if you order a salad, some cured meats, some pickles, or a dessert, I’m your girl. I have no lofty dreams about how long I’ll be able to do it full-time - I want to keep writing, and doing both might be nuts - but it’s right for right now. Things are only going to get busier around here, but it feels like a good kind of busy. I’m ready for it. And I can’t wait to share it with you.