A five year mark in a restaurant is a momentous event. I won’t bore you with statistics about how many restaurants fail within the first three years of business but the answer is most of them. I won’t regale you with tales about the rampant divorce, addictions in all forms or just plain workaholic misery but more than any other industry I think we have our share. What I will tell you is that this in an industry that has been done no favors by the television spotlight that makes our profession look glamorous and appealing. I will warn every aspiring young chef that’s comes my way exactly what they are getting into once they get addicted to the nighttime adrenalin rush of a busy kitchen line.
I was interviewed by a glossy women’s magazine the year after I opened and was asked what advice I would give to an aspiring young woman in my profession. “Don’t do it!” I quickly responded. I got a LOT of censure for that response and now I think, justifiably so. The first two years of Hobos were HARD and there is simply no nice way to put it but they SUCKED. I never saw my children, my then marriage was an immediate casualty and I work (and drank) too much and was pretty pissed off about the decision that I made to go back to a restaurant line after a twelve year hiatus; much less to go back to management and ownership. I was completely unprepared for the seasonality of our pretty little beach town and I since I had just moved here I was completely without support systems.
Somewhere around the third year something changed and I knew that I had not made another mistake in a series of momentous mistakes. I changed the approach of my restaurant in 180 turn around to a different belief system that we were chef driven; I made the decision to be people driven. I began asking each table what food restrictions, food choice or allergies they had OR WAS THERE ANY FOOD THEY JUST PLAIN DISLIKED. I decided that making people happy was about asking the questions and getting to know them and I would interact with as many tables as I possibly could. Since I myself am a dirty vegan I decided that from that point forward I would be the restaurant that was not afraid to reinvent itself on a daily basis for the whims of its customers. I decided to be the restaurant of “yes” rather than “no” but more importantly I decided in my own small little way to give people what they wanted and what nourished them rather than what my chef self knew went best together. The act of being proactive in making other people happy made me happy in a way that I really hadn’t had in my life before and all of a sudden one cloudy April morning in 2012 I knew that I hadn’t made a mistake at all. This was what I was meant to do and this pretty little town was precisely where I was meant to be. Just like that everything changed and even though there is nothing quite like the stress of Memorial Day weekend or worrying about how to get through the winter all the while keeping your people employed, I know now that this there is no other life I would want to live. I feed people. I nourish them. I make them happy in the way that only a good meal or a warm hug can really do. I am a Hobo and I am home.