Getting paid to learn

Johnny Mac and Cheese, cooked by me and served at Rocky River Brewing Co., in August 2017.

Doubling up real quick on this very pleasant Sunday afternoon, Tribe game on in the background. I’m back in the kitchen tonight, picking up a shift at the brewery where I’ve worked on-again off-again since 2004. It’s been maybe a month since my last night on the line, and I think it’ll be a fun little reunion.

It’s absurd how much fun I’ve had at that place — both on the clock and after the night’s work is done, when the staff gathers at the bar and spins fanciful stories and jokes into memory. Few things in my life have been as constant as that restaurant, and I’ve taken those many experiences as good lessons for other parts of my life. There’s a sort of social fabric to the place (like most restaurants, I’d imagine) where everyone is highly encouraged to be themselves, to be strange and inexplicably funny in whatever way you choose. I learned a lot about my own sense of humor when I first started working there in high school, and I’ve had moments over the past year where I’ve cried from laughter as our crew takes its many inside gags and jokes to preposterous limits.

And another thing: When I returned to the restaurant last summer, my friend pointed out that I’d be getting paid to learn. It wasn’t just a little extra spending money — the gig also came with some level of new education. I paid close attention to the technique behind what I was doing, and I learned about the delicate and often improvisatory cooking process. The chef inspired me to take on a vegan diet, which I’ve kept up since March (like 95-percent of the time, since I can’t completely walk away from the rich culinary worlds that, e.g., seafood opens up).

Anyway, it’ll be another goofball night serving up some of the best dishes in Cleveland’s westside suburbs. It helps when “work” is “fun.”

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