Climbing the ladder

September 7, 2012 in Coping, Dreams, Expectations, Learning, Life

Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest

First off… could this photo not be ANYMORE appropriate? Okay, maybe it’s a bit severe, but in your experience, hasn’t the journey up the ladder for your restaurant man/woman been seemingly pretty severe at times?

I’m not usually a betting kinda woman but I BETCHA that your beloved restaurant man/woman didn’t have a clue what he or she was about to get into when they started climbing the culinary ladder.

Most likely it started out with a genuine interest turned carefree statement of “I like to cook”, that lead to a life changing decision to to go culinary school.

Okay.. let’s be honest. It was more than a statement. It was a pursuit…a destination…someone might call it an


Packed with their brandy new knives and chef whites, off they go to culinary school to learn the SKILLS… to hone in on their focus, found out what they enjoyed,  felt the pressure of being on their feet for long periods of time, maybe had a glimpse into what they will soon experience as an extern.

Maybe this was years ago… maybe it is happening right now.

Either way… Even after they graduate, I’m sure they had NO IDEA what they were getting themselves into when they first started out on the line.

They probably got a huge dose of it, their first week on the job.. just how LOWEST MAN ON THE TOTEM POLE they really were.

But in the end…if they don’t know… YOU don’t know either.

Brings me back to a time on my then chef boyfriends first day at TenPenh, a well known asian fusion fine dining restaurant (now closed) in Washington, DC.

Remember it like it was yesterday, actually.

I was SO excited for him…like first day of school excited. I remember when I came home from work that day, I baked him a chocolate cake and bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate with him when he got home. I was so proud of him for so many things… for making the leap to move to where I was so we could be together, for almost instantly getting this position without much effort, it seemed SO serendipitous. This first day symbolized so much for me, for us. Our future. I was excited at what was to come.

I waited for him to come home…

Waited and waited and waited. It soon got dark, and hours went by. I had to work the next day and at this point, I had NO idea when I was going to see him, so like in the movies, when one person prepares a nice meal and then waits in vain until they give up and go to bed.

That’s what I ended up doing…  I went to bed.

Reluctantly, I shut out the light and tried to sleep, unsuccessfully, until I heard the key in the door.

I think it was midnight, honestly who knows. I ran up and grabbed the champagne and uncovered the cake… ready to say “Surprise!” and was shocked at what I saw.

My excited when I left him, then chef boyfriend came in looking like he was just in a street fight.

He was exhausted, wincing, and moaning in pain.

I tried to be happy for him, to maintain that celebratory energy but he quickly said “Honey I had a really hard day, all I want to do is sit down.”

It was like he too.. had NO idea how hard that first day was going to be and was almost in shock at what he experienced.


He had worked at other restaurants before this… but I don’t think he expected to feel such drain, especially on the first day.

My first glimpse into what my life would look like, going forward, along my first experience with that feeling of resentment.

My celebratory action was quickly dismissed as I sadly covered the cake back up, I remember telling myself as I placed the champagne back in the refrigerator,

“We’ll celebrate when he has time. Maybe this weekend.”


I ended up never opening that bottle of champagne. Remembered I wouldn’t open it unless I could share it with my chef. That day never came.

I remember attempting to pull from him information about his day… he telling me just how he ended up running around helping everyone else on that first day, mainly butchering. I remember thinking,  “But you’re a CHEF…. why are you doing all the grunt work?”

Seriously I had NO idea. Maybe you had no idea as well.

This went on QUITE a while… as he learned something. I learned something in his wake.

And let me tell ya, I wasn’t happy with everything I was learning.

  • LIKE… I have to stay out after the kitchen closed in order to commune with his fellow chefs on the line, just to name one.
  • Like the time he came home with his hand in a large cup of water, now warm, because he had burned himself so badly.
  • *Why do they just deal the pain unless it’s severe?
    Like… you know.. how to deal with the stench of those damn clogs.

And not all bad either…

  • Like how he and everyone else on the line, knew exactly where I was sitting when I went to eat at the restaurant.
  • Like how I never had to actually order anything and yet, the food came out in abundance.
  • Like that it takes really WANTING TO KNOW  (and understand) what I wanted in my life, what I wanted in my relationship, so that I could figure out if I had the strength, after all, to withstand the ins and outs of all these lessons learned.  *This lesson took a LONG time. Years.

 Twelve years have passed since that day, and I can tell you I’m STILL learning what to expect as he continues to climb that culinary ladder.

As he learns more… I learn too.

I spent those early years BLAMING HIM for not explaining the ins and outs to me… how sometimes the lessons I was slow to learn made me feel like a fool. (Whew, the arguments we would have.)

I have, over time, learned that I cannot expect him to explain it to me, and even if he did, I’m not sure I would even understand what he was trying to say.

Cause whether I like it or not, he’s figuring it out too.

I’m sure there were times when he didn’t WANT to go out drinking with everyone, but wanted to come home to me.

I’m sure there were times when he wanted to take a break instead of going, going, going for 16 hours/day. Giving his tired legs a chance to recover.

I’m sure that he felt dissapointed at the beginning that he wasn’t the one doing the cooking like he thought he would’ve when he graduated from school.

Later on… I’m sure he was sad that he wasn’t chosen to be EC, but instead someone else was chosen to fill that position.

Your restaurant man/woman might not tell you everything she/he’s learning as they climb up their ladder.

You might find that frustrating. *Most likely you will.

But just KNOW… that that’s a PRIME opportunity to find out that you have what it takes to climb your OWN ladder.

Taking the precious (and sometimes more than you want) time to figure out what steps YOU can take to move up the ladder WITH him/her, instead of waiting for them to pull you up.

Like for ME… Climbing the ladder means understanding that being a planner doesn’t mean I can plan to expect to know how everythings going to go ahead of time, even in my resistance to accept this as true. *Secret: I have serious resistance here, let me tell ya.

Climbing the ladder for ME means that I have to put in the work to understand what I can and will accept in my restaurant relationship.

Climbing the ladder means knowing what is and what isn’t okay for me.

Climbing the ladder means knowing I can change my mind.

Climbing the ladder means knowing not to expect that things will always be the way they currently are. That YES… just when I think things are going smoothly, they inevitably will change. (Change restaurant locations, change his schedule, etc…) 

Climbing the ladder means knowing that I have what it takes to get through whatever he goes through. And knowing when to reach out for help. *Ahem, another reason why I wanted to find YOU.

Where I am now (just to share) – Climbing the ladder means reaching for my OWN dreams, even if he isn’t ready yet. It’s having faith that he’ll catch up to me and meet me where I am when the time is right. It’s being okay that I’m a few rungs ahead of him, doesn’t mean we’re not together but that we help push each other upwards. He does that for me, I do that for him.

You will inevitably find out the ins and outs of what being in a restaurant relationship is like. It is my hope that by creating this space, I can help ease some of the pain that most of us feel. That you will have a place to go to when you don’t know HOW to continue climbing… or even if you want to. *And that’s okay too.

You will hear of those exceptions to the rule, and those who enjoy being connected to someone whose become celebrated, by way of their unsatiated obsession.

You might’ve found out the hard way too. For YEARS… there was no place to go to find relief. You had to climb that ladder on your own. Inspire your own way upwards.

That’s how I know you’re strong. That you can do this. That you have what it takes.

I assure you… if you put all your focus on his/her own ladder, staring intently on where THEIR ladder leads, and not focus on where you are reaching, you will find the answer to why you instantly feel lost and out of step.

Grab a hold of your OWN ladder… and CLIMB IT for YOU.

*I can almost guarantee that your restaurant man/woman will stop climbing long enough to take notice of how you’re achieving your own goals, climbing your own ladder. Celebrating and encouraging you to keep going…

One rung at a time.

Climbing the ladder


    1. Stephanie says:

      I love your blog! I have been with my chef for two years. Thank you for your words!

    2. mrs G says:

      This one hit home. Have been the supporting role for 7 years now, two children and ten moves later he has made quite a splash. Yet here I am. And where is that? Yes I love him. Yes I stand behind him through It All. Yet I yearn for a little normalcy, romance, recognition. How to get any of that I don’t know. Its like trying to reach through a wall… thank you for your uplifting words, I am sure they are touching others such as they did to myself, lol I have a feeling what I am going through is somewhat common!

      • Hey there Mrs. G. ~ First off THANK YOU for the wonderful compliments! I too am hoping that others are feeling comforted by my words. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing that with me.

        Wow.. ten moves!! I’d be curious to hear more about why you travel around! What you’re saying is very common, So he’s climbing the ladder, gaining notoriety in the field and you’re recognizing that you want your own 15 minutes of spotlight on you, from time to time. What GRAND GESTURE would he need to do so that you felt his appreciation and gratitude? Furthermore… would his gesture SUSTAIN YOU? I am learning how many wonderful things my husband does for me (like he just made me breakfast on a weekday) but I’m quick to forget those things when I’m in the zone of asking something from him that I need. How easy is it to forget the smaller gestures… and always focus on the grand ones.

        What could he do that you would remember? How possible is it to ask him for that?

        You’re NOT alone.

Climbing the ladder

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