I have no intentions of making this some sappy tribute to "all the people who have influenced my life," but it has to do with banana pancakes. Erika Lipe, Sous Chef, and in my personal opinion, THE Executive Chef of Waltz on the Square (Oxford, MS), is the entire reason I am even in Culinary School. I had my reservations of first trying to get a job at Waltz. When I first spoke with my best friend Jeff about it, I was picturing me walking up to the back of a kitchen - a place I was not familiar with - and a 6'5, intimidatingly loud Russian woman telling me to get the hell out of her kitchen. Instead, I walked in to what I can only describe as a dream of a person. She was 23, had the face of an angel, and the most soft-spoken determined voice I have ever heard. She was sure of herself, confident, and knew how to run a kitchen. She also has the voice of a goddess when she sings that sends people into the most tranquil environment imaginable. Don't get me wrong - she always rocked out when necessary.
I met the crazy's that day, soon for which I would become one, and loved it. The kitchen became my favorite place to be. The unending, fake chatter from Pokerface rambling in my ear his ridiculous rationale for wearing two watches, the loud piercing sounds coming from Northcutt's mouth (or whatever utensil he decided to play with that day), the order for bread from Jennifer that was feverishly shouted over the hood vents and pot throwing, and the fresh feel of a cold bottled beverage at the end of the night became my comfort place.
Prior to all this "work", which is still hard to refer to at times because of the enjoyment I gain from it, I was originally a runner. There are ten million things that race through my mind in a ten-second timeframe, and running has always been my best means of output. I used to run with my best friend Lauren. She was a beast, not the way she looked because that was heavenly, it's that could run harder than anyone I knew at the time besides my sister. We made it quite the habit to run four to five miles at least every other day. We had our routes plastered all over town and the times were ridiculous when we ran. Sometimes it would be before lunch or dinner when everyone was at home and it was just two able-bodied people owning the pavement, and other times we would be running at eleven o'clock at night to escape the peer pressure of studying, only to make procrastination justifiable. Either way, it always makes me better when I run. It makes my emotions stabilize and work more like the tide on the beach than the whirlpool in the gym. It keeps my physicality in check so I don't become a zombie of a person. The Catalina Half Marathon is only three weeks away and I plan on running it, even though I haven't signed up for it yet. I'm a pro at spontaneous adventures. Tomorrow on top of a five mile run, I'm biking to Malibu - with a friend, not out of personal adherence, just to tag along.
What it really comes down to is that I question why we do things. They say you are a leader or a follower, but someone had to follow someone at one point to learn how to lead. I started working in a kitchen because one of my best friends did and he loved it, so shouldn't I? I started running because it's the best "sport" I did in high school and I wasn't even that good at it then. What would I be missing out on if I didn't follow someone at a point in my life? My old roommate Drew Taggart had a friend come cook him breakfast one morning when I lived in Oxford, MS. Catherine Servati came and made him Banana Pancakes....and all I could think is the only reason anyone actually makes Banana Pancakes is because Jack Johnson sang a song about it.
"There once was a boy. A kind, gentle lad who wanted to do big things and make a real difference. But he didn't know himself and therefore couldn't know where he was going or how he could make a difference. So he looked in books to see how other people did it...and it was good. But of course he still couldn't find himself." - A late night text from my best friend