Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Story behind the Salt

Sushi, (our Thanksgiving).
Janna's roll.
Expert Advice.

Le' prep station (mise en place).
Kung Pai!

Moving can be overwhelming in its own sense, yet even more so to a city that welcomes you without friends. Add that to a city that's characteristically grey 9 months of the year. Seattle is beautiful. Progressive. Green. Socially conscientious. Artistic. Musically-inclined. Entertainingly adventurous. And up-and-coming in the culinary world.

Yet without friends, family, or a dog to walk along the new trail with you, Seattle can be a challenge--- even to the proudest who view themselves as independent. I myself have made very few friends. I've been here for 2 years.

When Joe moved to Seattle from San Francisco and started working as an Executive-Chef, Qube restaurant became his city. His days eventually turned into 90-hour workweeks, leaving him little--- if any --- time outside of the kitchen. He saw Seattle from the inside looking out, a view that more often than not, was clouded by blotchy specks of rainy drizzle. As time went on, he poured his mind, body, and soul into the restaurant. To say he was its backbone is an understatement. He was much more.

Joe quickly grew on me, as people do over time. We worked side-by-side for a year. Many of our adventures took place in the culinary world of Qube restaurant, though just as many took place outside of.

Inside, he taught my taste buds to explore new elements and textures. Day to day, he amazed me with his innate talent and capacity to create beautifully cohesive dishes from scratch. I remember walking into work one day, seeing his giddy smile while he shoved a spoonful of goo in my face. Without an intro and context, I bit into the metal, as receptive as a baby is to a mother's spoon. I got it. I understood Joe. And what he did best.

Outside, he joined a soccer team I created as an outlet for our staff. We all worked hard inside, and often dealt with customers who treated us poorly. Soccer became a sweaty remedy after a negative night's work.

Yet the best part--- for me --- was to see a line cook, a bartender, a server, a sommelier, and a Chef work together outside just as hard as they did inside. We didn't win as many games on the field as we did in the restaurant, though we always consistently matched the challenge. Some even quit smoking to play better.

When soccer season came to an end, our snow season began.

During winter, we became a family who cooked Thanksgiving together and arguably debated over what we loved: food. For turkey day, Joe had hamachi and mackerel flown in from Japan. As untraditional as it was, it was us. Night after night, we cooked pizza at home and stuffed our bellies till the dough sent us to bed.

But most of our days were spent in the restaurant. And what we wanted more than anything was to turn people on to the food and wine we loved.

Looking back, I remember excitedly tearing the bubble wrap off the first chair. Finding a home for its legs made me think of all of the people who would sit in that chair over the next two years. It was a vision, backed by a passion, to be a part of the food and restaurant I believed in. Though many people would sit in that chair, they came and went. What remained constant was a group that had become our family.

The reasons why and circumstances that were out of our control didn't matter after the sad reality sunk in. When the restaurant went out of business, what mattered most was that Joe and I had formed a friendship. That friendship has inspired us to open another door together. Today, that door is Secret Stash Sea Salts, an endeavor that ultimately reflects our passion for good food.

No comments:

Post a Comment