I still write. I need to remind myself of that sometimes. I write everyday. Most of the time only in my head these days, but I am writing nonetheless.
For those who have followed my curious career arc from the beginning of this blog, I’ve come a long way, both in physical and emotional distance. At the beginning, I created this space to pay homage to New Orleans and Louisiana from exile in New Jersey. It was a way for me to stay connected. To taste the tastes and smell the smells and feel the muted warmth of early morning tailgates in October and steaming cups of late night cafe au laits. But somewhere along the line it became an identity for me. Something essential to my being and well-being.
And the decision was made, early last year (around Mardi Gras), to abandon our loft overlooking the Manhattan skyline and to drive the 1,400 miles or so from Hoboken, NJ to NYC and start a new life. And I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I miss my son in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Post cards and child support checks aren’t hugs and kisses, and with every passing holiday and soccer game I can’t help but think I’m failing him. There is something ponderous about the physical distance that even regular trips home and regular visits here can’t erase. But in a few short weeks we’ll be together again for Thanksgiving and Cafe Du Monde beignets and then I will fall into hopefully only a mild depression after he leaves until I see him again.
I came here to be a writer and to abandon the hardships of the professional kitchen. As a chef, irony leaves a funny taste in your mouth. I spend most of my time — around 70-100 hours a week — in the tiny kitchen of a 70 seat bar and restaurant in the Upper French Quarter called Saint Lawrence. I took the job as a part-time gig and somehow became the executive chef. And as the executive chef it has become like a child to me: frustrating and consuming, a source of pride and resentment. Gone are they days I spent taking long walks around New Orleans and long weekends tailgating in Baton Rouge. Now I’m just trying to keep the ship upright and bailing water. New Orleans is a great city to live in, but when you have a work-ethic forged in the fires of NYC kitchens, it can be a bit bewildering to work in. The analogy I like best is Superman. On his home planet, Superman wasn’t shit. He was just another dude. But in the light of our yellow sun, Superman has unbelievable powers relative to those around him. I understand this is slightly hyperbolic, but you get the point: Staffing in New Orleans is a bitch. Yet, I have some wonderful young people that work for me and I love mentoring them and seeing them grow. I just have to remember not to become apoplectic when they put pasta into cold water instead of boiling the water first.
So yes, I’m still here. From Hoboken, NJ, to Mid-City, New Orleans, and now to the French Quarter. I’m still here. So if you’re passing through the Vieux Carré stop in and say hello. I’m the guy in the back stirring a roux and telling jokes. And I promise I’ll write more often, too.