The background/what you missed in Part One: I graduated college, traveled around the world for a year and subsequently spent all my savings, so I got a job at a small fine dining restaurant and loved it enough to stay there for wayyyy longer than I planned.
This time last year, I had just changed my mind about leaving and decided to stay at the restaurant for the winter. This seemed to be for the best, as I didn’t have a job lined up anywhere else or quite as much money saved as I had planned.
But even with those seemingly major reasons–you know, financial stability and all that–it seems that the small reasons were more influential in me staying put. I loved my coworkers. I loved learning about wine (and I loved our “staff education nights” where we’d drink expensive wine and compare notes with each other–and make each other laugh so hard we’d almost fall out of our chairs on the warm summer patio). I loved the care and thought and preparation that went into plating each dish; I had never thought about what happened between the time when I placed an order and when it arrived in front of me (which, as it happens, is a lot). I loved that I was good at my job.
And those reasons, the small reasons to stay that seemed somewhat inconsequential compared to leaving and getting a “real job” and “adulting”, are what made this last year so incredible.
It was with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to my favorite restaurant, favorite coworkers, and favorite job I’ve ever had to move to Denver. Working in a restaurant has been invaluable in teaching me so many life lessons that I’ll take with me far beyond Amuse.
I learned that first impressions are everything, and there’s no better way to set the tone for the night than a warm, welcoming smile. Some people can’t be pleased no matter what you do or say, and in that case, killing them with kindness is so unbelievably satisfying (and in some cases, makes them come around to you. Also, being hangry is a definite, real thing).
It’s more about putting food in front of people–dining at this caliber is about having an experience. Working in a restaurant means you’re literally crafting their entire evening with your knowledge and service, and if you do it right, they won’t know how hard you’re working to do that.
Because, of course, it takes a lot of work. It’s juggling having to seat people, reset tables, clear plates, and answer the phone all at the same time, and make it look effortless. I’ve learned to make and prioritize a mental checklist, and trust my gut to make decisions because there’s no time to think about making decisions.
Of course, this is all helped by the fact that you’re working as part of a team. Being surrounded by people that have a similar work ethic and are looking out for you is instrumental in the restaurant. Everything that needs to get done will get done, because we’re all looking out for each other. My coworkers became like family to me. I know that whatever I did, they had my back, and vice versa.
Beyond the job, I learned so much about myself in the last year. I made self-care my number one priority. I took up meditation and I read self-help books, and I surrounded myself with smart, intelligent, caring friends who inspired me every day with their wisdom and hilarity. I went to Crossfit five days a week and sculpted myself into the best shape I’ve ever been in. I treated myself to wardrobe splurges and left ridiculously large tips.
My workplace definitely helped with my introspection, though. Hostessing was pretty much guaranteed to be stressful every night of the week, and there’s nothing like being stressed to drop the formality of friendship and bond people together really quick. This meant that since I worked with the same people every week, they were quick to point out I had a “tone” that I thought was merely somewhat bossy. As it turns out, my tone was umm…quite bossy and scared a few people in the kitchen. Oops!
However, I was able to take this into real life and really watch what my voice sounded like versus what I was thinking. The first week I did this alone, I apologized and clarified to at least three different people in my personal life that I needed to fix my tone, and would you please get me tacos, I’m not trying to order you to. Although either way…tacos.
Being surrounded by people who really got to know the real me, bossy tone and perfectionist and all, was illuminating because they pointed out things I’d been blind to about myself. It really made me look at myself and my interactions with other people and say “Wow, Kels, I never knew you were such a control freak” or “Damn, girl, look how well you handled that situation!” (Mostly the last one, of course.) Working with people has made me better at dealing with people, but also looking at how I deal with people has been eye-opening in and of itself.
Although I may have been “overqualified” for this job on paper, it ended up teaching me so much more than I could have learned anywhere else. I have so much more clarity about myself and my passions, and where I want to take my future. I’m so grateful to have had the experiences I’ve had in the last year, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything else in the world.