By: Chef Rick Powless
Waking up at 9 or 10 a.m. is but a dream this chilly morning. 4:30 a.m., and the alarm pulls me out of my warm, beautiful slumber.
Those were the days when waking up when everyone else I knew was already at work, was a pleasant feeling. Stretching and taking my sweet time getting out of bed, having something to eat and then watching television until having to head off to the kitchen for another 10-12-hour shift.
The thrill of the dinner rush. The sweat pouring down my face and having no time to wipe my brow. Another burn from my arm touching the oven door. The cut from slicing vegetables way too fast and not even feeling the cut.
The loud bark of the Chef as each order rings in from the servers. “Can you add this?” “Can you make that a small instead of the large?” “Can you change this” “…change that” and so on and so on as the servers modify their orders or even order an 86’d item!
Making enough money to pay the bills and wishing I was doing something easier, that paid more and created less work. Another shift completed. Another day making people happy and feeding them like kings and queens. Those days are gone. Long gone.
Now, I am a first-year contract teacher and these early mornings are starting to feel good! I have become acclimated to coffee-to-go, waking up the roosters as I drive by and thinking to myself, “this is a great drive to work. Darkness, peace and quiet and no traffic!”
I became a teacher because I still have something to offer the industry, even though after four (4) knee surgeries and a knee replacement I am unable to work directly in the industry in a functioning manner. The Chefs I have worked with and the establishments I have been a part of, have made me the Chef I am…the Teacher I am.
Am I grateful to have this career? Am I tickled pink to be able to share the knowledge I have with others every day? YOU BET I AM!!! This is why I walk into the school smiling each morning. Why I walk with a jump in my step. Why I work hard every day to be the best teacher I can be.
Yes, I have made mistakes here and there. This is a learning curve for me. I didn’t expect to be the perfect teacher right out of the gate. I probably will never be the perfect teacher, but to my students I can only hope that their classroom experience with me will be a great experience. So, to you, the student, that one student who has me as your teacher, I want you to know where I came from, who I am and where I hope to go.
The smile upon my face is because, as you pass me in the halls in the morning, you smile and say, “Good morning, Chef”. You probably have no idea how humbled I am by your acknowledgement of me as a person or as someone important to your education. The fact that you come into the classroom and offer to make me a coffee (usually because I am busy with my head down adjusting my lesson plan), and remember how I like my coffee humbles me because you acknowledge me in how hard I work to optimize your educational experience in my classroom.
The smile on your face when you take the lesson I have provided to you and you find success with it. This warms me as a teacher because I know I have supported, mentored and encouraged you to become the best possible student in my classroom. To know that you feel comfortable approaching me to ask questions about food, even though sometimes you feel like those are silly questions. This reminds me that I have provided you with the safe and secure surroundings to engage you with an industry that has provided me with a lifetime supply of experiences, memories and great new friends whom I call my family.
You believe my positive energy gives you strength and the confidence to actually step into a kitchen and take on a whole new culinary adventure. Actually, I feed off of your enthusiasm, enquiries, thoughts and dreams. I feed off of your need for culinary knowledge and I promise you this…
I will always be a role model to you. I will always be a great support for you. I will always be a mentor to you when you need or want one. I will always be your Chef and I will always be your teacher, as you will be my teacher.
THANK YOU for allowing me to be a part of your day, your school experience and keep smiling. You never know who or how you will affect someone else’s day.