The Salt Cellar’s last days haunted me for a bit. There’s always some trauma in seeing any project end.
Being between jobs is also a weird, purgatory place — scraping by on unemployment while trying to imagine the next thing you’re going to pour your heart and soul into.
Not going to work every day has been a particularly disorienting experience for me, since I’ve been continually employed since I first got a paper route in the 3rd grade.
After my first week off, the days started to blur together and lose their meaning: Sunday was the same as Friday was the same as Tuesday. When you’re used to working a gazillion hours a week, keeping busy is easier said than done.
I probably could have taken a short-term job as a prep or line cook, but the thought of spending my days peeling somebody else’s potatoes made my heart sink. Now that I’ve run my own kitchen, I’m ruined for it.
A couple weeks after the Salt Cellar closed, I’d tossed my hat in the ring for the executive-chef job at Lucia’s, one of the most well respected, locally-sourced restaurants in the area. But a day or two after I sent in my résumé, they announced a new chef, so I assumed that door had closed.
With some disappointment, I moved on and started looking at other offers.
After about a month, I had established a bit of a routine and was actually starting to enjoy my time off. But the powers-that-be weren’t having that. One night, I got a message from an industry friend, telling me that the chef spot at Lucia’s was being reopened.
Needless to say, I was excited. We set up an interview quickly, and within a day or two, the deal was closed.
So now, I have my work cut out for me. This job is a big one. Lucia’s is a complex operation, with a wine bar, restaurant, bakery/café, catering business, and expansion plans down the road.
The biggest challenge of hopping on board with an already-functioning restaurant is getting up to speed on how the machine operates. Yes, I’m the new chef, and yes, that means things will have my touch on them, but changes will be gradual, respectful, and in keeping with the tradition of the place.
Because I share Lucia Watson’s passion for local, seasonal food, and her commitment to thoughtfully prepared, high-quality ingredients, I expect this transition to be a natural and rewarding one.
Because I learned the art of a daily-changing menu at Heartland under Lenny Russo, I think the rhythm and pace of Lucia’s will soon feel a lot like home.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to learning from a chef I’ve long admired (read this terrific profile of Lucia by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl to see why). I’m also looking forward to channeling some of her creative instincts.
Although Lucia no longer maintains a day-to-day presence at the restaurant, I’ll get to spend some time with her during my onboarding, and I am excited to see that binders of her original menus still hold a place of honor in the chef’s office.
I’m also looking forward to working with a solid, seasoned team, many of whom have been at Lucia’s for years.
The first thing I’ll do is watch, observe, and learn, and then we’ll start experimenting together to see how we can expand on the very best of what inspired Lucia to start Lucia’s in the first place.