After 1 year and 3 months, I’ve finally decided to call time on my tenure at my current job and move onto greener pastures. It was something I probably should have done ages ago but didn’t for whatever absurdist, procrastinatory excuse I had. Eventually, it took a call from a friend to unconsciously push me into it.

And now I feel all the better for it. My room just got swept into shape and the piles of empty shoeboxes got flattened and sent into the recycling bin. My shithole of a room is almost presentable even. I just need some more hangers and a shoe rack because I’d been spending so much on stuff to overcompensate on the fact that I hated my job.

It’s not that it sucked that bad, well ok fine it did. I was happy for the chance to work at first. I had no prior experience in the hospitality industry so even though I was offered to start as a potwasher, I snapped at it. Friends were asking me “Are you sure? It’s not easy!!”. Telling me more like. I said, yea I’m fine with it so I did it. And now I can sort of brag about my stupidity. Still, it gave me a great overview of a professional kitchen and a grounding in organization and hygiene.

I still appreciate the lessons I’d learnt cleaning up and the importance of time. One thing I did hate was the early starts. Not so much that it was 3.40am in the morning to get to work at 6am for breakfast but the addons, like the drunk, rowdy smartarse kids in town hall or the half hour trek on an upward winding road from Manly to work. I was glad that after a month, I was allowed to diversify and cook the breakfast buffet solo plus wash dishes. At the same pay. I felt so appreciated.

Even more so 3 or 4 months in, when I suddenly got more responsibility and duties when the head steward left his job. From potwashing and breakfast to potwashing, breakfast, functions, BBQs, stocktaking, delivering goods, restocking chemicals, refueling the van and at one point, helping the company restaurant prep for the night as well. At the same pay. I felt so appreciated.

What annoyed me was when they took away some of the stuff to allow me to concentrate on the cooking. Not that I liked doing that stuff or that it made me feel important. It was the fact that my boss hired 2 people to do it. So why the hell was I working 12 to 16 hour shifts a day doing all kinds of crap, driving round and running round and now 2 people get the luxury of taking turns at doing half the stuff I was!

That nearly drove me to insanity. Luckily school started, or unluckily maybe, because I stuck at it until now. I stayed mostly because of practicality. I was used to the place, the work was getting easy and it seemed too troublesome to change and look for a place that would hire someone who could only officially work 20 hours a week.

Then my boss left. My life got simpler and easier, in a sense. I didn’t have an idiot barking at me to hurry up when there was no need to. Well, to be fair, he stopped barking at me around the 6 month mark. I think. Or maybe my ears are just clogged. But the job still felt the same. Always disorganized, always unprepared, always rushing. I hated it. My time as a kitchenhand taught me you had to be organized. My time multitasking taught me you had to be really really really organized and prepared. Everyday, I felt like I had to overstretch myself even when the tasks seemed simple. The management always seemed to be chasing their own tails. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why.

The time was what killed me in the end. I can’t count the number of times where I’d left work at night alone, walking for a half hour downhill to reach Manly and wait another half hour for a bus or a ferry that would take me somewhere else where I had to wait again, or if I was lucky, snag the bus that got me to Chatswood, just another 15 minutes walk. Getting to work took me about 2 hours. 2.5 if I was starting breakfast. Getting home took me 2 hours. 1.75 if I caught the shuttle bus to Manly. That’s a lot of hours ensconced in my canalphones, listening to music. Or trying to read. It was always difficult with noisy drunk kids in the mornings and noisy, sweaty kids in the afternoons or I mostly just dozed off in the nights. I never seemed to have any time at all. Off days were spent on laundry and sleep. Or trying to cook elaborate meals for myself that always fell sort of flat.

Professionally as well, I’d stagnated. I didn’t seem to be improving because there wasn’t anyone to push me. I had one Chef de Partie who would teach me stuff but I’d get to work with him maybe once or twice a week if I was lucky. Most times, I only saw him for 5 minutes and drove him to the restaurant in the company van. (My workplace is spread out over many buildings) Then we also hired a casual interim head chef who I enjoyed working with and learning from but the mundanity of the work and his eventual departure made things difficult too. I was getting lazy, disinterested and bored.

Then 2 nights ago, I felt like a 180 degree u turn, away from the dark tunnel that loomed ahead of me and into what looked like the light. I did a simple trial at a restaurant, about 20 minutes by bus and the busstop’s right outside my house. I enjoyed myself. The kitchen was small compared to the one where I’m still working but the team seemed to work together and things seemed organized. There were actually systems in place and the food was even respectably good. I wasn’t nervous but this tiredness had seeped in and I’d even forgotten my apron. Still, they thought I was ok so they gave me a shot and this one I’m taking with the knowledge that I’m aware of that fact that I’m doing something close to what I want at last. Oh. And I get paid more too.