Chef Jeff Osaka reflects on love, loss, and moving forward.
Things die. In the past six months I was forced to close a restaurant permanently, a chef friend of mine died unexpectedly in front of his young daughter, and three people in my organization have taken their own lives.
[It’s all] forcing me to ponder…how do I continue to live a life of my own yet be a cheerleader to others? How do I continue to champion an industry where I’ve given my heart and soul, when the odds are against me the moment I wake each day? I’m exhausted before I start my day and I can’t sleep at night. I’m tired of being tired. I beat myself up with the heaviest of guilt knowing I might have been able to prevent someone’s death: “If only I said this…or did that.” What is this all for if you can’t help those around you?
Over the years I’ve worked hard to hone my craft in the kitchen, but as it turns out, cooking is the easy part.
When I started in this industry 30 years ago, I thought that being a great chef meant you had to be a great cook. Over the years I’ve worked hard to hone my craft in the kitchen, but as it turns out, cooking is the easy part. Fast forward to 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, with life crumbling around us, and I have to convince myself each night as I say, “Tomorrow is going to be a great day!”
People depend on me. Our guests come to our restaurants to put life on pause and spend a few precious moments with friends and our staff. They seek comfort in our gesture of hospitality and thoughtful food and beverages. I survive on the people who exist around me and the memories of those who have left us. I’m not in it for the accolades nor for the money (definitely not the money).
I strive to be a better employer, father, husband, and my reward at the end of the day is when I can tell myself, “Today was a great day!”
What is your “why”? Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to email@example.com.