Lately, I’ve heard repeatedly from folks in all walks of restaurant industry life that balance when it comes to work and play simply does not exist. But in this day in age, and in the wellness-infused culture we’re living in, I have to wonder if this is really true.
On the one hand, sure, it makes sense. Let’s just imagine it. As our May 2018 cover girl Sarah Grueneberg told me when she wakes up in the morning, her restaurant Monteverde in the Chicago’s West Loop is not at the end of the list of thoughts that pop into her mind. But she’s already been there all night the night before, and in a few short hours will return again.
This is the reason my uncles (the once-restaurateurs in my big Italian family—afterall, grandma used to say “There’s always money in pizza”) have always told me never to open a restaurant—quite explicitly, my Uncle Rick always said, “You do not want to do that.” I’m rebellious, without a cause always, so I inched as close to the industry as I could stand. But the closer I got, the more my constitution told me to stay on the outside. Unsurprisingly, I’ve done just that.
Still, I ask this question of chefs and restaurateurs time and time again—how do you create time for yourself—because at the ripe old age of 32 I simply cannot imagine a life in which I am not afforded the privilege, or luxury even, of time to restore. That and after only six months of 12-hour-days in a T.V. kitchen my knees were shot to hell no matter which brand of clogs I tried.
For Sarah, it was the gym. She’d just started working with a personal trainer and never felt better. For Chris Cosentino, another former Top Chef contender who I interviewed for our October 2018 hotel issue, it’s cycling. Chris is a former pro cyclist who takes his bike high above the clouds in the mountains surrounding San Francisco as a way to clear his mind. “It’s like clarifying stock,” he told me. And recently I read that Danila Sotto-Innes is using adaptogenic herbs and grandmotherly recipes to keep herself going while running two restaurants in New York City and seemingly another soon in Los Angeles. If those examples tell us one thing, it’s what we already know: take care of that body.
But others in the industry have presented me with another novel idea, one that I’m not quite sure works for a compartmentalizer like me, and that is the idea of blending. Your restaurant life and your personal life are one. You never fully “turn off” from the work world, just as you always make sure to make time for things that are high on your personal life priority list: family, friends, your health, etc. The pros I’ve talked to swear by this method. I’m curious, what have you found works for you?