Marco Pierre White, once known as the best young chef in the world (who trained Gordon Ramsay) once said: "At the end of the day, it's just food, isn't it?". I have to disagree with him on that, but for reasons outside why you might think. On the surface, yes, it's just food. I think the quote was probably intended for the 21 year old line cook who just got yelled at by the Chef de Cuisine or had a steak sent back for being "undercooked".
But for me, the food is just the craft I have trained for years to master (and continue to) and happen to make a living providing it for people all over the State of Tennessee and beyond. In addition to food, though, there's service, the planning with clients, the few that try to haggle, the few that try to rip me off, the vacations I gave up, the business itself that threw me into a depression when Covid-19 came sniffing around, the relationships I've gained, the relationships I've lost, and more. When I first started the business, I was burning the candle at both ends. I crashed my car twice that first year because once I was in a daze after my 35th straight day of working, and the other time, I slipped into a nap behind the wheel and ended up in somebody's back bumper, due to similar working conditions. I was battling depression and anxiety because I was facing the harsh reality that my business may never make it, no matter how hard I was willing to work.
Rest Assured, my mental health is under control and thriving, right alongside my physical health (knock on wood). Business is doing very well too, but I can't help but think about those days often. All of the sacrifices I made. This is more than food, this is my life and my career and I take it very seriously and very personally.
I am also learning how to trust the process more these days. We have slow months and busy months scattered through the year and I am learning to worry less about that. I am also learning a valuable lesson about my time. I am learning to value my time no differently than my money and taking time to myself away from work and the company of others is powerful for us all. We are busy and even the amount of time we stare at TikTok is getting ridiculous. I am also done letting others waste my time.
A few weeks ago, I had a coffee shop reach out about a potential partnership for us to provide them with food. I poured a few hours into figuring out the logistics and some sample menus. I sent them over for approval and scheduled a tasting. Everything was on track to move forward so I prepared an invoice for the raw food cost for the tasting and they dropped out of the deal over 120 dollars. I was planning to donate my time to plan, cook, cool, package, transport, and work out a deal. The industry standard on this is that tastings aren't usually free unless you are working with a very large catering company. We do it to protect the interest of the business. Anybody serious about moving forward with excellent food for their customers certainly expects to pay a couple of hundred bucks to make sure it is actually good! Not to mention, if they didn't want to move forward in the end, due to, say, a small pricing dispute on the sandwiches, I would've wasted vast amounts of my time AND money. The day after they dropped out of the deal, an even better opportunity came about that far surpassed the opportunity with the coffee shop.
Valuing your time might look like saying no to margs with friends this weekend, it may look like not visiting your family as often. It might be taking time to listen to a podcast, do a load of laundry, and sip on some tea. As a business owner, it is waiting to check my email until morning. I am getting better at this whole thing.
At the end of the day, it's the time you have put in mastering your craft, its the emotions you poured in, it's the risks you took, oh, and the food. It's just food, isn't it? Maybe it is.
My name is Tyler King and I love to write about my journey, not only in the kitchen, but in the ever changing world of entrepreneurship. I graduated from Belmont University's Entrepreneurship program in 2018 and started Tastify that same year. I hope you all find something of value in my blog posts! Definitely reach out if you have any ideas or questions!