A Conversation with The Chef

June 20, 2017    » posted by: charlieredd

Chapel Hill, North Carolina 1997

Chef Brian Stapleton called me into his office at The Siena Hotel when I got to work. I was dressed in my standard Guatemalan shorts, Grateful Dead t-shirt, flip flops, mop of hair, and a Lucky Strike cigarette dangling from my lips.

The Chef stated “Charlie, I want to offer you the pastry chef position. I know you have an interest in that side of the kitchen and I think you would do well. You have grown a lot in this kitchen and this position could give you a whole new set of skills and challenges. But first I want to talk to you about how you are living.”

I responded “Wow, thanks Chef! I’m flattered and I think I would be great for the position. I love baking and I think I could-”

He interrupted “Hold on a second, Charlie. One question. Do all your possessions fit into your car?”

“Well…yeah. Hell, yeah!” was my answer.

“That’s great! You’re at a very special time in your life. You have the ability to go anywhere, whenever, and do whatever. That freedom is priceless and you seem to really enjoy it. Am I right?”

“Well…” I pondered. “Yes. I enjoy it.”

“You could pack up and move whenever you want? Right?”

“You know it. I could jam tomorrow.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” he asked.

“Well, I’m not sure. We just met. Don’t know what I would call it. She’s pretty hot.”

“Great! Well this is what I’m getting at. You are able to do whatever you want now. You don’t have much but you’re happy. If you take this position you will make more money. Things will change drastically for you. For the first 6 months you will be working a lot but will have real money and have the ability to go out to eat, drink in nice bars, enjoy a professional lifestyle. Sounds nice, right?”

“Hell, yeah it does.” I said.

“And things will really blossom with this new girl. You will be wining and dining, having sex every day. You will even fall in love. Sounds great, right?”

“Well, parts of that. I like the first part-”

“There’s no stopping it.” Chef continued. “When you are rolling like that it just happens. It’s a beautiful thing. You spend every night together, your things get all mixed up, pretty soon you’re talking about ditching your stinky roommates and getting a place together. You traded in your Subaru wagon for a Mustang and you love to rip through town after a great night at the restaurant with people raving about your dessert creations. You have made it to the next level.”

“Next level, that’s it. Cool.”

“But now…does all your stuff fit into that Mustang? Nope. You have things like new furniture, car payment, nice clothes, all the benefits of a well-paying job. AND you have a serious girlfriend living with you.”

“Whoa, where are you going with-”

“So now the question starts to come casually, and more frequently. When are we going to make this real? When are we going to get serious? What do you think about for the future? Aren’t children sooo special? You’re working more as you develop a team under you. You have sex maybe once a week but that’s starting to become less frequent and less fun. Blow jobs are a distant memory. Your Mustang is always in the shop so you trade it in for a station wagon, maybe another Subaru. But not the rugged model you drive now with those boss white spoke rims but a shiny new one in forest green that your fiancé likes with an automatic transmission. It gets good gas mileage and has lots of space….for kids. That’s the new topic of the year and it’s time to man up and get in the game. Best thing you could do. Kids are great. My two kids are the center of my world. Congratulations. You have really made it. And all this will all be yours in a few years.“

“Wait a minute, I’m not ready for kids. How can I play Frisbee golf professionally if I have kids? I want to go out West and I haven’t been to Europe yet or backpacked across Africa or…..”

“Ahhh, Youthful dreams. Responsibility at work means responsibility all around. So….do you want the position?”

“NO WAY! That sounds heavy. I’m just fine line cooking, helping the team, and I’m down to do whatever needs to be done for the pastry work but I sure as hell don’t want that job! Thanks, but no thanks.”

Chef laughed lightly and stared at me. “Good. You are at a crossroads. You will choose what’s best for you. I want you to stay but I can tell you need to grow. I grew up in California and I think you need to go there. The cooking is decades ahead of what is here in North Carolina and you will never meet more beautiful women. The west is where it’s happening. I think you are ready for your next adventure. Let’s talk in a couple of days and think about it. The position is yours if you want it. But only if you want all that comes with it.”

Two days later I sat down with Chef and politely declined the pastry chef position.

“Good. You have big things ahead of you. You didn’t want that position anyway. You know why?” Chef asked me.

“Why?” I answered.

"Because you know who the pastry chef ALWAYS works for?”


“The Chef. That’s where you want to be.”