As I sit in one of my favorite coffee houses, somewhere in a small town in Kansas, my mind drifts to the last year in which I performed my services as Chef Stan, The Iron Chef, of Montebello’s Eastside Chippery. Of all the roles I have played, master criminal, art dealer, visual artist, night club owner, clothing designer, movie producer and all the variations there of, I can honestly say that Chef Stan and the Eastside Chippery may have been the most challenging. And perhaps the most rewarding.
Usually at this point I would recap some of my thoughts from the blogs Eastside Chippery Part I and Part II, but frankly I’m not much in the mood to look back—I’ll save that for the book. Suffice it to say that a little over a year ago I wound up taking over a really bad Mexican food restaurant in my hometown of Montebello. And this restaurant, against all odds, turned out to be both an incredible fiasco and success simultaneously during the same year. This being said, I’d like to share some of the deeper thoughts and emotions that I experienced during the course of being Chef Stan of the Eastside Chippery.
In many ways I am the ultimate of ordinary and yet there is a very unusual spark here and there that has for all of my life made me different. I say this now because it’s always had an effect and or influence on how things I’ve been involved in have turned out. It’s also the reason that people throughout my life have had such strong reactions toward me. In short, I’ve been blessed to have been the recipient of kindness and teaching by people of much greater accomplishment than myself and I have also been hated by people who have perceived insult or mistreatment, which in fact may have occurred, but certainly to no degree that merited, in some cases, unadulterated malice.
For 45 years or so, there was a part of me that just wanted to be normal. However, in my heart there was an even greater desire to be special. And over the last year at the Eastside Chippery I came to realize that both were vanity and the source of much of what had become frustrating and emotionally painful to me. One might ask, hadn’t you heard the words of King Solomon? And the answer is, yes, I had heard the words “Vanity of vanities…” but hearing and understanding do not necessarily equate to harkening. As I stood in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes sometimes for 32 hour stretches at a time, my heart, for lack of better words, began to soften and the vanity to dissipate. Continue reading