I slowly grow accustomed to the shouting and the lineups.
As promised, I’m known as “the enemy” by my chef instructor and I feel miserably out of place in a sea of adolescent guys with pockmarked faces and crude jokes. We don’t cook yet, we just listen to Chef dictate measurements and temperatures, and I scribble notes furiously in my notebook that reminds me of college. I remember just a few weeks before, I had laid all my notebooks and cookbooks down on the carpet of my brand new apartment and labeled each one with a red permanent marker. I loved the feeling of going back to school and had always been a terrific student, at the top of my class. Here though, in this unfamiliar cold kitchen no one else has organized notebooks and folders like in my English classes. Instead, students are scribbling on torn looseleaf with pencils (pencils!) and with my ball point black pen and quiet mannerism, I’m instantly pinned as the class nerd.
My heart jumps to my throat on the sixth day of class when, during lineup, Chef inspects the length of our pants. I knew I was supposed to have them hemmed but between the two hours of homework per day and working at the restaurant, I hadn’t had a chance yet.
“Ahhh, the enemy!” Chef says when it’s my turn to be inspected. I have a pimple the size of Mt. Everest growing on my chin.
“Good morning, Chef!” I respond.
He goes through the basics: looking at my fingernails, checking the creases in my uniform, making sure my hairnet is secure and my face is make-up free, and then when he gets to my pants he stops. “These are way too long, Weber. You were supposed to have these hemmed by now.” He looks at me and the color drains from my face (I can’t help it that Chef makes me so nervous—it brings my social awkwardness to a whole new level).
“I’m sorry, Chef. I’ll do it today,” I say.
“You better. I’ll mark you down a grade if these aren’t perfect by lineup tomorrow.”
Later that afternoon I’m sitting in my apartment staring at my bank account on my laptop screen, a half eaten turkey and cheese sandwich next to me. Getting my pants hemmed would at least cost twenty dollars and that would ride into my food budget for the month. Screw it, I mutter under my breath and decide to just do it myself. In my closet, I find the small plastic sewing kit my mom gave me—the same sewing kit that has remained sealed for the past four years—because, more than anything else, I hate sewing with a burning passion.
I tell myself it must be done though, and after I pour myself a large glass of wine I sit down on the couch with the Food Network on and prepare to hem my first pair of pants. The stitches look all loose and loopy and despite my best efforts, the finished product looks more like a retro seventies pattern than anything else. I wonder briefly if I should pick it all out and start over, but then I glance at my watch and it’s already ten o’clock.
To be continued…