For the last several weeks, I have been participating in our Menu Development sessions in the kitchen at the restaurant. It all started with a casual conversation in Chef Alan's office, where he turned a negative situation I was going through personally into something positive by offering me the opportunity to come cook in the restaurant kitchen. At first, I was confused and in disbelief. I didn't think I had heard him correctly. Why would he ever open up that type of opportunity to me? I have no culinary education, nor any professional cooking experience. I am nothing but a self-taught, home "cook," who enjoys experimenting, exploring, then taking and posting photos of my creations. Whereas I had feelings of intimidation and inadequacy about working in the restaurant kitchen, Chef Alan was, and always has been, able to see and believe in the potential of others. He knew that cooking was one of my favorite hobbies, and that it was a creative outlet for me to express myself. He also wanted to learn more about Korean food and Korean cooking, which tends to be my go-to comfort food to cook. It opened a window for both of us to learn and be inspired.
I was equally nervous and thrilled. I hadn't had time to cook in a while, nor had I ever cooked in a restaurant kitchen before. I would be amongst the chefs and cooks of our restaurant, cooking and feeding them. At first, I felt and acted as an amateur cook; I was the sponge, trying to learn and soak up everything I could from the kitchen cooks around me, who had more experience. Yet, a few weeks into it, Chef pulled me aside and told me that this although this was my chance to learn, it was more so my chance to teach. He put me in a position of being the “Subject Matter Expert” of Korean cuisine, and I realized that I needed to own that role, and teach everyone what I knew. It’s been refreshing to see that others are curious about what I know, and are open to me showing them.
I have always been an intrinsic learner – one who is genuinely and persistently curious, interested and wanting to know everything. When I started working at Alan Wong’s Restaurants, I was always the student. Now that I have crossed the line into management, and am no longer the newest, or even the youngest, I have a different role to play. Working at this company, and with this particular team, has stretched me beyond my comfort zones while playing with my strengths. I remind myself that there is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone. It isn’t easy to find many places or people that will believe in you, your potential, and foster versatility in this manner. I am lucky to be growing here, not only as a student - but now, also as a teacher. My greatest lesson from these last several weeks is that I must remember, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.”