The way Nathan is looking at me in that photo.
He is sweet. Has an edge too.
Do you know the number of young men who stood in front of me acting like I knew nothing? With all my years of extraordinary training.
So many young men. It's disturbing.
They'd call me 'miss' instead of chef. Never called my male colleagues 'mister.'
At some point, I began wondering about their home life. About their dads in particular.
Contempt for women is generational.
I hope it's not happening to women in your restaurant kitchens.
Friday, September 29, 2007.
Me and Nathan at dinner in a Bouchon, Le Jura. Woman chef-owner.
I wanted my last meal in the city to have a feminine touch. A grand tradition in Lyon.
We sat at a banquette. Photos below.
There was a big plate of sautéed chanterelles with garlic and parsley to share. What else do you want to eat in September in France?
I had magret with roasted figs. Apparently, I gave Nathan shit for ordering a steak. A nicely cooked piece of beef is fine, but steak seemed a very American choice with a menu that had sweetbreads and lovely French dishes.
Who was I to dictate his pleasure? Fuck, I can be arrogant.
There was a round of St. Marcellin wrapped in a chestnut leaf, like a gift from Mother Nature. Crimson praline Torte Lyonnaise to finish.
Nathan remembers the chef, Brigitte, coming out at the end of dinner service and sitting at a table reading the newspaper. Daily rituals in a small restaurant. Moments of privacy.
The meal capped two weeks in the city, at the Institut Paul Bocuse.
It's a nice memory. We still talk about it.
The day did not start out a delight.
Here's a teaser:
The night before, some students had been out tearing up the city. Normal.
One of them we'll call the showman.
They found themselves at an after-hours club. The showman gave a half-naked improvisational performance. A local Lyonnaise told Nathan he was a nice guy, but bodily harm would follow if he didn't take his friend away quickly. The local knew karate. Hoo boy.
Last night in Europe. Quintessential.
The next morning those students missed something important.
Nathan was the only one who came to my room, looked me in the eye, admitted to being an asshole, and apologized.
The anger vanished. I can move on with haste under those conditions. Saying sorry takes backbone.
Real men do it.
Just click on this. Nathan was a cute kid.
He has a friendly temperament—calm and level-headed. He's liked in the business. Respected by people he leads.
He's got good things going on. A new business. Good partners. A lovely woman.
He's hiring in a new way. It's interesting. Gives me hope.
I like his cooking. He likes mine too.
I sometimes lend him my precious French cookbooks. A big deal. I have a library card sign-out system.
His Instagram feed fills up with images of Troisgros recipes. My heart fills up too.
The best way to educate the young. Show them the masters.
And not just the fucking men.
Some students came to teach me.
These bands. Similar DNA.
The bodies of work. Fuck.
The first song was lined up. But today, it seemed right. To weave the music together.
Our hearts are broken.
Debbie's angelic alter ego. My parents liked her.
Virgin Mary. The irony.
Yeah, catholic girl.
There are no photos of me in Sergio Valente 'pour on a pair' jeans, a t-shirt, shag hair, and liquid lip gloss. In a haze of Chantilly perfume. The 80s.
That's me on Tuesday, October 26, 1982.
At the best rock and roll concert of my life. Could be the drugs talking. Let's just say everything came together real nice.
The Diver Down tour. Second time I'd seen Van Halen. Running with the Devil tour in 1979 was the first. Tell me you can't hear the opening chords of that song right now.
Eddie Van Halen set our world on fire. His guitar riffs—the soundtrack of Lake Huron summers.
David Lee Roth. Pure showman.
I'd look at the Creem magazine posters of him on my bedroom wall as a teenager, and things would get hot between us. "Reach down between my legs and ease the seat back."
Running the gauntlet of Toronto cops at the entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens. The crush. Cute guys in denim jackets with long hair pressed against me.
The good stuff was already in me. A flask or two made it through. Thick pot smoke mocking security. A garnish for my altered state.
By the end of the setlist, I was flying.
Panama was on the next album. 1984. A classic rock and roll anthem.
The shots of packed concert halls in the video. Imagine me out there. Holding my Bic lighter high.
Fuck, I love her. So much fun.
She's still around.
We didn't take selfies. Certainly not in the bathroom. That's where we talked about our problems. Scratched our initials with a boys in a heart on a stall wall. Bummed cigarettes and tampons.
Most of my photos from that time are of the people with me. That's what was important.
I'm not being judgy. I love seeing your beautiful faces. In studio lighting.
But me as the subject of interest. Not the point.
And it's a value to remember.
No one took cameras to concerts.
It was all down to memory. While under the influence.
The second video is a fucking gem.
Thank you, Eddie, Alex, Michael, and David Lee. 🤘🎸🔥
"It's good to know who hates you, and it is good to be hated by the right people."
Being in food media is sometimes like being in high school.
There are cliques. Those with power tear it up with their own kind. Chef's Table-style.
Hierarchy's a choice.
I don't know what you do for therapy. I've had to get creative. Keep costs down.
The image is a title slide from a video. Made to scratch an itch. For personal entertainment purposes.
The cast: a fancy writer and a small group of white fourth-wave feminists on both sides of the border.
My recovery from alcoholism was fodder. I got used. Misled.
The experience messed with my mental health. I stopped putting words together.
The best lessons work that way. Kick the stuffing right out of you first.
For a time, I bought the fourth-wave feminists' theory on me.
I'd done nothing to change anything.
My career was a vast wasteland. Nothing to see here.
Three decades of languishing with zero talent.
Their snide label for me: enabler.
Like I'd invented chef culture. Personally onboarded all the bros in every restaurant.
A second wave feminist that left them with the mess to single-handedly clean up. How fucking exasperating.
Women blame and shame other women in sly ways.
Then we tug on Angela Davis t-shirts and go for drinks.
One of the fourth wavers called me "shrill." That's the word before bitch.
She got it wrong.
I'm a cunt. From way back.
The title of my memoir.
Pointy women words hurled at me. Like I hadn't heard them before. With thirty-plus years in hospitality.
The year I began gutting my house. To the frame.
The imperative—a new freedom and a new happiness.
Lessons in Journalism is creative. Honours my talents. It's an artful demonstration of self-respect.
There's a record of my responsibilities.
No exaggeration. I am not the fall girl.
Self-reckoning is a stop on the way to self-esteem.
There's humility in it. Grace too.
Someone watched over me while I made it.
Held up a light. So I could see.
What I learned:
It's never too late to go back and collect my power.
When the video was done, I set to work. Righting the wrong.
Calling my dignity back.
There was justice.
Working in kitchens prepared me.
For the ugly ways women behave:
Punch sideways—lateral aggression
Grasp—like there's not enough
Use people to do dirty work
Act like a prima donna
Step on you with Jimmy Choo shoes
Take things without permission
Pass harsh judgement
Act on professional envy
Form exclusive mean-girl clubs
Don't promote/hire women—in their kitchens
Have stories killed
Impose impossible standards
Bury beautiful work
I've done them.
So have you. I know. First-hand.
All distractions. Time wasters.
If I participate a dark cloak falls over my precious brightness.
The harsh reality. It all comes back. Messes with my potential.
Keeps me small. Which in Canada is something.
Protecting my creative life is everything.
I've got boundaries.
I don't know my future after this weekend
And I don't want to
My red toolbox.
Bought in the late 80s. At Canadian Tire.
Not a lot of women in that aisle.
Needing it felt exhilarating.
I wanted everyone to see me. Walking to the restaurant with it as a young apprentice.
Knives and kitchen stuff clattering. Ready to work.
It sat under my station at Rundles. Where I worked to the edge of insanity, 1991 to 1995. Like in a Michelin Two-Star kitchen. Which it was.
The pride in being a skilled tradeswoman. May all your beautiful daughters know joy at work.
It sits in the top of my closet now. I still keep things in it.
My uncle David's roast beef slicer—baron of beef blade. First chef in the family.
Larding needles. One ounce sauce ladle. Die for fine grinding. Cured fish/ham slicer.
An adorable mini multi-bit screwdriver. Very girly. Like I could fix a busted compressor with it.
I remember the good stuff that went missing too. Grew legs. Walked away.
A set of melon ballers for different size pearls—bought in France.
My first fish slice, when they were impossible to get in Canada. I associate that theft with the all-male crew around one Canadian celebrity chef. Band of fucking thieves.
The toolbox is unadorned. Bears no physical record of my travels. I'm not big on bumper stickers.
I'd like a car that colour. A '67 Camaro. A guy I liked in Goderich drove one. Nice back seat.
If I were buried like an Egyptian Queen, they'd find the toolbox in my sarcophagus. Something practical for the road to the afterlife.
It stirs up all the feelings. Memories of a younger me.
Full of verve.
A knife roll came after. Not the same.
Like talking to a hipster right after the plumber.
I haven't got much time to waste, it's time to make my way
I'm not afraid of what I'll face, but I'm afraid to stay