Last Ticket to Fire….
That’s it! I quit! I retire!
Keith Ancker originally posted this on a Facebook Group – Chef’s Circle, and I loved his full on story of what his life’s been behind the pass. Now he’s moving on, and giving bouquets and brickbats to those from his past. Keith is in the USA, so for those Australians among us, some of the terms will be strange. But it’s worth the read, trust me. And I haven’t taken out the language… it’s how it is.
A small note from Keith: “This started out as a Facebook post to a private group. I’ve edited it slightly for the public view, a few word choices, some grammar, punctuation etc.. Some names have been deleted, because airing kitchen business in front of the guests is not cool. A few names were added because they deserve to be here, one in particular because she deserved better than to be thanked anonymously. Your ex-chef, Keith.”
In Keith’s words:
“That’s it! I quit! I retire! After 20-some years in and out of the kitchen, trying to leave but getting sucked back in, I’m getting out! I’ve got a condo I’m putting on Air BnB and a media startup that’s beginning to make money.
No more skeevy owners, no more late cheques, no more lazy bastards who bitch about being put in dish because the regular guy is in jail or got deported. No more wondering what it’s like to have weekends to myself, no more fuckstick FOH seating parties of 10, five minutes before close, no more smelling like pork/garlic/onions everyday.
I’m going to miss it all. Terribly.
The friendships, the crush, the crash at the end. But there’s no real money in this game, and unless you want to be an owner, no endgame. I’m getting old, and I have expensive tastes and expensive habits and expensive hobbies. And kids. I should spend more time with mine. And I’d like to get to the gym. As it turns out, pasta and risotto 6 days a week will make you a chubby monkey. Who knew?
To the crew of the Hooters I started at: thank you for introducing me to the pirate life. Your food was terrible, your waitresses overrated, but those first underage beers were divine.
To Unit, Big Daddy, Dirty Mark and the fine folks at the Outback Steakhouse in Overland Park Kansas: I had a blast. Thanks for showing me what it means to really, really, really make a kitchen spotless. Fifteen years on, and I’ve still never seen a place sparkle like that after service.
Unit, I’ll never forget the morning you walked in, looked me in the eye and said “Have you ever been driving past a field, seen a horse taking a piss and thought ‘yeah, I could take ALL of that?'”
To the gang at Swilly’s the gastropub I worked in college, thank you for feeding me and teaching me that the secret to amazing lobster bisque is a little sherry. Also for initiating my love affair with Reuben sandwiches.
To Mustafa and Tula’s Jazz Club, thank you for teaching me the secrets of what Branford Marsalis called the best hummus west of the Mississippi. And also, for exposing me to some amazing music. Mac, you’re a legend, if for nothing else than the line “If I had a brother in Texas and a sister in a whorehouse, I’d rescue my brother first.” Michael, you were truly one of a kind, the most elegant queen I’ve ever met. I know you’re holding court behind a bar somewhere up there, side-eyeing me the room.
To Hillel thank you for your patience, teaching me to make a perfect aioli, breaking my balls about working clean, working smart and proper knife work. Everything else aside, I really do wish you the best. I hope you’re well.
To [unnamed co-worker #1], thank you for showing me what a punkass bitch looks like. Fuck you and your xantham gum. Hack.
And [unnamed owner #1], you’re the reason owners have a shitty rep. Your wife sucks too. And not in the way that makes people happy.
To Chad at Bottle & Bull, thanks for the shot. Your Uptown Girl wife jumping in the dishpit in her nice clothes and throwing down is the most gangster thing I’ve seen in a kitchen.
Bryan Casey – the way you love and care about food inspires me. The way you care about teaching humbles me. I love you chef. Thank you.
To Nasty Nate, thanks for teaching me about pickling. And for teaching me about the difference between right, and right now.
Joe, thanks for teaching me that the difference between right and right now is fucking stupid and to just do it right. But fucking faster.
[unnamed co-worker #2], you’re a moderately skilled, racist shitfuck of an ex-con and dope fiend. The perfect example of how a terrible personality and a shitty work ethic work hand in hand with utter cluelessness. You egomaniacal twat monkey.
Mark Mark the Mad Russian, your dedication to doing it right, to holding a standard…that is something I love and try to live up to. I will not try to outdrink you. Ever.
Ellie – you’re a tough, capable woman. Thanks for showing me the perfect candied nuts, fish butchery, and most importantly why communication with your boss is so important. Also for teaching me that even at this point I am capable of being unaware that I have my head up my own ass.
Carmen – your horchata makes me weak. Especially with the real Durango cinnamon.
Gabby – you overdress your salads, but you showed me everything else about them that I needed. Thank you
Neil – you’re just a good dude.
Chris – you sexy ginger ninja. Your baking kung fu is strong.
[unnamed coworker #3] – yes, can be an OCD, socially dysfunctional weirdo. You’re also a pretty decent dude and you make the best goddamn pasta in Seattle in your underground autistic sex dungeon. I appreciate your maniacal dedication to that perfection.
To every south-of-the-border homie I’ve ever worked with: you guys are the backbone of this industry. It doesn’t work without you, and I don’t trust a kitchen without one of you in it. Fuck Trump, fuck his wall, and fuck la migra. Hugo, Alfredo, Cecilio, Jesus and every other last one of you…
Tom Wang…Chef, thank you for believing in me (even when I had to convince you) for teaching me, and never letting me feel like I was a useless c*nt. Even when you were cussing me out and looking at me like I was retarded. You always took time to show me what I was doing wrong and how to do it better. You’re the most talented guy I’ve ever worked for, and I will deeply miss working under you.
Vaya con dios, fuckers.”
I hope you readers enjoyed this as much as I did! It’s such an incredible window into a life behind the pass. And while Keith’s experiences in no way speak for everyone, I’m sure many of you will relate. Thank you Keith, so much for putting in the time to get this down, and readers, let us know what you think!