We are so proud of Rajeev Rajendran 1st place winner of the 2014 INDY Weekly Poetry Contest for a poem written from the viewpoint of his mother.
Notes from Our Chef
by Rajeev Rajendran
Move fast, stay sharp. If it’s not sharp, it’s not a knife.
Be attentive to guests. Be interested, be loving, be generous in all things,
to each other and to them. The answer is yes.
The work we are doing is sacred. This food has come to us through God,
and we will serve it as his hands and feet. Wash your hands frequently
and wear closed-toed nonslip shoes. Be patient. A great meal is a spiritual experience.
You are empowered now as an extension of me to have a sense of ownership.
Own this, the words that you say and your every action. These ships that are blown
by strong winds are driven by small rudders, so watch your touch
that you don’t put a single hand onto a plate in anger. And above all,
watch your tongues. Your tongue becomes your eyes when we lose our sight,
but it moves as a deadly weapon—more poisonous than the serpent’s tooth. Control it.
It does not control you. Beloved, not many of you should become chefs
because you know that we who teach shall be judged more harshly.
But I am with you in this. Do as I would do. You are empowered
to give what you need to give and say what you need to say
to make their experience positive. They are not customers, they are our guests.
They are not your guests, they are your family. Your self and the hand that feeds you,
nearer than sight when your own family leaves you. They will come back and be here
believing when you are tired, because you’ll forget as you feed from this every day,
how good this is, but they won’t, because it is. It tastes good to them,
it tastes good to them, you can tell by the way they give themselves to it,
it is that good, down to the base chemistry.
We are alchemists working through generations of history.
Learn the recipes.