Cooking Food Is Not Just A Necessity, It's An Art

Cooking Food Is Not Just A Necessity, It's An Art

What you focus on you create more of so I'm focusing all my energy on food.

There’s a saying that I have had hanging on my wall for as long as I can remember. For years now, not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought or spoken these words to myself and others. The saying I see each morning before my feet hit the floor is “what you focus on, you create more of in your life.”

This means that whatever it is you spend the most time focusing on (whether that is on positive or negative energy, happiness or sadness), you are bound to manifest more of it. I thoroughly believe that thoughts become things, so we should choose the good ones and hone in on those. Nonetheless, being the realist that I am, I am also aware that focusing on materialistic items such as “money” will not beget more physical money in your life just by thinking about it. However, I do believe that by focusing on concepts, we can manifest certain skills or an affinity for that concept.

In my case, I focus on the idea and concept of food. The way to my heart has always been through my stomach and like I always say, “good food = good mood.” When I wake up each morning (slightly disoriented from the grogginess one feels after a heavy sleep), like many of you, I immediately think “W.T.F.”

However, my “W.T.F.” usually stands for “where’s the food.”

I suppose you could say that over the years, I’ve manifested quite the array of meals and dishes as a result of my constant daydream-state of culinary artistry.

Perhaps it’s my constantly churning thought process that has led cooking to be one of those things in life that one does and then thinks “whoa, how did I even do that?”

If you read my piece “9 Charleston Restaurants You Need to Feed Your Inner Foodie” then you might have surmised that I flirt with the idea of food quite often.

As a child, my television channel of choice was never Disney Channel or Nickelodeon; rather, I wanted to sit criss-cross applesauce on the floor with my little neck craned upwards to watch in awe as the Iron Chefs battled, or as Ina Garten whipped up another mouth-watering meal for “Jeffrey.”

When I was 9, I told my mom I wanted to be Jeffrey for Halloween. She looked at my slightly puzzled and then put the pieces together and realized that Jeffrey is the one who Ina Garten typically cooks for. Jeffrey has the great pleasure of indulging in famous Barefoot Contessa recipes such as Zesty Chicken Piccata or Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes while 9-year-old Sophia is typically found snacking on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sans crust. I knew there had to be more to life than peanut butter and jam stuck between two pieces of store-bought bread.

So, the following Halloween I received my very own white chef’s jacket and skipped around neighborhoods with a spatula in one hand and an empty (soon to be filled) cooking pot in the other (so that I could collect ample amounts of candy while still remaining in character).

To me, the art of food and the act of eating is an invigorating experience that electrifies all of our senses. Whether those senses are activated by the sought-after crackling crisp sound you hear as you twist and tear the bubbling browned edges of a fresh baguette, or when you drag that morsel of bread into a tomato soup that is absolutely bursting with the taste of blistered tomatoes simmered in a rich heavy cream and dusted with just the right amount freshly cracked pepper.

Or perhaps, your senses become alive the moment you become intoxicated by the wafting smell of cookies in the oven only to be met by another moment when that perfectly undercooked cookie is placed in your hand and you can feel the beads of moisture build in your palm from the heat of the ooey-gooey chocolate chips that await you. Even more, maybe it’s simply the sight of a perfectly golden croissant, effortlessly dusted with powdered sugar perched inside of a glass dome atop of your local bakery’s counter that triggers the chain reaction of awakening your senses.

I focus on food because it excites me. I find it immensely gratifying that something I can create and prepare with my own hands can transform the way someone feels without any words being exchanged. As I mentioned earlier, good food elicits a good mood. With food, there is no need for speech or conversation between the chef and the consumer for the consumer’s mood to be transformed. The use and language of flavors, smells, noises, visual aesthetics, and textures act as the method of communication.

If nothing else, my hope is that these words have prompted you to view food from a different perspective. Though eating is a necessity, I believe that cooking is an art. A meal is an opportunity for communication and transformation and when you focus on that, you focus on what it means to truly experience food using all of your senses.

Cover Image Credit: Sophia Winter

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I'm The Customer That Doesn't Always Tip 20 Percent

I can be your best friend or your worst nightmare, but it depends on YOU.

As a server, I fully understand that myself, and others like me, make a living off of our tips.

I know how nice it is to get a $50 tip and how frustrating it is to get merely change when you did everything you could to make the unpleasable table happy. I am well aware that an acceptable tip is anywhere from 15-20% and I typically tip way over that.
However, I can easily say that there have been times where I have tipped anywhere from 5-15%. In these times, the tip was well deserved...or not deserved.

As before mentioned, I am a server, bartender, and part-time restaurant manager. It is safe to say that I know the business quite well. This makes me aware of the tipping process and what is deemed acceptable, but it also makes me aware of what a serving job entails. We are, without a doubt, the worst critics when we are out to eat. We noticed everything you did or didn't do and we timed how long it took to get our drinks -- it's just in our blood.

We also notice if you are genuinely good at your job, or if you are just there to be there.

The key point to any serving job is knowledge. I, as a customer, expect you to be able to answer almost all of my questions. If I ask you something absurd like "exactly where was your lettuce grown?" ....Like what the f****? Who knows that? But when I ask what beers you have on draft, or what all comes on a salad, I expect you to know it. If you don't, I dock it off your tip. No, it's not mean, it's you not holding up your end of the deal when you started this job.

I know that sometimes you get busy and it's hard to cater to someone's every need, but I do expect my refills in a timely manner and would also expect you to check back with me shortly after I get my food to make sure everything tastes good. I feel like that all is just common sense. If I have to wait for five minutes with an empty glass before I even have the chance to call you over, that's going to affect your tip. If you never check up on me after I get my food, guess what, I take it off your tip. If something goes wrong in the kitchen or you forgot to put my order in, do not avoid me. Tell me. I know how hard it is to tell a table that you are the one who screwed up their experience, but it is so much better to be honest and shows more about your integrity than by saying, "I don't know, the kitchen lost your ticket. There was a computer malfunction and then things caught fire. The firemen had to come and put it out, and then they found your ticket under the smoldering that's why your steak is five minutes late.".... Just tell me you got busy and it slipped your mind. I'm okay with that.

The worst one to me is when I see my server on her phone. I know that today's generation has some need to be in contact with everyone 24/7 and I have learned to accept that. But when I need something at my table, and you fail to notice because your girl friend just broke up with her boyfriend who cheated on her with his supposed best friend...I'm not going to be happy. You are here to work and this is your job. And, not to be conceded, but I come first. I am the one paying the bill that allows you to keep that phone your on in service, so make sure that I am happy before Samantha can't call you the next time shit hits the fan with Andrew. It's common sense.

Despite all of these, probably the number one thing I look for in a server is a positive attitude. We all have our own lives outside of work, and not to be cold, but I don't really care about yours. I am here for a nice dinner and a night out to not worry about my own crazy life let alone wonder about yours. As soon as you walk into work, the outside world needs to stay there. Do not be in a terrible mood because your girlfriend is psycho. Do not show the customer that you simply don't want to be at work. You don't want to be -- I don't tip you. Easy as that. If you engage in even a small conversation with me, I will tip you more than expected. I am extremely easy to please and really understanding.

I know that every place is different and every store/restaurant has different standards, but I the guest-service industry all lies on the same guidelines. The number one rule is to make the guest happy. I am not that guest who asks for the world from my server. Nor am I that guest who doesn't tip my server if my food came out overcooked or doesn't taste good. I know what lies on the server and what lies in other areas of the store. I know what they can and can't control.
As a customer, I can be your best or your worst, but that all lies on the service that I receive from YOU.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia

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5 Things You're Doing That Are Making Your Barista Hate You

And you probably don't even realize you're doing them.


It's not secret that a morning Starbucks run is pretty much an integral part of daily life these days. Most of us can't function without our grande skinny vanilla latte or the occasional treat like an iced lemon pound cake. But in the craziness of waiting in line and trying to pull up your reward for before the person in front of you finishes ordering, sometimes we all unintentionally make other people's jobs a little harder. Here are five ways you might be driving your barista crazy.

1. Arguing over surcharges.

Let's get one thing straight: Starbucks is expensive. There's no way around it. While it's frustrating, arguing over a couple extra cents for a drink modification is helping nobody, and when you say "well they never charge me at the other Starbucks," you are most definitely going to be the butt of a joke as soon as you're gone. Baristas are required to charge you, even if they don't want to because they can get in trouble if they don't. At most Starbucks, they literally can't put your order in without adding the surcharges, because the orders are done through the computer.

To make things a bit easier in the future, let me clear things up. One shot of espresso is 80 cents more. Substituting almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk is 60 cents more (unless it's in an iced coffee, then there's no charge). Adding extra pumps of syrup is 50 cents more. One extra pump is usually not enough to constitute a surcharge, but other baristas may do it differently. Like I said, surcharges suck. But you know what else sucks? Being yelled at over 60 cents when you're just trying to get through an eight-hour shift.

2. Assuming we know what you're talking about when you order off the "secret menu."

First of all, there is no secret menu. When you work at Starbucks, you are never trained in a "secret menu." It's just various recipes that people have come up with and posted on the internet. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with secret menu drinks. A lot of times, they can actually be really fun to make or even try out! But if you try to order a secret menu drink without bringing us a recipe or just assuming we know what it is, that's a problem.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we may have to charge you extra, depending on what's in the drink. We're not trying to punish you. It's just that because these drinks don't exist in the register, we have to use our judgment to decide what the right price is. This is by no means an attempt to discourage you from ordering secret menu drinks. All we ask is that you bring a recipe!

3. Ordering waters at the handoff station.

At the Starbucks where I work, lots of people come up just to order waters because we give them out for free no matter the size. However, sometimes people order at the handoff station rather than the register which can be problematic. See, if there are already drinks that need to be made, or there's a line of customers, ordering at the handoff station can mess up the order of drinks. Plus, it's not fair to customers who are waiting on drinks that they paid for.

Of course, most people don't mean anything bad by this, but when customers do this, I still have to put their drinks at the end of the line. If they already have a paid-for drink that they're waiting for, this can double their waiting time. In the end, it's just simpler and more convenient for everyone, the customer included, to order waters at the register.

4. Getting angry over misspelled names.

This is a tricky one. I always make an effort to spell people's names correctly, because otherwise, it can lead to difficulties identifying whose drink is whose. If somebody has a foreign or unusual name, I almost always ask for the spelling. But, if it's extremely busy, I may cut corners just to quicken things up. For example, if your name is Ashley, but you spell it "Ashleigh," I'm probably just going to spell it the easiest way so that I can quickly help the next customer. It's not a slight against you, but it's just a necessity in order to keep the line moving. Also, all of these cups are going to be thrown away as soon as you're finished with them anyway, so we're generally not too concerned with our handwriting or our spelling, so long as you still know it's your drink. If you do want your name spelled correctly, just immediately spell it out for us!

5. Coming in right before close and expecting us to be fully stocked (or still serve you after hours)

At the Starbucks where I work, the rush always comes right before we're closing. It sucks. It usually dies down maybe 10 minutes before, but not always. It makes sense, because my Starbucks is located on a college campus, and we close right after classes tend to let out. That being said, sometimes we get the occasional customer who comes in two minutes before close and expects us to have everything ready and available for them. Unfortunately, this might not always be the case. Our espresso machines might be shut down and our coffees and teas might be thrown out already. This isn't to deprive people, but if it's three minutes before close and it doesn't look like any more customers are going to show up, it just makes things easier.

Now, if it's 9:58 p.m. and you come into a Starbucks looking for a drink, you have to accept that they might not be able to serve you. In the end, baristas also have had a long day at work, and they also want to go home. Also, the hours of the store are almost always posted outside, so there's no reason not to know when the store is closing. While most customers don't have bad intentions, to some, it can come off as rude if you come in right before close. Obviously, we understand if you need a late pick-me-up before you go into your night shift, or maybe you just want to treat yourself, but please understand that we just might not have everything as opposed to if you had come in earlier.

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