Part 6: Greener Pastures
This is the latest installment in a continuing series that documents my personal quest to become the host of my own cooking show. Since this is a relatively new “career,” there are no vocational programs or community college courses to prepare me for it. From what I have seen, the two most important elements in securing such a position are passion for food and plain old dumb luck. Born with a passion for food, I set out to make my own luck.
Wintzell’s Oyster House has been in operation in Mobile since 1938. What began as an oyster bar with six stools is now a multi-unit restaurant powerhouse that is unique in character and the standard bearer for what a true Gulf Coast oyster house should be. I escape from the Fern Bar to become a part of this remarkable piece of Mobile history as an associate manager.
Wintzell’s managerial formula is that there are no FOH (Front Of House) managers and no BOH (Back Of House) managers. Rather, all managers work both aspects several times a week. My stint there allows me to work at three of the four stores as well as the commissary which makes a good deal of the gumbo, jerk chicken chili, and other signature Wintzell’s dishes. I also get my first taste of catering.
My employment there also has me working notable events like the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, which transforms the small artist colony of Fairhope, AL into a 200,000 visitor carnival of well-to-do art lovers from across the country. I also spend a week at the original downtown location helping during Mardi Gras. For those who do not know, Mobile, not New Orleans, is the home of American Mardi Gras, having celebrated it for nearly half a century before some engineer decided to erect a city at that peculiar crescent shaped bend in the Mississippi River.
Though the money is great and the experience is good, I have little time left to work towards the ultimate goal of becoming a TV chef. I have not written an article since going into management, over a year in fact. In the summer of 2006, I leave the time-consuming field of restaurant management to become a sous chef for a national chain Italian restaurant.
The chain has a wonderful dedication to quality ingredients and making things from scratch. All in all it is a pleasant experience with one exception, I am dirt poor. On the bright side I do have time to work on my web site and to start writing again. Towards the holidays of 2006, I see an ad that will have a profoundly effect on my quest to become a TV chef.