Reality Check – The end of an era

Reality Check – The end of an era

A year ago almost to the date, I could feel that this day was coming. For some reason I was certain of it. It was at that moment I dropped everything I was doing in Lagos at the time and decided to embark on a professional cooking journey. At that time I knew that if I didn’t do it then I would regret not doing it later. At that point the emails began. My goal was simple. Work at a Michelin starred restaurant for a year. I sent emails and placed calls to more than 30 restaurants. Funny enough the only one who asked me to come in for a stage was Alinea. At the time I thought it was a 1 star restaurant and without a doubt in my mind I packed my bags and headed to Chicago. I remember the first day of the stage walking into the kitchen and seeing the 3 star plaque on the wall and thinking “oh no…” but by then I was in it. After the 2 day stage I stayed because in all honesty I had no other options. There was something about seeing edible balloons, hearing chef Dan yell “5 minutes” and seeing the speed and focus at which food was being made.

I have chronic leg pain on my left side. It presents as an ulcer that comes with constant heaviness, swelling, tiredness and an occasionally prickling sensation. I have weak perforator veins and as a result blood has a hard time returning. I have coped with it for a few years, but when I could feel that I was on my last leg, I had to do something. I needed to push my physical limits while doing something I love which is cooking good food. A month before heading to Chicago I had a preventative leg surgery to be sure I would be ready for the trip. I spent 7 months cooking and prepping for around 100 people 5 days a week for 12 to 13 hours. Over this period I didn’t do anything else because I needed my rest on the 2 off days. By day 3 of each work week, I needed to switch to my tight athlete grade compression socks and a knee brace to walk comfortably. I felt every step and every item I carried each day. Occasionally when It got bad, I would say “Not today Satan” under my breath. A few times I said it loud enough that other cooks would hear me but I never explained why.

It was the beginning of February 2016 and Alinea Madrid just ended. At that point I was physically maxed out. I had to wear the athlete grade compression socks and knee brace everyday even on the weekends. I had also developed a slight limp intentionally because it helped ease the pain. After that experience I have spent the last 2 months relaxing and quite depressed. I had to mourn the loss of my ability to do a few things and I have now grown to love and embrace the new. I may no longer be able to cook as I once did if at all, but I am open to what the future brings. Thank you to everyone who has taught me how to cook and especially to everyone I have cooked beside. It has been an amazing 3 years and I do not regret any moment of it.

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