Not all of my favorite stories are crazy drunks and awkward encounters. I get to meet some really accomplished and interesting people who are full of stories that just inspire me and make me believe that there are still hard working and awesome people out there.
On one such night, I was called to a local sushi spot in Minneapolis for Justin. I pulled up to a group of four friends smoking out front as the restaurant had already closed hours ago.
“THAT’S your Uber driver?” said a drunk friend of the ride requestor, “She’s a lot prettier than the middle eastern guys I usually get!”
“Don’t take our favorite sushi chef away!” called over the girl of the corner group, “he’s the BEST! Are you sure you can’t hang out longer, Justin?” He said he had an early morning, waved like a celebrity back to his adoring fans as he smoothly got into the backseat, and we drove off.
“So, a sushi chef?” I began the small talk, “that’s definitely a unique profession for, no offense, a white guy in your…20s?”
“26, actually,” he responded with a smile, “I’ve wanted to be a chef for as long as I can remember and this was just the most fun kind to be!” He went on to tell me that he grew up in small town Wisconsin with nothing resembling a five-star restaurant for miles away. But somehow, he was just born knowing he wanted to create food and cook at this high level of skill and artistry. “There’s a home video somewhere, of me at age THREE grabbing things from the cupboard, mixing them together and making my parents taste the butter/cinnamon/cilantro creation I had made haha!”
This guy went all though grade school, junior high, high school just KNOWING he would be a chef. Of course it was cute when he was younger, then guidance counselors would recommend he look at something else because they knew it wasn’t the usual tech school or UW path that most kids would take upon graduation, but he didn’t listen and instead, moved to the big city for culinary school, busboy jobs, and persevering toward his dream.
“So that’s how I ended up a sushi chef – happened to get hired as a busboy at a Japanese restaurant right after I moved here for school, realized this food style was more exciting than anything I had thought up before, and went for it. They let me cook a little as I got through culinary school, the sushi master trained me, and now I’ve managed 3 sushi spots around the cities and made it as head chef at the biggest one.”
“Wow. That is seriously a huge accomplishment and you should be incredibly proud of everything you’ve done,” I genuinely gushed when he had finished his abridged car ride autobiography.
“Thank you. I get a lot of compliments on my food, but not on the work it took to get here, so I really appreciate that,” he smiled and gazed thoughtfully out the window as he had a look of reflection on all the things he had really done. We pulled up to his apartment, he thanked me again, and I left with a sense of pride-by-association for this amazing and determined guy that I just got to meet.