“I’m here to see Johnny,” I told the sous chef who was leading me through the maze of halls leading from the service entrance and into the kitchen, trying not to sound too nervous. Feeling rather overwhelmed already, my heart was pounding as we pushed further through long corridors and around tight corners. It was just over one week ago that I missed his book signing due to my work schedule, and was crushed to have lost the opportunity to speak with this man who has been such a huge inspiration. Resigned to this fate, I asked my dad if he might have the time to simply pick up a book after work, and maybe get it signed. Little did I know that this would lead the two of them into a long conversation… And ultimately an invitation to meet him in his kitchen. No, seriously! I think I must have dropped to the floor when I heard this, and immediately sent emails flying to confirm.
Walking in to the back door of Trump Tower with no expectations, only nerves, my main objective was to not make a fool of myself. Even so, I definitely couldn’t have assumed what would be coming next-
“Oh, but he’s not in right now,” the patient chef told me as we walked. “He was in earlier, but went out.”
The panic must have been visible when my face dropped at this pronouncement, so he quickly added, “He should be back by noon though.”
Confused as to why I would have been instructed to come at 10am when Johnny wasn’t even around, but moreover, completely willing to scrap the rest of the day in order to make this work, I mumbled something about how that’s fine, and figured I would spend an hour or two reading my library book.
Arriving in the hub of activity, the warmth of the kitchen, it became abundantly clear that they had other plans. Passing through enormous stations outfitted with ranges the size of food ball fields, sinks fit to wash SUVs, and of course pots big enough that I could surely be simmered in, this was no standard kitchen, even in the restaurant business. Above all else, it was absolutely immaculate- One of those places that you could probably eat off the floor, if you felt so inclined (but trust me, the plates were so much prettier still.) Walk-ins filled but neatly organized with the freshest and finest of ingredients, everything exuded an air of quality, as if these vegetables had been grown in edible gold flakes, not dirt. Oh, and the smell- The smell! It wasn’t of any sort of single ingredient or decipherable dish, but a harmony of indescribable flavors melding together to create something greater than their parts. In short, it was like foodie heaven.
Finally entering into the lower pastry kitchen, (and yes, the kitchen spans two floors as well) I met many incredibly welcoming and personable chefs, one who I owe thanks to in particular was Anna. I should truly thank every single person I encountered that day, but it was the similarity of her name that allowed me to remember it, whereas I’m generally awful with names. Whisking me away into the locker room, she quickly groped through stacks of uniforms, seeking out the smallest size possible. Emerging victorious from the pile with a set of chefs pants, coat, and apron that actually did fit me- no small feat indeed- my mind was swimming with fear. Me, a vegan baker with no training or experience worth mentioning, making pastries, in the kitchen of a 4-star restaurant?!
Hands shaking as fear pounded in my head, I took a deep breath, and suited up for work.