Served: What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?


Hannah Howard has worked in several restaurants, but she's made the switch to the grocery side of the industry. She's now a cheesemonger for a small market chain, and will share her experience here.

20080616-servedbug.jpgWhen I was waiting tables by night and being a full-time college student by day, I felt like an interloper in both worlds. I was too in my head to be a great waiter. I wasn't fast enough, practical enough, or graceful enough. Perhaps I was better suited to espousing critical theory in an old, crumbly-walled building.

But to my Ivy League peers, I was the worldly one who had more of a life off campus than they thought possible. I was master of the "real world," arriving in the wee hours from work or parties or adventures. I felt like a half student, until waking up to Lacan and to bang out dozens of pages in dozens of groggy hours. Then I knew I was the real deal.

I didn't plan that my college years would coincide with a restaurant business love affair. But they did. Upon graduation, a career in restaurant management seemed almost inevitable.

After working in a company that was enormously wrong for me and now at a restaurant that feels like home, I am coming to a somewhat sad realization: I don't want to be a restaurant manager when I grow up.

My parents are both successful professionals who claim they still don't know what they want to "be when they grow up." I didn't know how to answer this question, even as a small child. I still don't. I'm making peace with that, learning there is probably no job title that can encompass my identity. That's a good thing.

My mom and dad are reassuring about my career journey. They argue that for many, the process of finding what's right involves doing things that are very much not right. Through these experiences, you learn, or should learn.

What do I love and hate to do? What am I good at? What inspires me, frustrates me, terrifies me? What do I have to contribute? What do I have to learn? What am I looking for?

I can answer these questions so much better than before. That itself is progress.

I think back to my college years, and realize the balance between the library and the wine bar was what made me happy.

I have been thinking about what is next for me career-wise for some time. Micky (my boyfriend and my restaurant's chef) and I had some rocky moments that precipitated my giving notice sooner rather than later.

Turns out working (a lot!) and living together in a city new to both of us was enormously stressful on our relationship. There were tears involved both in making and announcing my decision.

I will miss my restaurant. I will miss my staff most of all.

They have become a second family. I will miss my wonderful, eccentric boss who told me I was like a daughter to her and commenced bawling when we discussed my leaving. I will miss coming to work each day and arriving at a place so beautiful, comfortable, and friendly. It was a place where I could both be myself and push myself.

I'm trying to make room in my sadness for other emotions. Under there, this is definitely excitement for what's ahead, even though the specifics remain unknown at the moment.

There's also a bit of pride. When I arrived at my restaurant, it was a pretty poor excuse for a restaurant. There is still ample room for growth and improvement, but isn't there always? I helped create something special.

I'm wrought with emotion, which makes it hard to write. I bet you can tell that much! In the weeks to come I will chronicle the strange transition to our next GM, my amazing first and last meal at my restaurant, Micky's change of heart and menu, and my search for what's next in my life.

Serious Eats Newsletters

Keep up with our latest recipes, tips, techniques and where to eat!


Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: