Some thoughts on long-term relationships

I am a strong believer in the power of long term relationships.


My grandparents on my father’s side were together for 70 years. My parents met when my mom was 17 and my dad was 21 and they were together for almost 50 years before her death four years ago. I myself have been with my husband—my first and only relationship—for twelve years and counting. Even my older brother met his wife in college.

This speaks to an understanding in my family of the inherent value of maintaining long term relationships. I remember taking walks with my dad where we would discuss relationships, he would tell me that the work you put in to maintaining relationships—spouses, friends, family, etc.—pays you back many times over. That despite rough, or boring, patches where you may want to walk away and start over, you should make it last if you can. It’s served me very well so far.

This habit of sticking it out long-term extends to my professional life as well. I worked at PDT—my first bartending job—for five and a half years, and after nearly nine years, I’m departing Momofuku. The restaurant industry is notorious for high turnover—we’re expected to replace every position once every year. Many people stick it out for less, and the ones that go longer are a rarity.

Most conventional career advice suggests that job hopping, if done judiciously, is good for one’s career and earning potential. I’ve obviously never followed that advice. At times I’ve wondered if this has been to my detriment. Many in my industry gain wide experience working with a number of different teams, in multiple roles, engaging with different styles, becoming more ‘well rounded.’ But I always saw this process as one of having to start over, over and over, and preferred to focus on depth of experience, over the thrill of novelty.

 

At PDT I started as a know-nothing, LSAT-prep dropout. The bar had been open for just under nine months, and Don Lee invited me in to train, and Jim Meehan took a chance on me, giving me a coveted spot behind the bar two nights a week for me to learn the ropes while I was also simultaneously on said ropes. If I told you how many times I secretly read a recipe for a Sazerac that I had stashed under the bar, or furtively read the back label of a bottle I knew nothing about before reciting what I had just gleaned to a curious guest, Jim would probably call me up just to give me a hard time.

During my time there, the bar went from industry haunt to global phenomenon. I experienced an astonishing amount of professional development during my five and a half years at PDT. I got my first appearance in the New York Times, had my drinks published in the PDT Cocktail Book, conducted seminars, got famous for blue drinks…

In my nearly nine years at Momofuku, I've experienced an even more astonishing amount of professional development. I started as a twice-a-week bartender for Don Lee’s nascent cocktail program at ssam bar, and three years later spun it into a role overseeing the programs there and at ma peche(RIP). I was then asked to fly to Toronto for two weeks to open the massive multi-concept space there. I would go on to open, or re-open, seven more restaurants. Although I definitely experienced a legit amount of burnout, the depth of experience I gained was 100% worth it. I feel like I could open a bar or restaurant in my sleep, and I have Momofuku to thank for that.

 

It’s not so much that I want to leave, it’s that I know that in order to move forward, I need to move on.

 

I used to say that I hoped that Momofuku would be the last job I ever had, and now I know that that was naïve, and that I was over-applying my philosophy of personal relationships to professional ones. I have zero regrets, but I know now that I have to embrace the scary, risky, unfamiliar, in order to become better.  

I’m leaving Momofuku in hopes of JdB, LCC is the last job I ever have. I want to be Martha Stewart one day. To that end, I’m working on mustering up the discipline to actually write my book that I currently spend more time talking about than actually writing. The book’s due in August and should come out the fall of next year—which I expect to be it’s the first of many. I’m also working on a really cool and somewhat unexpected startup opportunity that I’m not 100% totally ready to talk about just yet—hopefully soon. And in the meantime, I’m officially ‘on the market’ and looking for short term projects that would allow me to make a difference, and maybe put me back into places I haven’t been in at for years. If you want to work with me, now’s a chance to!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Love,

-JdB

 

Me in 2009 during one of my first shifts at ssam bar.  Yes, we wore chef's whites. 

Me in 2009 during one of my first shifts at ssam bar.

Yes, we wore chef's whites.