My cashier at the grocery store was a young guy with a freckled complexion and tousled hair, maybe 20 years old, and he was talkative. The minute I reciprocated his greeting, I learned the following: he was fine; he was almost done with work; that fact was sort of good, but sort of not, because he’d only worked 4 hours that day, because he was only part-time. I asked if he was in school. He said he wasn’t, because he couldn’t afford it yet, but he was saving up for cooking school. He scanned and bagged quickly as he talked.
In answer to my question, he told me there were a few good cooking schools around: the Culinary Institute of America, in Portland, and the Cordon Bleu, although that one was too expensive. “Over-priced,” he reiterated. He told me about the cooking shows he watches, on TV.
“See what I do,” he said, “is take regular ingredients and make something of them. We’ve never had a lot of money but…well, the other night…” and then he eagerly rattled off a list of ingredients he’d used to make an ordinary pasta dish sing.
“Well, maybe you’ve got a good palate,” I encouraged. “They say that’s the most important thing.”
He was so hopeful, so sweet. I wanted to speak with him longer, but the next customer was pressing in behind me. The boy continued to talk even as I reluctantly inched away. I wish I could offer to sponsor him, I thought.
I loved the eager light in his eyes, his unusual dreams. I loved that he wasn’t just listlessly jamming groceries in a bag. Of course, I have no idea if he has any real talent; no idea how far he can really go. Maybe he’ll end up cooking dinners for his family, or frying bacon and eggs at the local IHOP.
Or just maybe, he’s the next Thomas Keller. Continue reading