I’ve always had this very strong feeling that things weren’t properly closed when I left London. Two months ago, I decided I wasn’t going to carry that feeling onto the next year. I decided that it had been two years already and that I needed to sort that out and that the best way to do that was to go back.
First thing was to contact the chefs I’ve worked with before and arrange a dinner. Obviously just some of them could come but that would do. Second was to look pretty. Not to impress them but because I wanted them to see it is ok to move, to change careers, to end up a relationship and to still feel strong and confident.
With that done I also wanted to treat myself, so even though I didn’t have company I made reservations at the best cocktail bars in town and a couple of restaurants I’ve been wanting to go for so long but while I lived London I ended up postponing all the time.
Everything was good so far, everything was organized and ready to go. Arriving in London all I could think about was that I was weirdly feeling as if I was back home. I felt I owned the city.
So, the night of the dinner with my former colleagues arrived. I was a bit drunk because I had spent all afternoon drinking craft beers at a pub. Putting that aside, it was wonderful to see them all, but it was also a challenge to deal with all the memories we all had from that place.
I went to the kitchen to say hi to my former Sous Chef. I couldn’t stop smiling, I really missed him.
He called me Chef Sophia and all my memories came straight back. All the hard days, all of the amazing days, the day I got promoted and the day I made such a bad mistake that I almost got fired (and that was the same day). I couldn’t stop dreaming awake thinking of all that had happened inside that kitchen with those wonderful people and how everything was gone.
I gave the Sous Chef a very strong hug.
Back at the dinner table we were being very spoiled by the restaurant. They gave us prosecco, they gave us discounts, they talked to us as if we were celebrities. It felt good. It felt very good.
Finally all the gossip started, and we were at the nostalgic moment of the night talking about the long-gone days of bsk. We were young, we were fearless, we were a team.
I heard that after I was gone some people still talked about me. When I left people said they were bad-mouthing me. Two years after they managed to tell me how it was the opposite. They told me how Papa John (he deserves his own story) couldn’t believe I’ve left without saying goodbye. They told me the Sous Chef kept saying how he missed my morning hugs.
Being back there for dinner made me feel that I will always have memories from that place, and fortunately with time I’m managing to keep just the good ones.
After the last glass of wine, I could barely walk but I had to say one last goodbye. I went all the way through the kitchen not caring if I could, and I went to the office. I sat at the office’s chair, looked at the rota, talked a little bit with the chefs there and gave a very big hug on the Sous Chef. I told him I missed him so much. I kissed him on the cheek and told him to be happy.
I also said that to my former apprentice. It was funny because he was who taught me everything when I had just started, but because of the stupid hierarchy that exists in kitchens, he always had to answer to me.
I told him I believed in him, and that I’m sure he will go far, actually that he was already going far.
I just didn’t manage to say goodbye to one person that I really wanted to. He wasn’t there and he wasn’t going to be. He was the one I wrote the goodbye letter to. The one I never let go. The one that when I close my eyes I can picture him on my very first day giving me all the instructions I needed and me there, daydreaming about how could I had arrived there. (this also deserves a proper story).
The end of this all is, after all this babbling, that I went to London to say goodbye but I didn’t manage. I thought there was a door that had to be closed. I thought that all the feelings I still have about those days had to be gone somehow. And then I realized that after three days walking round, going everywhere I wanted to go, saying goodbye to all my loved ones and trying to shut that door I couldn’t, because there was never a door there to be shut.
London will always be there for me, and I know that if I ever decide to go back I’ll be in love with it again, as I was the day I came out of that tube station at St Paul and that I knew I was supposed to be there.