Life in EL

I have some stories that I feel need to be told. So about three years ago, I decided to start telling them by writing a memoire using my restaurants and food trucks perceived voices as the narrators of the story. It was fun, therapeutic, and was going really well, but it also felt like it was high brow, conceited, and it was definitely long and a lot to digest. So I shelved it right around the time I attended a family reunion in my home state of Wisconsin about two years ago.

While there and reconnecting with my cousin and comic artist, Tim Foss, the subject of collaborating on a culinary comic book came up. It felt like it might fly, but since both of us own our businesses and have families, this needed to be driven by pure faith and passion. Unfortunately, that's something the world likes to take back as much as it seems to dole out. 

So I wrote the story, and Tim helped to edit it and he does all the drawings. Here and now I'd like to send much love and gratitude to him for his incredible craftsmanship, but mostly for the reconnection this has helped us to forge as we attempt to bend our way into middle life.

Also many thanks to my intelligent, amazing, and beautiful wife, Akiko Moorman, for letting me have so much fun with our relationship. It is obviously a tremendous statement to the strength of our faith in each other, and I love you so very much.

My daughters have also been incredibly supportive of this, and they are simply my purpose on earth. There is nothing as deep as my love for them, and much of this story is to tell them some hard truths about living life in a gentle and fun way.

I also don’t know where I would be without my brother Sam and sister Jessie, and I definitely know I would be nowhere without my mom and dad. “Josh”ing aside, I love you all :)

I'm not going to lie. To get this to you has been a very slow, deliberate, and sometimes even a downright grind for both Tim and myself to make happen. But as is the case in cooking, when you put the time and effort into the process, the resulting flavors are almost always more poignant. Expect to see the story in print in 2019. In the meantime, enjoy it for free, and thank you for visiting. Pjf

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I guess it’s kind of obvious, but please note that what we are posting is our first, unedited draft. On that note, I thought it would be cool to share with you how my cousin Tim’s artwork has come to life. So underneath the next two pages, you will find the thumbnails he used as seed inspiration for pages 4-5, and you can even see the imprint underneath the detailed drawings. From my side, it has been truly fascinating and inspiring to watch the words come to life, and it is spooky how Tim has translated my words into so much more than I could have imagined them to be.

In regards to the story, I don’t really know what I was thinking that morning by feeding the kids white truffles. I mean, my kids have a hard time with way less ambitious ingredients, and Akiko’s right… the cost is a little absurd. So I’m not sure how I expected that to turn out. Once thing for sure, I really didn’t mean to wake her up. That turned out kinda how I expected. And now we’re going to be late for school!

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 I hate it when we’re late, but anything really to get out of the conversation on the white truffle. Even after that high drama, our love is deep enough for a goodbye kiss. Akiko’s not only really smart about the restaurant business, she’s also a stunning beauty. Don’t ya think? And, yeah, we both miss the kids while they’re back with their mom.

I hate it when we’re late, but anything really to get out of the conversation on the white truffle. Even after that high drama, our love is deep enough for a goodbye kiss. Akiko’s not only really smart about the restaurant business, she’s also a stunning beauty. Don’t ya think? And, yeah, we both miss the kids while they’re back with their mom.

 One of the early signs my midlife crisis was underway, was the overwhelming desire to hang up my accomplishments in the stairway between home and the restaurant (yes, I live upstairs). The good news is that since I recently took down many of them, I might be on the downward slope of the long climb. And I didn’t mean that in relations to getting old. But that’s ok too. Why is it okay? Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dawgawnit, people like me. #stuartsmalley  ______________________

One of the early signs my midlife crisis was underway, was the overwhelming desire to hang up my accomplishments in the stairway between home and the restaurant (yes, I live upstairs). The good news is that since I recently took down many of them, I might be on the downward slope of the long climb. And I didn’t mean that in relations to getting old. But that’s ok too. Why is it okay? Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dawgawnit, people like me. #stuartsmalley

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Any parent will tell you that they are frequently asked challenging questions.  I’m not sure why so many subjects are considered taboo, but I think it’s because people just don’t like feeling uncomfortable with their own kids. Or maybe it’s because they don’t want to feel like a hypocrite about things like swearing. As a result, kids go around in ignorance, and then repeat the same absurdity with their own kids. Life is confusing, and children want to understand... even when we’re on a fucking time crunch to get to school. Oh yeah, i guess it’s also unusual that my kids and I run through our restaurant and past liquid nitrogen tanks as we head out on our interminable commute.

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My parents named me Phillip, but decided to call me by my middle name of Josh. So I only began going by Phillip when I started working at Le Cirque as a 23 year old. I’ve bounced back and forth over the years, but Phillip’s certainly’s been more tied to my career than Josh. There’s definitely something more authoratitive in the phonetics of it, just as there’s something more genuinely playful in the name of Josh.

Now I have no desire to rename myself again, but deep down I feel more like Josh. And since my kids have always preferred calling me Josh instead of Dad, Josh felt like the right name for my character in the comic. Except for when I’m at work. Then I’m Phillip... obviously. At least on the outside. 

And can you believe a medical cannibas dispensary opened just kitty corner to EL? And that I received my thc card on account of my arthritis? Arthritis sucks, but being able to legally smoke weed is totally awesome!!! Whether Phil or Josh, I really do feel lile the luckiest guy in the world.

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Yes, my dna and 30 years in the restaurant business have led to some bad arthritis. Thank goodness there’s medical marijuana to ease the pain!!

And, finally, the definition of irony... right before some more irony of course. 

Last but not least, here’s some dialogue that Tim decided to cut out of the drawings so we can get this story out to the world more quickly. I hope you can tell that I’m bummed.

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Angle 1: Josh proudly: Hey, good news girls!  EL Ideas retained our Michelin star!!

Angle 2: Noa: yay!!

Talia quixotic: Cool… how many stars did you get?

Angle 1: Josh holding finger up: One.

Angle 2: Noa: oh. I thought five stars was the best.

Talia looking at Noa: Yeah. It is. We made a fake Yelp review in school. One star is really bad.

Angle 1: Josh is offended: It doesn’t work like that with Michelin. One star is really, really good.

MOMENTARY PAUSE

Angle 1: Did you just say you made a fake Yelp review at school?! Like, as part of your studies?!

Angle 2: Talia: Yep. It was fun!!

Josh: Great, the world could use more opinions. 

Talia: So if you got one star, what’s the most you can get?

Josh: three

Noa: So can you get at least two stars?

Josh: Turning around with right arm on backrest of passenger seat (cars clogging way in front windshield always)

Please listen carefully to me right now. I’m really, really happy with one star. Clear?!

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The below drawing of my kids kissing my cheeks is probably going to be my screensaver forever. It’s so hard being a divorced dad and having to say goodbye to them every week. On the other hand, we genuinely miss each other every time we reunite, so at least there’s that! #silverlining  

Guessing it’s time to call Akiko and have it out over the white truffle. I’m sure that will go really well.. Hopefully she was able to fall asleep. It’ll help a lot if she did!

 

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Shit.. she didnt fall back asleep. That usually doesn’t bode well for our morning chat as i make the interminable commute from taking my kids to school. The comic doesn’t do justice to the fact the ride from EL to Touhy Ave. takes about 1 hr each way, but i guess there’s a lot of story to get to. It’s funny, but some of my favorite and best parenting time comes with seeing them in the rearvirw mirror :)) 

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Why won’t Akiko just see things my way!!!! back in the old days a wife listened to her husband at that would be that. This whole 21st century man thing really needs to come with a handbook. And that was totally a low blow about marrying her so now it’s her restaurant too. I suppose she thinks she has a say over what i post on the website too. Ha!! We’ll just see about that. #keepbreathing

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Physical ailments are a very real part of being a chef. Aside from the many, many cuts, burns, scrapes, and fatigue, so far I have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and have had double hernias removed twice. That’s four in case you can’t count. As I’m almost 50, my body isn’t bouncing back the way it once did. I look at chiro visits and therapy as necessary maintenance... like oil changes for an old car.

The conversation that happened between our dining room manager Bill and the nurse at the chiro actually went down. On another note, East Bank Chiropractors adjust the culinary community of Chicago. Here’s a photo of us a bunch of us coincidentally in the office at the same time. Dr. Zrelak is the main man in the middle and Dr. Curry’s the practitioner who usually does my setting. 

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I really and truly believe that the only way to achieve an enlightened happiness is by learning to deal with one’s pain. Somberly deduced from that, not dealing with your pain will result in an underlying sadness.

Dealing with your pain means feeling it, and that means spending time in the dark recesses of the psyche. And that can be really hard and even scary. But just this weekend I told my daughters that the light and energy of millions of stars are buried somewhere inside of every black hole. Not sure where that came from, but I’m stickin’ with it. Enjoy page 15!

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To say that meditation has become a big part of my life is an understatement. As is the case with marijuana, love, anger, chess, and even cooking and acting the rebel, meditation has become an addiction for me.  It seems counterintuitive that one needs to spend time in the dark to turn on the light in one’s mind, but there within is all of the duplicity of life that made me feel I needed to write this comic.

I’ve come to believe that the ego is an illusion we create to protect our spirit, but it serves mostly to get in our way by either creating walls of defense around us, or over inflating itself into convincing us we’re more important than we actually are.

Meditations haven’t really stopped me from losing my shit like I hoped they would. If anything, they’ve made me more aware of exactly how sensitive I am, and that has made me more determined to express myself in the moment as opposed to swallowing everything for later. Meditations also help me come back to center faster than I used to.

In the end, balance is the key to happiness. Our egos come with being alive, so it’s super important to keep grounded and aware of the duplicitous sides of ourselves. At least that’s how i feel it is for both my bright and my dark sides. 

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