Food Photo ~ September 2010

As a writer and a person who works alone 90% of the time, I often feel as if I am toiling away in a vacuum. Here, in the creepy company of my own thoughts, I can trick myself into thinking that I am doing Great Work. I can also convince myself that my work is terrible or, worse—worthless. Facebook, as trite and as silly as it is, is a safety net for the homebound and the self-employed–people who would otherwise go crazy. At least, that is what it has been for me. Sure you can be ambushed by a dull friend from your past you would have rather left behind, or pecked to death by “pokes” and requests for bricks or fence posts by Farmvillians, but the interaction it provides otherwise is a worthy upside.

Facebook allows me to see what other people are doing during the day, it is a virtual water cooler where I can take a mental break from my work, partaking in a paper cone of cold refreshment in the form of a little idle chatter. It is also a place where I can stay in touch with people I would otherwise not spend much time with. One of those people happens to be one of my favorite local chefs, James Roberts. Roberts is a Jedi-level chef in my mind–from how he runs his kitchen and trains his staff, to the food he prepares. Chef Roberts and I knew each other very little before becoming friends on Facebook, and there was almost no chance that we would have gotten to know one another without it, since he is a chef at a private club that falls outside of my typical editorial reach.

A few months ago, when I was knee-deep in a torrential downpour of relatively unrewarding work, Chef Roberts surprised me with a remarkable multi-course dinner. He, his sous, Joe Fenush, and his staff, went to great lengths to develop a crafty menu filled with noteworthy and deftly prepared dishes. His reasoning, as he later told me, was to thank me for all of the work that I had done. It is a reward I am still glowing from–certainly anything featuring Ivory Salmon is infinitely better than a cold and inedible trophy or a card of some sort. In order to insure that I didn’t “work” through dinner, he even fibbed and told me that cameras weren’t allowed in the club. I can’t believe I fell for that.

Needless to say,  I am terribly grateful that he and his staff not only provided me with the most peaceful and surprising meal I have had in ages, but also snapped away for my sake back in the kitchen (see above). I felt spoiled and well-taken care of (and really, really full!). I reveled in the mystery of sorting out his ingenious menu. I blush at the idea that anyone, nonetheless a staff of people, would go to such lengths for me. This act of appreciation has provided me with the necessary fuel to toil away in the dark for several more months, dreaming of another encounter with some of Chef Robert’s cooking. I will have to make due with Facebook in the interim, dawdling over the images he posts of insane prep lists, treasure chests of remarkable shipped-in ingredients, trips to his local farm and sneak peaks at cured meat products not yet ready for serving.

Photo courtesy of Chef James Roberts of Park Country Club, Williamsville, NY