we have a twenty year old cook named robin, who i have spent much of the past two years wanting to kill.
he's burnt stuff, ruined countless dishes because he didn't listen to my instructions carefully enough, come to work hungover and maybe still drunk from the night before. he's been late more than anyone in the history of eccolo, and cannot figure out how to keep his pants over his butt crack. he's learned how to do a task one day, and then screwed it up the next because he couldn't remember what i showed him. he's taken a bazillion shortcuts, and even worse, taught his shortcuts to others, starting epidemics that can take me weeks to correct. he's been the king of bad habits and laziness.
a thousand times i have wanted to fire him.
for months, i couldn't even look him in the eye.
but then, one day, something inside him clicked.
and he started to care, and to be careful. something happened, and he became someone i wanted to teach other people. he even came to work early once. he made food that received compliments night after night. he became a master at butchering beef, rolling pasta, and breaking down chickens. somewhere in there, i started to trust this person i'd had nightmares about for months, maybe a year, even. now, when he made mistakes and i called him on it, i could see in eyes exactly how sorry he was.
i asked him what happened, what had caused this change. and he said, he wanted to prove me wrong. he didn't want to be the failure i'd written him off as.
i cannot believe we didn't fire him all of those times. i cannot believe we stuck with him. that day after day, i went into that back room with him and showed him how to make pasta for the twenty-thousandth time.
i told him, when i'm on my deathbed, i will think of him, and consider his progress one of my greatest achievements in life.
next week, robin is moving to italy. to go to college.
i doubt his parents are as proud as i am.