When you’re seated at a restaurant you don’t know what's going on behind the scenes, and most of the time, it doesn't even come to mind. Meanwhile, inside the kitchen, the cooks are stressed, tired, and yet still oh-so-carefully making sure that everything is perfect. In these past few weeks, I’ve learned that they don’t do this because they’re being paid to, or because it will help their egos; they do this because there is a constant passion, as fiery as the grill that we use every night.

To Chefs Walter, Marge, Nigel, and Jason; to Chefs James, Alyssa, Lorena, Don, and Manard; to Shahan, Anthony, Ryan, Sean, Ericko, Tiana, Jeremy, Sam, Francisco, Roman, Gus, David, Luis, and Shaheen:

Thank you for your patience.

On my first day, I dumped burrata toasts all over the computer, screamed at a pitch so high it was almost undetectable by normal frequency, and ruined a party’s order. Yet everyone laughed, told me to clean it up, and start again. You all showed me how to segment a cara-cara several times over until it somewhat resembled a sphere. You all had me break down chickens until I was trusted to do them on my own.

Thank you for teaching me to be careful.

I’ve got a cut on my finger that's an unnatural color, a few burns and bruises and even rashes that we’ve had to run in the rain for. You all showed me how to take care of myself when I’m hurt, and to keep working despite it. Perhaps it’s a little bit foolish to say “no pain, no gain,” but it is important to fight on. Despite the pain and exhaustion, physical or mental, I’ve found new strength.

Use the smallest containers possible, wipe down the board when you’re done, and take away the things that are no longer to be used. These tasks are so simple, yet often forgotten. A clean, organized kitchen leaves less room for worry.

Thank you all for being strict. Thank you all for throwing out the poorly chopped chives and butchered Oro Blancos, for having me re-toss octopus salads, and for sending back the bitter green celery leaves that were actually meant to be yellow. In times like these I was privately humiliated, but I also realized that it meant you all trusted me under the kitchen's standards and expected nothing less.

Thank you all for pushing me. If there is anything I’ve learned it is that I don’t know what I’m capable of. It started with the most bastardized carved chicken that humanity has ever seen, and ended with me unfortunately being called “chicken lady.” I’ve realized that as long as I focus, and as long as I push myself not to try but to do, that there will be a place for me in this career.

With every shaved cauliflower floret, I’ve learned that I can take anything that’s thrown at me, even in a kitchen as hard, tragic, pressuring, but still as beautiful as this one.

Thank you for your support.

Above all, thank you for the rides home, the In-N-Out burgers, the cortisone, the butternut squash pasta, and the bouillabaisse. Thank you all for caring. Thank you all for being my family while I was away from mine.

This holiday season I chose to be away from my family who I haven’t seen since June. I gave up the Philippines’ warm beaches to walk a mile in the cold and work twelve hours a day, six days a week.

As January rolls around, everyone will enter the new quarter happy and well-rested while I might need to hibernate and recover for a little while. Still, I’ve never pushed myself harder in my life, nor have I ever felt more accomplished, more whole, or more sure that the kitchen is where I should be. More importantly, I’m most sure of the person that I want to be. Thank you République.