Updated: Oct 13, 2022
By: Brady Johnson Published: September 8th, 2022
I worked at two different restaurants this summer. The Cleat & Anchor and the Pelham House Resort, both in Dennisport MA. Both newer restaurants (opened within the past 5 years) but entirely different in pretty much every aspect of the business.
It was unique and allowed me to learn a lot of really valuable skills that I am grateful for. But before I really get into all of that I want to give a glimpse into my life the past few months.
Before spring break 2022, from the months of December 2021 to March 2022, I was struggling. I was depressed and anxious constantly, so I decided to take some action. I started seeing a therapist which helped me to an extent but I knew I needed to try the prescription because nothing seemed to be getting better. I went on Prozac for a couple weeks on a low dosage but nothing changed. I upped my dosage and after a few days it seemed like everything got worse. I felt like I was in a constant fog. I would walk through campus and everything was blurry and skewed in my mind. I was not happy. I was laying around all day and some days it was even hard to get out of bed and use the bathroom. This led to a breakdown one Thursday night. I went for a drive while everyone else was out partying and I cried in the parking lot for an hour. The pressure, the standards I was setting for myself were not being met, I felt like a failure. I was juggling a million things at once and did not have energy to tackle my list of to-dos. After that I walked back up to my dorm and sat in the common room. Luckily my two best friends were in my dorm as well because they were able to console me and talk to me about how I was feeling. I think I was up until 2am that night just thinking. I knew I needed to change. So the next day I stopped taking my meds and talked to my therapist about my plans to leave school 3 weeks early. She agreed it would be best for me, the last step in my plan was calling my mom to tell her, which I was most nervous about. My mom disagreed at first but eventually came to realize that I needed to do what's best for me. I told my friends and 3 days later I packed up and left school. I was still taking my classes remotely but I did not have the distractions and depressive thoughts that controlled my life before.
I feel for anyone who is going through a depression. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. It makes life bleak. The only enjoyment I had during my day was when I was sleeping. But I will go more in depth on this issue in a later blog post.
CLEAT & ANCHOR During spring break of 2022 I went to the cape for a day trip with my Dad and my sister. We went to get things set up at our seasonal house before the official opening a couple weeks later. Before we got back on the road late afternoon around 4pm, we stopped into the Cleat & Anchor which is located right behind my house to grab a quick bite to eat. We were pleasantly greeted by the bartender who was taking tables and enjoyed some great food that hit the spot. I remember getting the fish and chips which was gluten free and a great mocktail to go with it. Towards the end of the dinner I noticed the bartender and owner at the end of the bar whipping up some cocktails which turned out to be their seasonal drinks for the spring / summer. Being a cocktail enthusiast I had to go up and introduce myself. One thing that stuck out to me was the passion and creativity that I saw going into these drinks. I asked if they were hiring and expressed my interest. By the end of next week I was hired for the upcoming season.
School took a backseat when I left and went to the cape (I still passed all of my classes dw).. I knew I needed to get a fresh start, to work on myself and meet other people. I was the first server hired for the upcoming season. From the start it was a joy, I loved serving again and knew that the Cleat & Anchor was going to be a place where I could learn a lot. After about 3 weeks, we had a bartender leave and Felicia (Owner and Bev Director) told me I would be training on the bar. I was so excited, nervous but optimistic as well. I studied the 20+ specialty cocktail recipes that I needed to know and got to work. The first few shifts I was shadowing and training with our other bartenders at the time, Kellie and Todd. They were both super helpful and supportive.
It took me a week or so to get used to the bar but after that I was in love with work. I would get there 30mins-1hour before each shift to look around, get used to where things were and set up my mise en place. I felt at home, I felt like I was wanted, which was a feeling I had been chasing for a while.
I could go through each shift at the Cleat and tell the stories but I want to keep this somewhat concise. However, I can without a doubt say that the greatest decision I have made this year was getting this job. It allowed me to grow as a person and learn more than I ever would have imagined about the restaurant business and the cocktail game. Everyone I worked with was good people and I love them all but there were three people that had been consistently helpful and lovely people, those people were Felicia (Owner), Bryan (Manager), and Kellie (Lead Bartender).
I am so grateful to have met Kellie this summer. Kellie is someone I could relate and talk to on a personal level. She is a fantastic bartender who can bang out drinks on service like it is nothing. Kellie is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and she was always a pleasure to work with. Bryan was someone I probably saw the most at work, he was our “glue guy”, despite being a manager he would also work the pass and do security at night. He was someone I really looked up to this past summer because even though he was always busy he would always check in with the servers and the bar and ask us how we were doing. He was always someone who talked highly of me and I would appreciate how he would always engage in conversation and go out of his way to help. Felicia really took me under her wing this summer, having someone who was extremely knowledgeable about cocktails and the restaurant business was a huge help. She believed in me and helped me learn about everything from building cocktails to different and unique garnishes on cocktails.
I believe that the most important thing about a job is believing in the work you are doing, knowing that your effort is going towards something positive. Being appreciated for the work you are doing is so important, this summer that gave me a sense of fulfillment that I have not felt in a while.
THE PELHAM HOUSE RESORT
So why did I feel a need to find another job this past summer? Why did I cut down my hours at the Pelham House? There are a couple of reasons for this. The Pelham House is a well run place but it doesn’t come without the flaws, some of which are too overwhelming. They ask a lot from their employees and I just didn’t see the appreciation coming from the people above me. I also wanted to find a place like the Cleat to work where I could get to know the locals and be more of a part of the community.
But besides all of that, the Pelham House was a good experience for me this summer despite only working two nights a week (Friday and Sunday). I was able to work with my best friend on the rooftop bar on Sunday nights which was always a good time because of how busy it was. I still love all of the people who work at this place, especially the ones I have been working with since day 1.
I believe that it is the most unique venue in Cape Cod, the views and weddings are nothing short of magical. I think that it is the perfect place to grab a drink and a couple apps, sit but the fire or by the bar and enjoy the scenery.
One thing I also look for in restaurants is character. I want the place to be unique without being pretentious. That is something the cleat has but I never really saw at Pelham. And I get it, it is a lot easier to have character in a smaller scale restaurant without food for the common folk. But I still feel like there should be some character that comes with fine dining, and if not character then identity.
So what draws me to this ever so stressful job, why would I want to open my own restaurant when 30% fail before reaching a calendar year. Because I have a passion for it and I have a vision. Every well run restaurant should feel like home. The atmosphere should be comfortable, the food will be creative, and the service will be excellent. You will learn something after going to my restaurant while still not feeling like you are being forced to try something new.
When people go out to eat they are looking to be pleasantly surprised if it is a place they have eaten at before and they are looking for consistency in the places they are regulars at.
Going on a date at a restaurant is romantic, it's a perfect date night. Imagine this: You both get dressed to the nines. You arrive to a packed restaurant on a Friday night where you have a reserved 2 top in the corner of the dining room where you can watch the restaurant operate and enjoy the company of each other. The dishes are proactive and the drinks are unique. You don't feel rushed so you enjoy some after dinner drinks as well.
Nothing beats that, in my unbiased opinion.
My eventual goal is to create a place that creates an experience like this. Something that people will remember for years.
I can not tell you how many people would come up to me and say, “Wow, you must make a ton of money” or “How do you do it?’, when hearing about how much I was working. At the height of summer I was putting up 60-70 hours a week, pretty much working all day, sleeping in, and going right back to work. This included a spontaneous mental and physical burnout every other week. This lifestyle is not sustainable and for most people and most people would not even consider it. But for me it was the only thing keeping me on my feet…
The honest truth was that I was going through my most anxious and depressive filled times. Nothing really changed by moving to the cape even though I thought it would. When I was not working long shifts I was at home trying to be isolated and alone in my dark room, watching old movies and sneaking comfort food snacks. But then as soon as I would walk into wherever I was working I would flip the switch like an actor on broadway. I became a different, much more positive and likable person. This was most certainly a recipe for disaster, certainly not sustainable.
It all came to a head the night before my last Sunday shift at the Cleat before Labor Day weekend. I got home from my Saturday night shift around 2am to a vacant cottage. As soon as I took off my shoes I stuffed my face with food like I do every other night, put a nicotine pouch in my mouth, took a shower, and then rolled into bed to fall asleep to YouTube videos that I have probably already seen a million times already. The clock hit 3am and I still haven't fallen asleep. Then time seemed to be going slower and my heart was beating faster and faster, until I started to lose my breath. I sprung out of bed and ran to the bathroom. My heart seemed to be beating a thousand times a second. I did breathing exercises and tried to calm myself down. I did calm myself down after a little while but I knew I needed to make a change.
Maybe that is why I go above and beyond at work. Why I immerse myself in the work that I do. I need to overcompensate for my life when I am not working. I go in hours early before a shift and I stay late to clean because it is a distraction. It distracts me from the fact that I do not enjoy my life, that I have become overweight, and my heart almost gave out.
The pressure, expectations, and high standards are too much to handle sometimes. I manage a non profit start up, I could get a job pretty much anywhere in the restaurant world, I have culinary and artistic appetites, but I only have glimpses of satisfaction in my life.
Inspire Others Organization has been a passion of mine for a while now. But it really is an exhausting effort and some days I do not want to go forward with it because of the costs and the effort it takes. Right now I am not mentally stable enough to “inspire others”. I need to focus more on myself before anyone else.
I am currently uncertain about the future. This fall I think the best course of action for my overall wellbeing would be to focus on my schoolwork and my personal wellbeing. Inspire Others puts a lot of pressure on me to help others and leaves me not a lot of time to focus on myself. I am going to work on a relaunch for December during break. I am proud of everything we have accomplished so far but I know to fight this fight I need to put all of my passion into it.
Love you all,