I want to preface by saying I love what I do. Keeping readers informed and the freedom of the press has always and continues to get me hot enough to the point that my ink smears. But as everyone knows too well, journalism doesn’t pay the bills. I bust my ass every night allowing the hardest-hitting news to be printed on me, only for readers to ditch me and view it on our website, and then ditch our website because they hit their monthly article limit.
So, I did what many newspapers end up having to do in their career: I got a part-time job at a yuppie, new-age restaurant as the wrap paper that plates various burgers, French fries, and other oily finger foods disguised as innovative menu items. And I’m loving it.
If anything, my success in food service proves the newspaper industry is not dead. In fact, we are alive and well, as you can see by the fake-looking sports section swaddling your California Dreamer (turkey wrap with avocado) like a newborn baby. And for once, I’m not afraid sites like Buzzfeed are going to run me out of business with headlines like “Choose Your Fave Cancelled Zoomer TikTok Star and We’ll Tell You What to Have For Dinner Tonight.” See, that’s the beauty of print—you can physically hold the final product in your hands, whether that final product is a compelling editorial on the future of a local car wash, a reeling obituary of your second-grade teacher’s great-aunt, or the casing for an artisanal cheese-topped Salisbury steak burger served on a fresh brioche bun. You just can’t get that type of emotional connection through a screen. Who else is willing to be drenched by the grease of your chicken a la finger basket to show you the chef is not messing around? Let’s see Facebook try and do that.
I’ll admit, too, it’s nice to feel hip and cool again. Honestly, I haven’t felt this way since the Broadway run of Newsies wrapped. But while I can admit I’m no longer sexy in the way that I’m young and new and being read by a 30-something businessman smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch in a very uncaring matter, I’m hot in the sense that I’m Instagrammable. The supporting role I play in food presentation is paramount, and I take my job very seriously. I transform a measly-looking open-face burger with a runny egg from a “good” 3 stars to a “riveting” 5-star review on Yelp. The food itself can taste like shit, but these self-proclaimed foodies will still come to see me and take my picture for their food blog that has seven followers. Because despite what the main course thinks, I am the star of the show.
What I love about food service too is that this job is different from any of the other side gigs I’ve had in order to financially support my career in print news. I’ve consented to being set on fire for the good of a Boy Scout troop’s campfire for money. I still suffer from mild PTSD when I was on the frontlines being used to swat and kill pestering house flies. I’ve even agreed to take a job as the landing mat for your grandfather’s toenails when I was really struggling. Those were all great, fun times, but nothing even compares to my new restaurant gig. There, I feel wanted. When I arrive at my customer’s table, their responsibly-sourced, pan-fried fish and chips snuggled up in me, they’re… smiling. They’re giddy. I don’t even get that kind of positive reaction at my day job providing daily economic recession updates! It’s like night and day.
The yuppie restaurants aren’t the only ones benefitting here, either. I make their establishment look edgy to attract Instagram foodies, and I get free circulation of myself in return. And let’s just say that I’ve caught customers on more than one occasion sneaking a peek at our Classifieds section while they scarf down their tray of oven-roasted garlic aioli steak fries. While it is still unclear whether they truly were a Man Seeking Woman, or if they were just slowly entering a food coma, I like to think on the bright side as Dear Abby often recommends.
Even though this whole restaurant job started out as a side gig to pay the bills, more and more every day I think about making it my full-time career. I know it’s not easy making the jump, but I know I’ll eventually be ready. And, once I announce my resignation in an impassioned letter to the editor, I’ve even got a new side hustle in mind: pet sitting, as the liner in the cat’s litter box!