I’ve always wondered what the last day of working at Nopa would feel like. Today I have that feeling, and I guess “surreal” is what I’d go with. I’ve worked with every manager that has ever been at Nopa and at least for those who’ve moved on, the last shift has always been a strange voyage, a place distant and unknown to the rest of us. It’s hard to remember what real life is like when you’ve worked there; It is the most demanding job any of us have ever had. Like any business that has celebrated the occasion of 8 years of open doors, the fraternity inside of the walls, especially for the people who run it, is intimate terrain.
Jeff Hanak and a dapper lad.
I’ve been managing restaurants since I was 21 years old and hope to never to do so again. There’s nowhere else to go. I’m not suggesting I have no knowledge to be gained by spending working at another restaurant, I’m just saying there is only one Nopa, and working under Jeff Hanak, the operating partner and my boss, leaves me wanting nothing more from the experience of at the very least, “how to properly run a restaurant”. The funny thing is, Jeff would tell me repeatedly that running a restaurant was not my best skill. I think leather skin would is a more suitable attribute after working under Jeff for the last three and a half years. Loving man, but not the one to mince words. I appreciate him so much for it, though. I am acutely aware that plenty of my past/present Nopa colleagues are better at running the place that I am.
Properly running a restaurant is a ongoing series of minuscule details-like, thousands of little details. Those details are part of a larger series of processes and systems, and if the details are forgotten the whole machine starts acting up. It’s utterly exhausting and unforgiving. I have the attention span of a moth on a starry night in the countryside, and while there managerial/operating things that I am good at, the redundancy of these tasks, even in an ever-changing ocean of new faces and interactions, inherently put a timeline on how long I could’ve stayed in my current role. My tenure was nearing anyhow, I’m just glad I keep working for the same people.
At the moment, I feel like the luckiest man in the world. I am one of the very rare people who can at any point in their life say they’ve got their “dream job”, and less than a week into 2014, that’s exactly where I find myself.
I can’t imagine that a single person would read this and not know that I’ve been working on Nopa’s blog, Nopalize, for the past 2 years of so. It’s grown in a lot of ways, mostly in my desire to take from a blog into something that was much larger, meaningful and ambitious. Like I said, I get bored. The real lottery for me is Jeff, and his partners Allyson and Laurence, are allowing me the opportunity to carry out some of these ideas that have been simmering over the last few years.
What are the ideas? I dunno, lots. But it’s basically to create a multimedia entity, sponsored by Nopa, that explores local food culture in other places. Over the course of my time at Nopa, I’ve met some incredible people in our community: farmers, winemakers, chefs, fisherman, etc. I’ve not stopped thinking about how amazing the people in these local food ecosystems are. I’ve been fascinated by their choice in pursuing or preserving their respective craft.
My primary focus this year and with this new role, is to carry out the dream of sharing the stories of these people. I have so many other things about the project and the role that I would love to say here, but as I sit on my last day of work, rest assured I’ve had many conversations/explanations about my plans for Nopalize and am exhausted. I have a very low threshold for people who over communicate their plans before delivering, so I will stop, lest self-loathing rears its head. But what I can say is that I am not going to squander the opportunity. I can promise you at the very least, this will be a really interesting and completely unique project. Stay tuned.
And for those who have helped with the strategy and the writing and the listening and film, I owe this opportunity to you. In exchange, I want you all to know that I will sleep as little as I always have to launch this thing and give you guys a space for your talent to shine.
Chris Deegan, Yasuaki Saito, Brooke Town, Caleb Taft, Xandre Borghetti, Arron Sweeney, Heather Murphy, Sarah Lau, Kent Howard, Dennis Cantwell, much respect to each and every one of you who have run the place. Christina and Jessie, don’t protect the standard, raise it! Same goes for you, Lulu, with the wine. We know what it takes to run Nopa, and for that, we’re all forever linked!
Finally, I could never adequately express how lucky I am in live in a city like San Francisco with such high quality people, in a place that allowed me interact with you all every day. I’m excited to build on our friendships now that I won’t have to politely decline any request to hang out.
Much Love and Best Year Ever to You All,