He ordered one Pad Thai for his wife.
He was giving us a curious look. Possibly even slightly cautious. I had that feeling that he and she might be that customer. Someone who’s been there, has tried the real thing, and who would be very critical about how ours tasted.
I knew that that customer will show up one of these days. I just didn’t expect it on opening day.
I sincerely hoped that his wife (and him, if they were sharing) would like it. If not for the flavours at least for the amount of effort we have put in that plate.
They did not know how much blood, sweat, and tears went into our recipe. Not literally, of course. That would be just gross. What I meant was my heart and soul was in that dish. Okay, that didn’t sound any better. Whatever. You know what I mean.
They didn’t know that just a few weeks ago I was working for the most unpleasant (read: shitty) boss I have had. And I have had several in the past decade which I was able to stomach, so that says a lot.
They didn’t know that I quit my job, and it’s probably a bad idea because I am sending two children to SPED and therapy.
They didn’t know how much sleepless days and nights we spent, making plate after plate of Pad Thai just to get the best taste possible.
They didn’t know how much visits we made to Carbon market and more than half a dozen grocery stores just to make sure our ingredients are consistent. No substitutions.
They didn’t know how much arguments my wife and I had in planning, costing, cooking, and aesthetics.
They didn’t know that I put all my cards in this, and there is no looking back. I am all spent in the corporate world.
At least for those reasons if not for the flavours. But they didn’t know.
Moments later, the couple approached me. The Pad Thai was already sold out and I was all ears.
He was asking for a business card and I didn’t have one. She was asking where our restaurant is located and we didn’t have one. Yet. I told them that this is the first time we took a shot at this. That we’re just well-travelled home cooks.
And then she handed me her card.
She told me how much she loved the Pad Thai and that it tastes like the ones in Thailand.
She was satisfied, even if she didn’t know the back story. She genuinely liked it and would even want to write about it.
For a few seconds it all came back to me. The stressful white collar job I had and having to hold on to it for my special kids. The lack of sleep. The wasted noodles and shrimps. The grocery and market hopping. The arguments with my wife. The arguments with myself. The big question of “Am I doing the right thing for myself and my family?”
Confirmation. One more thing they didn’t know is that they gave it to me at a time I needed it the most.
I thanked them with all my heart. I didn’t know how my face looked like but I was tired and sweaty and stressed. I imagined Will Smith’s expression in the last scene of The Pursuit of Happyness. He was lost for words. He was tired. He was laughing and crying. I probably looked like that. I was happy. I am happy. No big words like jovial or copacetic, just happy. But in its truest and purest sense.
I think I’m on the right track.