In a perfect instance of how The Cookbook Store became a huge part of my life and career, and continues to do so; a month after I had been hired, I found myself in face-to-face conversation with Anthony Bourdain. To be a part of the bricks and mortar building at the south-west corner of Yonge and Bloor is to be presented with unbelievable experiences and personalities. Whether I was walking Gordon Ramsay down Jarvis St. to St. Lawrence Market, sharing a Fernet Branca with Fergus Henderson, or running over from Splendido mid-mise-en-place on a Friday to beg Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz for a stagiaire position (He said yes, and I am writing this piece from the stagiaire residence in Spain right now!), every day held the potential for something new, exciting and usually, delicious.
When I took a job in the kitchen at Splendido, I maintained employment at The Cookbook Store by working Sundays; my only day off. It goes to say a lot about the kind of environment I was lucky enough to call a workplace for my two year tenure under the big red awning that after working 80+ hours in 6 days, I would happily step behind the cash register and help eager amateur cooks and experienced professionals find what they needed. It goes without saying that working in kitchens sacrifices the majority of opportunities you have to meet people outside your own restaurant.
Working at The Cookbook Store provided me countless acquaintances and friendships, whether it was Alison introducing me to some of the biggest chefs in the city (to which many, I am now on a first name basis), or meeting cooks whom I watched grow from working electric stoves to running entire kitchens in my time at the store. Some of the people I met while shelving books and unpacking orders have gone on to become some of my best friends. This is not to say that the only great people at the store were on the clients’ side of the counter; it has been an utmost pleasure to have worked beside so many bright, friendly and like-minded people.
It takes a special kind of folk to convince me to cheat the transit system to bring back a workplace porchetta sandwich lunch from Dundas West, or brave sleet and snow to retrieve a bounty of griddle-smashed Americana from this super-popular burger place with a secret menu on Queen Street East.
To Alison, Josh, Jennifer, Young Jen, John, Amit, Kim, Jessica E., Jessica B, Justine, Adrian and Lisa (and all the other wonderful people I met along the way; there are too many to list!) it truly was a memorable and special 2 years.
Kevin Jeung - Cookbook Store employee 2010-2012
Currently a stagiaire at Mugaritz (3rd on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list)
PS (I was there when a 50lb cookbook was published, listed at $599.99 and sold out instantly. Books are not dead, people!)