now is a good time to panic

culinary wonder part V

…continued from culinary wonder part I, part II, part III, and part IV 

Theresa got into a rehab center in Miami. She was expecting it to be really awful, like being in jail. She thought she’d be on lockdown with forced AA meetings for like 12 hours a day. It turns out to be a schmancy facility in a gated community with basketball courts, a baseball field, and the inside was newly renovated. She is there for a day and decides this must be what summer camp is like. Its program is specially designed for kids under 25 that grew up around drugs or in otherwise negative environments and don’t have any job skills direction in their lives. It wasn’t an AA or a NA based rehab, their primary focus was helping you learn to deal with your addiction and recovery in such a way that you can function in the real world. Their schedule was very regimented and they get to choose classes in different areas that interest them. They had choices between music, art, computer technology, physical fitness, culinary, etc. Theresa ended up going with the culinary classes. Those classes took up the majority of her day; from 0700 until about 1400. She didn’t tell anyone that she had been cooking professionally, but it got around and she ended up helping the chef teach the other students. After some experience sharing what she knew in the kitchen, she found her niche. Theresa loved teaching.


Theresa enjoyed living the structured lifestyle. Since she’s so used to being in kitchens, she appreciated the structure, and credits that rehab schedule for helping her to correct the lack of structure in her own life. The center was run on a points system. You could earn a point a day. Once you hit 120 points, you could leave. You could get your point docked for the day by breaking rules, or if a counselor saw you being amazing, then they could give you an extra point for the day. It took Theresa three months to earn her 120 points, but that is really good. There were people that had been in there for about six months and still hadn’t earned their 120 points yet. If you relapsed, they would take away all your points (and sometimes even drop you into the negatives) and you started over from scratch. Theresa reports it as a very encouraging environment, and they worked to find what was best for each patient.


There were a number of kids around the age of thirteen or so that were court ordered to rehab and didn’t take it seriously. The other members called then ‘jits’ and tried to counsel them and mentor them. Most of the jits refused to believe that they had any problem at all and ignored the advice of the older patients. While Theresa was there, there was an extremely high number of people in there for heroin and oxycotin, but most of the younger kids were there for pot. On the weekends, they would be able to go out to the movies or the beach. After 30 days, you were eligible for a day pass or to go see your parents. After 60 days, you could go home for the entire weekend.


3o days before her release, Theresa would wake up at 0500 on a Friday and would take the bus system down to the restaurant. The bus ride would be 6-7 hours (as opposed to a 3 hour drive by car) and she could be back in the kitchen by 1300. They were glad to have her back, but it was different by the time she returned. The Swiss chef quit and moved to North Carolina, there was a new executive chef, and almost complete turnover in the kitchen. The menu that Theresa had worked so hard designing had been scrapped and there was no consistency. One good thing at the time was that there was a new cook that she clicked with while doing her weekend shifts, but unfortunately they never got to work much together. When Theresa returned from rehab, they placed this guy in her fine dining section to work with her. They’d help each other with homework or management duties, and they got to be good friends.


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