In 2004, I started working at this restaurant in Berkeley, California— Eccolo, which was founded and run by my mentor, Chris Lee. I came to run the kitchen, and that was my first managerial role. It wasn’t my restaurant—I didn’t have any ownership—but because I was working for my mentor and also because of my personality, I took on the stress like it was.
There was constant tension with the investors. Our values were fundamentally misaligned. That’s fine when things are successful, but when there are challenges, it really gets difficult. They didn’t care that we wanted to buy the best organic eggs, or attempt to pay a living wage. They were like, “That’s not how restaurants run.” We had come in so idealistic—but when you don’t have a reputation yet and you’re not making any money, you can’t really afford to do that.
I was 25. A good cook. But I hadn’t ever been given any training in how to lead people. I ended up resorting a lot to passive aggression. Or actual aggression. I never threw anything. I wasn’t much of a yeller. But I would find other ways to be mean, because I didn’t know what else to do. I was just some dorky brown girl. I didn’t have the tools to get guys who were older