How did I get here? (insert audible sigh) In case you are not aware, I own a beautiful farm-to-table restaurant outside of Nashville, Tennessee. After modeling for almost 10 years, I fell truly, madly, deeply in love. Oddly enough, this love was a guy I had met in 9th grade. God, I wish I could have skipped all of the terrible relationships in between, but that's another story. My life of traveling the world on my own was over. It lost it's va-va-voom. When I flew somewhere, I wanted him by by side. When I found myself in big, cold hotel rooms, wrapped in starchy white sheets, I wanted his arms around me. I tried to bring him with me twice. Both times ended in disaster on the client's end (even though he paid for his own travel). Again, that's another story. The moral is that it wasn't fun anymore. Jumping on a plane and not knowing when I would be returning was devastating. I knew that I was done with modeling. I mean, mentally, I had left it years before. I felt like a shell, a mannequin, going through the motions, but now I knew that it wasn't what I wanted. I was bored out of my mind. Ian had moved to London with me and we were living with a flat in Muswell hill. We decided to take a weekend trip to Dublin. He had never been. While there (in Saint Stephen's Green to be exact), he proposed to me. There were swans on the water, tears... it was perfect. A moment that I intentionally did not share on social media. Anyways, I'm getting away from myself.
Ian went to culinary school and has worked in many fine-dining establishments under some world-renowned chefs. He has tons of restaurant experience. I, had none. We knew after getting engaged that we wanted to move back to America, be closer to our families. I knew that I was done with modeling, at least, the day to day modeling work). We visited my parents around Christmas in a small town that they had recently moved to. The square was built in the 1700's and all lit up for Christmas. It looked like something from a Thomas Kinkade painting and my eye was drawn to a little space with a "For Sale or Rent" sign in the window. Apparently, the previous owner had some sort of a nervous breakdown and left the building with all of her restaurant equipment inside. A vacant restaurant full of equipment. That's like, $80,000 worth of free equipment! I felt like it was serendipity! Just like me being scouted to go on top model. this was the kind of opportunity that the universe rolled out in front of you and if you said no, would not come around for you again. I signed the papers while Ian was out. I know! I am a terrible human being. Thankfully, my husband is totally into terrible people and still married me!
We put roots down in Springfield, TN. (AKA the middle of nowhere), and opened the doors to "Whitney Lee's Farm to Table Restaurant" less than 2 months later. What was I thinking??? This was a town where the highest rated restaurant was a chain. Why were we trying to make "farm to table" happen here? Right, because my family was here and my Dad was trying to make a difference in what would eventually come to light as one of the most corrupt, backwards town in America. I had people say verbatim, "Y'all don't got ranch?! This is an outrage!' and storm out of the building. That actually happened. Shit, two months after we opened, the NAACP and United States Department of Justice intervened because the school system had never desegregated. This is not a drill people. In the United States of America, year 2013, there were still schools that were segregated. Not just segregated, but 98% of tax payer's dollars went to predominately white schools. And people fucking protested it!!!! We had our work cut out for us. Anyways, I know that I have harped on Springfield but it is mostly full of really good, genuine people. They are refreshing compared to so many places and I am grateful to be here so please don't let it come across as otherwise. That being said, I have now owned a restaurant here that, ( through blood, sweat, & tears) has been successful for over 4 years! I have dealt with every aspect of the industry. I work the line, I serve, bar-tend, deal with online reviews, clean toilets, call orders, guest relations, make menus, etc. etc. etc. and this brings me to my point... this section of my blog. I would never speak ill of my customers. At the end of the day, they pay my bills and I would not feel comfortable sharing my personal stories... without anonymity. Who are we kidding?! This industry is terrible! Everyone needs a place to vent. So, I offered my staff and friends in the industry to send me stories, and my inbox was overflowing, so I wanted to extend that offer further and then decided that everyone needs a safe space to vent and even though it seems random, this would be a safe space. So, I digress, the posts you see before you are not my words (Or are they?! No, they aren't), but they are the daily sufferings of the people surrounding you every day, cutting your lemons, filling your water, crying behind the server station, biting their fists not to physically harm customers... you get the gist. Bon appetite!