State of the Union
Now, the state of the Union: boarded-up windows, brick walls, high ceiling with beams running down it. There is nothing resembling a kitchen—just a window and a back door that leads to a patio that is (again) full of junk we pulled out of the basement. But the patio is the best thing I have ever seen and the only thing I feel good about right now. It is an oasis. There is a huge, leafy tree back there that keeps the place cool and breezy on the hottest, muggiest days. I was downstairs with a mask on, shovelling up the last of the crap to be hauled out, when my mother came by with her best friend to have a look. Her friend walked around and kept saying, “You poor, poor boy. You are so brave.” And then she’d perk up and say, “Well, I feel so much better about the work I am doing on my house now!” Some days, I swear I am barely hanging on—I think I’ve got to start cutting off the family visits. The place is strong and simple and made out of brick and it’s going to be fine—at least that’s what I tell myself. But when you’re pulling up a floor in the basement and finding dirt underneath, it makes you kind of anxious.
The place is a rectangle completely stripped, with brick walls looking open, airy and very daunting. I am determined to build a place I can grow in as a chef—I want it to challenge but not bury me. Without wanting to sound too idealistic, I have bought into building Union using as many eco-friendly and reclaimed materials as I can afford and get my hands on. What I am hoping for is a place with an organic sense of sustainability and growth that I can tap into when I’m cooking there. So far, we have found eight-inch-wide hemlock boards from an old barn that, sanded and varnished, are going to make a great floor. I also found some old ’60s diner bar stools and a stainless steel-and-maple table for the kitchen, plus a stack of old bowling alley floors that we want to make tabletops with. I am also considering some chairs made from recycled pop cans and have found this great eco-material for the banquette that’s also from pop cans. The design will be simple, clean and warm. A place where the food reigns.