“Everybody wants to be a famous chef!” Hanna remembers those words so well since she watched a cooking show on TV when she was just a little girl. And 25 years later, she has successfully become the well-known and respected chef at La Pegra Hotel. She wears her chef whites proudly, ready to cook for important people.
The road to get where she is surely was not easy. Her days and nights were filled with slicing and dicing vegetables, experimenting with spices, frying, searing, roasting, and baking, practicing her skills to perfection. But the hardest part was when she had to leave her three kids with their grandmother, far from the big city she’s living now. It was the most painful sacrifice she ever had to make to bring a better life for her little family.
“I promise we’ll have a big house someday, kids. With as many toys as you can imagine when I become a famous chef!” Hanna promised her children. A promise that she intended to keep and achieve as soon as possible.
And yesterday, after 3 years of non-stop hard work and lonely midnight cries for missing her children, she finally heard the good news from her boss.
“I must admit, you’re one talented chef, Hanna. Starting from today, I want you to be the head chef.” Mr. Finkle said with the bulky mustache hanging heavily above his lips. It came as a shock to Hanna that tears starting to flow out of her eyes while she thanked Mr. Finkle too many times.
Now, she can finally feel the satisfaction from serving the president and famous superstars on a daily basis, the big wage that she can use to buy a big house for her family, and the recognition from people that have underestimated her for so long.
But the thing is, she doesn’t feel it.
She doesn’t feel the satisfaction that she thought she’d feel.
She still has to work hard, even harder than before to satisfy her distinguished guests, and she still cries at midnight because she misses Amy, Aaron, and Allison so much.
“Hi, darlings,” Hanna says to her kids through her phone, “Have Grandma told you? I’ve become the head chef at La Pegra.”
“We’re so proud of you, Mama!” Says Allison.
“Wow, you’re famous now!” Says Aaron.
Happy faces are all she sees on the screen, but then she looks at her youngest child, Amy.
“But Mama, when are you coming home?” Asks the little five-year-old girl.
“Soon, baby. I’ll come home soon.” She answers while trying so hard to hold back her tears.
But deep inside, she knows, she would never get a day off for a long time since she has this new big responsibility. Her dishes are becoming too perfect that no one can replicate what she creates. Is there such thing as too perfect? She wonders. So for weeks, she keeps cooking and cooking to perfection, making her guests and boss happy. And more and more people are coming to the hotel to taste her high-quality and exotic dishes.
“Hanna, when you’ve finished tonight’s dinner, come to my office.” Mr. Finkle says coldly to Hanna after she serves a bunch of international guests. He’s never been cold to her before.
“What’s wrong, Sir?” Hanna asks after she cleans up.
“Hanna,” Mr. Finkle pauses while twisting his mustache, “How do you feel since being the head chef here?”
“Well, it’s my dream since I was a child, Sir. Aren’t you happy about it?”
“Are you happy?”
“I’m... I’m...” She pauses, “I’m trying to, but I don’t know why I’m not happy here. It’s what I’ve wanted for such a long time, and my kids are proud of me now.” Hanna tries to assure herself.
“But are they happy? Don’t you think you should spend time with them?” Mr. Finkle sighs, “I feel like I’m your psychiatrist here.”
“Of course I want to! But my job? I can’t even leave it for half a day. And what about those hard work I’ve done to get here? And aren’t my kids going to be disappointed that her mother quits?”
“Well, you can worry all you want, but my question for you is simple,” mr. Finkle gives a few seconds before he asks, looking a bit sad as if he knows what’s going to happen after he asks it. “Hanna, what’s more important to you?”
Her blind ambition has made Hanna almost forgot that a job position is always replaceable, but being a mother is not. And she can quit being a super busy chef, but she can’t quit being a mother.
She packs up her things and takes the earliest train home, the home where she truly belongs. She never felt happier until she finally can hug her kids so tightly.
“Mommy! Mommy! Cook for us!” They shout so excitedly that their mother is finally home.
Hanna holds Amy’s, Aaron’s, and Allison’s hands and smiles, “Let’s cook together.”
She cooks with her kids using simple ingredients, along with the most important ingredient there ever is: love. And there it is, her happiness. Looking at her kids’ smiles are the best feeling in the world, far more than seeing the smiles from strangers she serves food to.
She figures, maybe not everyone wants to be a famous chef. She thought that she will make her kids happy by collecting money and fame. But at the end of the day, her kids only need their mother’s time and love. She is their most favourite chef in the world, and that’s all that matter. She tried so hard and went so far to try to find happiness, yet happiness is at home all along.
“You don’t need a fancy recipe to create happiness, you just need a sincere and modest heart. And when you start something with love, you will always get far in life.”
Story by Joshua Sudihman
Words by Marcella Viona Legoh
Illustration by Elly Amelia
In Collaboration with Pazar Indonesia