Sean, when you came in to my life 10 years ago you were my Chef. As you leave today, you are my brother. You have taught, mentored, and supported me, but most importantly you always had my best interest in mind when others did not.
I’ll miss our long talks in the walk-ins. It started off as the place where cooks and sous chefs ended up when they screwed up big, but for us it became one of the spots where you really opened up to me. We talked about food, life, family matters, fears, and goals. I was exposed to the real man behind the ornery, Diet Pepsi-swigging, detail-obsessed and often volatile chef façade that most never got past. For trusting me enough to let me in, I am blessed and truly thankful.
Like a real family, we mocked and joked and often gave each other a hard time. Just the other week, Sean was telling me how poorly I was aging and that between he, Matthew, and I the last four years had been the least kind to me and it showed. He said, “You should really start going to the gym in the morning. Matt and I go and I’m lookin’ pretty good. You should also eat flax seed. I have it every morning with my oatmeal.” All that I could say was “Hey, thanks Sean.” I didn’t take it personally for two reasons. First, this was coming from a man who, as he was telling me this, was fidgeting and adjusting himself in a suit that was still a few tablespoons of flax seed away from fitting the way it was designed. Second, if you knew Sean, you knew that he didn’t sit on his words. He said what he needed to say at the exact moment that he needed to say it. You could tell if he was trying to hold it in even for a minute because he would pace anxiously, rub his eyes fiercely, and the look on his face was as if his head was about to explode. That was not a good look for him.
The one thing that I always harassed him about was his food. His cooking was not the source of my teasing, as he was an incredible chef. What he himself chose to eat and drink is what fueled the banter. I would say, “Sean, you really shouldn’t drink so much soda. It’s not good for you. Try drinking water.” He would reply one of two ways; either “I can’t drink water, I just don’t like the taste that it has” or “I drink Diet Pepsi. That is made mostly of water. Go check the bottle. It’s true. It is one of the top 10 listed ingredients.” Only to Sean did this logic make sense. Then I would say "How were you ever a chef when your favorite cheese comes from an aerosol can?" He would say, “Raymond, I know that it sounds poquito white trash, but you have to try it with cream cheese and pepper jelly on a Ritz cracker. Have you ever had pepper jelly? That stuff is frickin awesome.” He must have asked me that question about 50 times. He would grumble, “Ahhh must just be an East Coast thing.” I would just say , “No, I’m pretty sure that is just a Sean thing. That sounds disgusting.” Then I would walk away visibly disturbed. Well buddy, today you win. We have put together a spread of some of your favorite food to enjoy with you, and I will finally try the canned pepper jelly that you loved so dearly.
Sean, I know that you are as proud of me as you are of the others that cooked with and for you over the years. But I want you to know that we are just as proud, if not more so, of you. You fought so hard through much of life’s pains and challenges. During these tough times, you would carry me, and others like me, on your back to make sure that we got through safely. You never complained or asked for your loyalty to be repaid, you just did it because you cared that much. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for you.
Thank you all for coming and paying your respects to a great man. If Sean were up here with me right now he would say, in the worst Spanish that you will probably ever hear in your life:
“Muchos personis aqui. Moo moo gracias. Amoros para todos. Vamamos nada mas aqui.”
For those of you who have not completed the “Hooked on Sean-ics” course, that is loosely translated to:
“Thank you all for coming. I love you. Good bye.”Sean, I love you and I’ll miss you. Go now with God and may your soul rest in peace, old friend.