BLOG — On travel, growing up, and Current Cuisine
- Published: September 30, 2015
Saruh recently moved back to Yellow Springs after seven years away. She bounced around the country and the world, living the classic life of a young itinerant happy to seize the day. Along the way, she worked in restaurants and hung out with art ists before finally calling it a day and coming home for a little while. Although she will no doubt be eager to get going again, she talks about why she is happy to be here in particular and working at Current Cuisine. The two go together to not only stoke a newfound sense of inspiration but encourage the serious-yet-open take on her own life that travel encouraged. The recent threads of her life are woven together in a way wasn’t necessarily expected but still makes sense.
We moved here when I was five – me and my dad and my younger brother. We moved here from San Francisco. They had come here in the 80s and they really connected with Yellow Springs. We’ve lived in the same house ever since; my mom’s still there. I graduated from YSHS in 2008 and went to Texas, then New Orleans, then back to Texas. Then I went to Australia for six months and Berlin for three, and now I’m back here.
I worked at Young’s – probably every single youngster in Yellow Springs worked at Young’s as their first job. I worked there throughout my junior and senior years of high school until I went to Texas. Working behind a counter is ok because you’re not tending to someone for as long as it takes to eat a meal like a server does. Being behind the scenes is more my thing.
I’ve known Karyn and Steve Current since my family moved here essentially. They’ve always been a staple in our household. Knowing that you’re shopping local and that businesses are employing local people really makes it so much more special to live in Yellow Springs. You can walk in any store and know you went to high school with that person or that’s your best friend’s son or daughter, and I think that gives this really romantic feel to Yellow Springs.
I posted on Facebook that I was coming back to Yellow Springs and Karyn messaged me and asked if I needed a job. I said yes, absolutely I need a job, and so I had a job about a month before I came back. I got headhunted – I’m very fortunate for that. I found that it’s not like you are going to work – it’s like you’re hanging out with a family essentially. You see the people all the time, unless someone leaves for college or something like that. (Laughs) You get to talk and shoot the breeze and have fun while you’re working.
For morning shifts, you clock in, you start making all the sandwiches, take everything out of the deli, make everything look nice, make sure the pastries are full. You get a cup of coffee and listen to NPR. Listening to NPR in the morning is the best thing ever. In the afternoons, you take over for people who came in in the morning and then put everything away, closing it down. All while serving customers, chatting with them, creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable. I wouldn’t say I have too many nitpicky customers and nobody’s been terribly rude. It’s easy to get along with pretty much anyone here.
Sometimes Steve will bring stuff out for us to try. You have no idea how hard it is for me to restrain myself from eating everything in that store. I really don’t know why I didn’t try the spinach squares until recently. People always come in and ask for them so I finally tried them and was like, this is the best thing I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m obsessed with the food I was deprived of when I was traveling – the black bean enchiladas, the coconut shrimp, the Moroccan broccoli salad. I fell in love with the things I was used to all over again. It’s comfort food, when it comes down to it.
I tend to daydream about what I’m going to do next in life, but working at Current is great because there’s an 85% chance I’ll know the next person that walks through the door. It’s great to see all those familiar faces, get wrapped up in those conversations. Sometimes I have to be like, ‘uh, hey, there’s a line behind you’ (laughs) but everyone’s always sweet about it. I wish there was more time for me to talk to everyone because I love hearing how people are, what they are doing. I’ve seen updates through Facebook but it’s really nice to hear what people are doing in person.
I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I feel like my mom gave me a really good work ethic and taught me to always put my best foot forward at a job [instead of coasting because I know the owners]. But since I’ve known the owners for so long, there is that extra pressure to make sure I don’t mess anything up. But they’re really easygoing so it’s not that kind of corporate environment. I used to work for Whole Foods, so… (laughs)
I started out as a regular team member at Whole Foods and then went to overnight supervisor, where we’d receive all the trucks and stock all the shelves and make the store look gorgeous for the morning. Then I was a Specialist, which is a person that buys for all the sub-departments, and then an Associate Team Leader. Then I was a Team Leader of the grocery department in one of the biggest stores in Houston, Texas. It was pretty intense. But it was a good experience. They taught me a lot of managerial skills, good partnership skills, how to present yourself for future job interviews, what people look for in employees, how to have hard conversations.
I worked there for almost four years. By the time I was 25, I was making almost $30 an hour. I had a really nice 401K and great vacation hours, but at the same time, I was like, ‘I’m 25 years old and I’m not doing the things a normal 25 year-old would be doing.’ I hadn’t traveled, I hadn’t done anything I wanted to. I had a huge paradigm shift in my life. I decided that if I wanted to meet the goals I had set for myself, I have to take myself seriously and do just that.
The trips to Australia and Berlin were the first international trips I’d taken by myself. My trip to Australia was spur of the moment – I bought a non-refundable one-way ticket 4 a.m. I spent six months in Bondi Beach, Sydney.
I worked at a couple of restaurants when I was traveling because that’s the easiest job a backpacker can get. I worked in a sushi restaurant in Australia. I worked with a Thai sushi chef and learned to make sushi from him. I had no idea how to make sushi before that. We didn’t speak the same language so his main source of communication was tapping a knife on the counter and pointing at what he wanted me to do; we came up with a system of grunts and nods in order to communicate.
When you work in a restaurant, everyone’s there for the greater cause. These people love to cook, food is their life, and they’re all about teaching their skills to anyone that’s willing to learn about them. There’s a really good sense of family and community in a restaurant.
I think knife skills are the best things I’ve picked up. I always try to help my mom when I see her struggling cutting garlic or not properly cutting an onion. I’m so grateful to have good knife skills now because I know I was the person in the restaurant that was just kind of winging it. I now know how to properly break down a fish. I’m glad I got this experience because I know that wherever I go, I’ll be able to get a job because there’ll always be people that need help in the kitchen. Whether it was an official job or I was getting paid 50 euro under the table, I was still making money and connections.
Australia was great for escapism – the scenery and nature is just so beautiful. You can kind of get caught up there, but I think Australia was me getting to cut loose and have a fun time and not worry about anything, but Berlin was more my pace. I absolutely fell in love with Berlin. I found people I could connect with more. Berlin is a really rough city – a lot of people work their butts off, people have multiple jobs, it’s a cut-throat city. But I like that – I lived in Houston and New Orleans and those aren’t the easiest cities to live in. Berlin was a great place for me to realize that I need to have that balance between having fun and taking a step back and reevaluate what my wants and needs are out of life, and making sure that if I want do something, I need to start setting goals and working my butt off to achieve them. I thought I was going to find what I was searching for in Australia, like all the answers would be given to me, but it wasn’t until Berlin that I was like, oh my gosh, there’s something here that makes me want to be a better person, or build off what I have and really strive for greatness. It was a really cool feeling.
It made me realize I needed to start being more creative. I was heavily influenced by my art teacher Andrea Auten from high school. She taught me to be relentless in my art, not care about what anyone thought about it. For the longest time, I hadn’t been creative and felt like I was losing a lot about myself by not being able to express myself in the way that I know how to. Being more creative is something I needed to do, and since being back I’ve held true to that. Yellow Springs is a really creative community. There so many talented people here – bands, chefs, artists, whatever. It’s crazy that there are so many things that translate from Berlin to Yellow Springs. When you walk around Berlin, you see murals on the flats and street art everywhere. Artists do an amazing job of decorating this town here. Even though I left Berlin it feels like I came to a smaller version of it.
[Even though working at Current is something I’m doing until I move back to Berlin in June] I wouldn’t say it’s ‘just a job.’ When it’s just a job, you don’t care when you call off or who’s doing your payroll or who’s working next to you. I feel like when you have a job you absolutely care about, you’re happy there, it’s so much more than that. That’s why I think Current is more than a job – you don’t want to let people you work with down, you value their input, and you care about the business because it’s helping someone you’ve known for so long.
Current is like a time capsule. I only came back to Yellow Springs three times in the seven years I was gone. But every single time I’d come back, Current would be on my to-do list. A lot of my favorites are still on the menu, so it transports me back to my yesteryears. It gives me a warm feeling that this is home, and I like that. I know at some point [being in a small town] will catch up to me because I love big city living, but right now it’s perfect for me; it’s exactly what I need. There’s a lot of great harmonics and healing here. It’s a good place to come and find yourself again.