Munchies

Why Being a Baker Has Helped Me Find More Time for My Family

My kid comes before the restaurant. I’ll always feel this way. This has never been a question.

by Teague Moriarty
Jun 15 2016, 11:00pm

I'm a single parent and a chef, and working as a baker at my restaurant has allowed me be there for my daughter. She just started preschool, but bread and pastry is the way I can still be in the kitchen full-time—but not have to be here until midnight every night.

I started Sons & Daughters six years ago with my friend Matt McNamara, right out of culinary school. We don't have big cooking histories outside of our restaurant. I would say we do refined, California-style fine dining food without any sense of pretension. Our restaurant has its own farm, too. That being said, I try not to use the term "farm-to-table" as a restaurant because it is such a played-out term nowadays.

However, when I had a kid, I started to slowly step out of the restaurant.

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Teague Moriarty. Photo courtesy of Sons & Daughters

I used to be here every day, as an executive chef cooking, and as a manager. Then, two-and-a-half years ago, my ex and I split. After this, I tried to be home and for my daughter as much as I could. I really knew that I didn't want to be away from her at night, which is the most time that I can have with her. I also knew that I didn't want to miss being a dad to her. Thus, I got into baking and pastry by default, since a baker's schedule allowed me to do both in my life. I've seen people talk about how to balance being a chef and a parent, and I know that every situation is different, especially if you have a husband or wife who can help with taking care of your child.

My kid comes before the restaurant. I'll always feel this way. This has never been a question. As soon as I had my daughter, I've never loved anyone or anything as much, so she will always be my priority, no matter what.

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Buckwheat and peach pit toast. Rest of photos courtesy of Jesse Kirby

I'm lucky to be able to have a great team to help me and the flexibility to do this. I work Tuesday through Saturday, and we have service Wednesday through Sunday. I have my daughter every other week and a typical week for me involves coming in on Tuesday to get started on the bread and get all of the prep done. Then, I'm normally here for service from 8 AM to 8 PM the rest of the week except Sunday. I have a good team and a staff who can pick up the slack and take care of things on that day. Still, I'm trying to call it a day at 6 PM since the goal is to spend even more time with my daughter.

I bake a pretzel roll, a buckwheat and peach pit toast, and a classic San Francisco sourdough. All are served with our housemade sand butter, made from sea salt that we make in-house. (When the tide is right, we get buckets of ocean water, come back to the kitchen, boil it down, and get a real sea urchin-tasting salt.)

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Dark chocolate cremeux topped with agastache meringue and crumble, white chocolate ganache, sassafras ice cream

Pastry has been really fun. It is a completely different mentality and I have done a lot of learning over this last year. Nonetheless, I'm the type of person who believes anyone can do anything if they put their mind into it. It is good to approach something completely different. Sure, you have to do a lot more measuring than when you are cooking savory stuff but after the first couple of months, I really got into my groove. I have grown to really love baking bread. The process has been interesting.

We have a really small restaurant—28 seats in total—and the way our kitchen is set up, the savory team is made of five people. When you have this many people working the line, there is a lot of opportunity to interact with everyone about the food that is being prepared, making cooking a really collaborative effort. As the bread guy, you get here at least four or five hours before and bang everything out by yourself. Don't get me wrong, being one with the rest of the team and having lots of feedback is awesome, but there is also something to be said when you are doing your own thing and just getting the craft of whatever you are doing down. Being the baker or pastry chef in a restaurant is like being in your own little bubble. I still give my team feedback, though.

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Plum terrine over strawberry-geranium granita with Alpine strawberries and creme fraiche ice cream

I feel really optimistic and hopeful that I will be able to make a career as a chef feasible with having my daughter be a priority in my life. I think it will get easier as she gets older, because she will no longer need to be in daycare three days a week. All I really do is just work, hang out with my daughter, and surf every once in awhile, so I don't have an extravagant lifestyle.

I'm lucky to be able to create the work culture that I want at Sons & Daughters. I make sure that our line cooks and managers don't work for more than eight to 12 hours. I've done that 14- to 15-hour grind and I've learned that people start to get resentful at some point, and that comes across in the food.

You have to have some kind of balance to give you some sanity. For me, it is being there for my daughter.

As told to Javier Cabral

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Teague Moriarty is the chef and owner of Sons & Daughters, a Michelin-rated restaurant in San Francisco. For more information, visit the restaurant's website.