After ten years in the restaurant industry, Drew Seaman had lost his passion for food. With the long hours, he also barely saw his wife. When the opportunity to move to London presented itself, they both jumped at the chance to remake their lives.
Here’s his story:
I’m Drew, half of the Drive on the Left team, along with my wife, Julie. We moved to London from New York City in the autumn of 2013, full of nerves and anticipation. A new country, a new role for Julie in her marketing company, and an undecided future for me.
I had spent the previous ten years in restaurant management, slogging through long, stressful days and nights, managing teams, placating customers, and slowly losing my passion for what I once considered one of the most exciting and innovative industries around. I needed a break. I needed a change.
At that point I had been married for five years and rarely had valuable time with my wife. I would sneak in late at night from work, and the next morning, Julie would sneak out to avoid waking me. It was not a path for long-term happiness.
Time for a change
When Julie called me about the offer to move to London (yes, she called, because we so rarely had time for conversations in person), I was immediately on board. For someone who is risk averse, that was a big step. But I understood that without a major ‘reason to leave,’ inertia and fear of the unknown would carry me towards a future I knew I didn’t want.
Walking into the office and resigning without an idea of my next move was terrifying. But, resigning because I was literally moving out of the country, well, that seemed easy.
Falling in love with food. Again.
With my newfound freedom outside the confines of a restaurant, I’ve started exploring different corners of the world through its food, a love that had been dulled over the years due to the daily grind of the restaurant business.
During my first visit to Italy, a food lover’s paradise if there ever was one, my passion was reignited. Within minutes of entering the vast indoor market of Florence, surrounded by fresh pastas, aged vinegars, oils, fresh meats, produce, and fruit, I knew that I was home. I rushed up and down the aisles, tasting and smelling, dizzy with the abundance. And I felt it immediately—the reverence and adoration of a culture deeply in love with its food.
Food markets continue to be my favorite places to uncover a new culture. Recently, I was at a market in Slovenia and saw several vegetables that were unfamiliar to me. I had my phone out, trying to translate the names back to English, and some locals saw me and came over to help. Lots of gesturing ensued and we found ourselves laughing about the absurdity of it all. Who knew that a unique variety of squash could be the bridge to better cultural understanding?
With that, I set out on a personal journey to discover cultures through food – that essence of life that is deeply rooted in place, the subtleties of which are worth a lifetime of exploration.
When I left the restaurant industry to move abroad, my enthusiasm for food was at an all time low. Years of working deep in the industry had dulled my love for the key role it plays bringing people together. What was a real passion had become an endless spreadsheet of costs and profits.
Pulling myself out of the trenches with the move abroad gave me a much-needed change of perspective.
I no longer had to slog back and forth to the same restaurant, spending 12-14 hours overseeing service and filling out reports, while everyday getting further and further away from the main reason I got into the hospitality industry in the first place: my love for food. With a brand new start in an exciting new city, I could feed my interest in food and cultures without restrictions, allowing me to indulge in what I truly cared for.
I admit it took a while, but I’m now able to enjoy a lovely meal in a cafe or restaurant without my critic’s hat on. I can enjoy a drink at a bar even if there is a light out, or the menu has a misprint, or the glasses aren’t sparkling to my old standard.
More importantly, I can focus on what’s in front of me, tempting treats from new places, a lively conversation with new friends, or a quiet moment with my wife, without distraction. Whereas I used to walk into a restaurant with an eye to what needed to be fixed, I can now see the charm in the imperfect.