If I hadn’t quit my job, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life.
Two years ago, I worked as a hostess at a restaurant called Hinoki and the Bird. I was tired of handing out menus and walking around in high heels. My dream was to become a bartender, and I thought I stood a chance because I’d previously been a busser and a barback at two other restaurants.
When I asked Hinoki’s management if I could train behind the bar, they brushed me off with “maybe next year.” I was too impatient. I took their response as a sign that my future wasn’t in the restaurant industry.
I drove to the desert and camped out in my car for a few nights. It felt good to be alone. As soon as I returned to WiFi, I emailed my two weeks’ notice to Hinoki. My heart was set on a new plan: live on four wheels and travel around—anywhere except L.A.
My scheme was derailed during my last shift at Hinoki, when one of the managers walked up to the host stand.
“Hey,” she said, “Since you won’t be here anymore … Our sister restaurant in West Hollywood has a ton of covers this Friday, could you work the host stand?”
I didn’t want to, but I hate letting people down, so I agreed.
Friday night I clocked in early for my last last restaurant shift. A framed photo of Jim Morrison hung on the wall behind the bar. Below was an engraved plaque: “This Location in 1970 known as THE DOORS WORKSHOP — L.A. Woman Mixed & Recorded Here.” Cool.
I glanced into the kitchen. One of the cooks immediately caught my eye. His attention was focused on the old-school brick oven which dominated the kitchen floor plan. He moved with confidence as he carefully tended the flames. He was tall and handsome with long hair chopped in a mullet.
“Wow, I never thought a guy with a mullet could be so attractive,” I thought as he turned toward me.
Our eyes met through the kitchen pass and some crazy energy passed between us. Love at first sight? I think it was.
Back at the host stand, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I decided to try my luck and asked the manager if they needed someone else behind the bar. They did. Unbelievable, I was now on the schedule as a bartender.
Above the restaurant was a cocktail lounge and cozy patio. At the end of the night, the cooks were all drinking beers up there. I took the empty seat next to the man with the mullet. We stayed up there until 2AM, long after everyone else had left. We talked and talked. The bar owner, Rhino, kept us laughing as he told us tall tales in his Welsh accent.
Rhino locked up the restaurant and as the three of us stood on the sidewalk, awkwardness got the better of me. “Bye” I said abruptly, and skated off down the street.
That night, I didn’t sleep. My heart was beating too fast. I’d never had a crush like this. Sung, the sous-chef, a Taurus like me…
Saturday evening I traded my high heels for a long apron and stood behind the bar, polishing wine glasses. I held them up against the bright light coming from the kitchen and pretended to check for water spots, but actually, I was staring at Sung.
At the end of the night, I clocked out with my new employee number: 1217. As Sung walked by, he said in a low voice, “Give me your number Liz.”
My heart was swimming in joy. For some dumb reason I just had to crack a joke. “It’s 1217!” I grinned, fully intending to give him my phone number once he clocked out.
He looked down at the floor and disappeared into the kitchen.
I went upstairs to wait for him. The patio was dark and quiet and lined with plump banquettes. I stretched out in the furthest corner and closed my eyes for a moment.
Downstairs, a vacuum roared. I opened my eyes to a light gray sky. Oh crap. I’d slept through the night and now the custodians were here to clean the restaurant. I grabbed my backpack and snuck out, sadness creeping over me.
I wasn’t scheduled to work at the restaurant for an entire week. The days dragged by. I was furious with myself for not giving Sung my number.
When I finally walked back into the restaurant, I tried to catch his eye. He ignored me. My heart flopped. I felt way too shy to give him my phone number now, but I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t. I wrote my number on a piece of scrap paper and nervously handed it to him at the end of my shift.
He’s kept it tucked in his recipe book ever since.
And that’s the story of how I met my husband. In the two years since we first locked eyes through the kitchen pass, he’s gone from my greatest crush to my closest companion. Today, we are at the county Hall of Records to make our relationship legally official. I’m so happy and lucky that I get to marry my best friend. ❤️