Guest Writer Stephen Davis on ‘Nose,’ Talking Story


 “The restaurant smelled like vomit and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from.” I was telling the story to our accountant Dolph, short for Adolph.  “You could smell it in the kitchen, the dish pit, and the twelve-top in the bar next to the wait station could more than likely smell it too”.  

Katrina, my stepdaughter, initially said she couldn’t smell anything.  Five minutes later she said that someone had, indeed, thrown up in the ladies’ room and that I must have a good sense of smell.

Having a discerning ‘nose’ is something I must have developed over a lifetime of cooking food and working in kitchens.  I never really thought about it consciously until now, but you can tell a lot about things just from smell.

 Once I was at a friend’s house when the retired fire chief, who was a neighbor, knocked on the door. He said my buddy’s chimney was on fire. After a career of fire fighting, he had a nose for chimney fires.  Both of us ignorant of the blaze, we were stoked the chief caught it.

“I think it might be a good idea to replace the fan in the ladies’ room one of these days,” I insisted. The fan had burned out two years ago and I had pulled it to get the part number. We never bought a new one because cash had been tight until the thought had dropped off everyone’s radar. 

“Having a strange hole in the ceiling of the ladies’ room for two years is just a buzz kill too,” I said.  No one is super comfortable using public restrooms and one having a strange, pervert hole in the ceiling just makes it more awkward.

The truth is, we’re a good team; Dolph and I.  We opened our restaurant in Port Townsend, Washington just before the banking meltdown and, somehow, we were able to skate through the recession, the Hood Canal Bridge closure, and another ferry crisis.  We pulled it, but it was tight, and the women’s room fan was a luxury no one considered until the smell brought our attention back to it. 

The reason I was involved in the restaurant business at all was because of my love of surfing, not food. I started working in kitchens to get through college by working nights.  As it turns out, working in the evening is great for surfing too, and, being an art major, I  just stuck with it after college. 

What gets confusing is that people think I must love food because I’m a chef.  Recently, reality cooking shows seem to be everyone’s window into the professional kitchen. Food becomes pornographic.  We now watch people eat for entertainment, like drooling dogs begging at the dinner table. 

That’s great, but waves are my true passion, and cooking has allowed me to ride a lot of them.  Having my weekdays free allowed me to surf every day waves were breaking; and I often surfed good spots alone.  I could go on long surf trips during the off season and not worry about losing a good paying job.

Like I had a good paying job.

College was amazing, but I didn’t see how it would help me surf more, so I bailed. That’s how I found myself owning my own place and talking to Dolph about foul smells in the ladies’ room. 

Foodies would often call me on my surf-over-work ways. When I asked a previous employer for a raise, he declined saying I didn’t “put enough love in the food“. 

“Whatever,” I thought,  “he should try putting love into two hundred-plus dinners a night.

 Assembly line workers don’t always put love into the torque wrench either. Maybe they‘re doing their best to make a buck for the fam and do some bowling at the end of it.  My boss had obviously never seen me praying for surf to a barrel-shaped tortilla chip on the dash while driving to the beach. 

People are extraordinarily fortunate when they get to do what they love for a living.  I do enjoy cooking for folks, but surfing is my love. 

I wandered out of the office and down the stairs to get back to work. A few minutes later Dolph comes down and says, “You really know how to tell a story,   your stories are always WAY beyond everyone else’s ”.  

“Oh,” I say, “It’s cause I’m a surfer. Talkin’ story is important to us!” 



One thought on “Guest Writer Stephen Davis on ‘Nose,’ Talking Story

  1. Good stuff guys. Local voices of surf culture. I’m a reader and will keep checking back. We’ll need to put together another library program soon.

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