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An Ode to Elixir

This month's blog is a bit different in recognition of a big step I took last month- to leave Elixir and dedicate myself 100% to Hato Viejo.   For those not in the Upper Valley.  Elixir is a fantastic upscale restaurant in downtown White River Junction, Vermont owned by Skip and Jane.  I hope you enjoy!

I don’t know what the secret is- I don’t know why it happens, but it seems that everyone who has gone to work for Elixir has come out of it stronger. They find their passion. They figure out what it is they really want out of their life.

If you live in the Upper Valley, and haven’t been to the little restaurant on the railroad tracks in White River Junction, you have seriously missed out. The food is first rate, the staff are wonderful (I might be a little bit biased) and the atmosphere is welcoming and casual. But it’s the people behind it all that really make Elixir what it is.

Skip and Jane don’t just own Elixir- they run it- and they have every reason to be proud of what they’ve created. For so many of us that worked there, they were also like parents. They were tough, and restaurant work is hard- Skip is particularly well-known for growling “get to work!” But all he really meant was, “if you’re here, be here. Do your best.” Like with my own parents, I didn’t always want to hear what it was they had to say, and sometimes I got mad, but also like with my own parents, it was always a temporary state. The next time I worked, I was back with family. 

So Thank you Skip and Jane. Thank you for creating a welcoming place for International students. I know that they took home what you gave them- pride in a job well-done, a desire to give their best in all they do.

For me, Elixir represents a sort of promised land, a place of milk and honey. I was in the US for two years before I came to the Upper Valley. I moved around the country doing seasonal work for 5 star resorts, and I’d spent 9 months in Rhode Island trying to get through my paperwork, and looking for a job. A friend of mine kept trying to get me to Vermont, “Come work at Elixir!” He said “You’ll love it! Jane is like a mom to everyone.”

I hadn’t planned on returning to the cold. My first real experience with the cold had been the winter of 2008, in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The -20 degree days were hard to forget. But my friend kept at me, and I finally decided I’d try it for a few weeks.

I liked it. Maybe not immediately, but the people, the food, the quality of life in this corner of the world pulled me in.

I started at Elixir in the kitchen as probably the most stylish dishwasher that restaurant had ever seen. When someone went on vacation, I started covering serving shifts on the floor. Then I was serving full time, and learning to tend bar for when they needed someone to cover a shift. I started coming in some evenings to learn more about management from Skip and Jane. But the truth is, it didn’t matter so much what I was doing. There was a true joy in working hard, in doing my best, in seeing what our collective best could produce.

There were a few times in my first two years in the Upper Valley that I nearly left. Personal reasons aside, though, I stayed because of Elixir. I knew I was in the right place, I knew I was learning from the right people. I wanted to learn from them, and I knew that when I was ready, when I finally had a business plan of my own, I would be prepared.

A lot of people passed though Elixir in the eleven years I worked there, and they all became brothers and sisters to me, as Skip and Jane had become my parents. I think every restaurant wants their staff to believe that they are all part of a family, but Elixir actually managed it.

I met a number of lifelong friends here, and I met the love of my life, who is now my husband and the father of my two children.

Last month was a hard one for me. After eleven years in the Elixir cocoon, a place that helped me grow emotionally and spiritually, I am strong. Strong enough to leave the cocoon. Hato Viejo has launched, blossomed, and now needs me full-time.

Skip, and Jane, and all of the people I worked with were there for all of it- how hard I worked to get to this point. How hard I worked with the language.

I thank God for this second set of parents I got here in the US. Good people, who demanded the best from me, regardless of the language we spoke. 

I haven’t had time, yet, to see how my life will be without those weekend shifts. As much work as they were, they were also an escape for a few hours- time to laugh and talk with friends, these people who have known me from the beginning. They will always be a part of me.