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This is the first column in a new series from Upserve called “Restaurant Voices,” which features firsthand experiences and lessons from people working within the restaurant industry. Each column in the series describes a specific turning point or moment for restaurateurs that changed or defined their careers. This column is by Fernando Stroyhemer, a cook and aspiring restaurateur in New York City.

A couple weeks ago I received an offer I couldn’t refuse. At a decent price, the owners of a local bar would rent me a small kitchen where I could permanently establish the pop-up I’ve been in operating, I Like Food NYC. Instead of hustling around the city I could prepare and serve 12-hour pulled pernil sandwiches, brown sugar maple roasted chicken wings, and vegan sloppy joes from a little order window of my own.

I was terrified going into that meeting. I knew what it was going to be, and that I was going to say yes. But a part of me didn’t want to do it.

So why am I going for it?

I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid growing up in Boston. It’s now been 20 years since I’ve been preparing food and getting paid for it. My first real job was in an Einstein Bros Bagels shop next to my high school, where I learned how to make bagels and sandwiches. Crafting sandwiches for people remains a love of mine and key to the cuisine I make today.

I moved into a variety of roles in kitchens and even catering around Boston, pushed by a curiosity about every aspect of food service. Working at the Colonnade Hotel, I got to witness Matthew Guadet, now a star in the industry, in action. I moved over to Flora in East Arlington. But it was at Highland Kitchen where I really busted my ass and learned the most about managing a kitchen.

I was terrified going into that meeting. I knew what it was going to be, and that I was going to say yes. But a part of me didn’t want to do it.

I ended up in New York to help a buddy launch an oyster bar. It was fun — for a bit. But I knew didn’t want to shuck oysters all day. Still curious about different aspects of food service, I contacted people I knew at Sysco, the giant distributor, about going to work there. I’ve dealt with Sysco reps my entire career and, in the back of my head, always thought, “They seem to be having a lot of fun.”

The last four years I’ve worked as a rep. It never fit. I wasn’t built for 9-to-5 work. The job turned food into a commodity, which I hated. I belonged back in the kitchen.

This might make sense only to fellow people in the restaurant world, but I started the pop-up concept while still holding a corporate job to relieve stress. I bought an expensive heat box and found different kitchens around Manhattan and Brooklyn to serve a gourmet take on comfort food: slow-cooked pork, glazed wings, honey sriracha cornbread, whiskey butter rice krispie treats. Some nights were slow at a bar. Others were packed as popular bands drew crowds to the venue. My wife noticed how much happier in the kitchen, working and talking with people again.

I wasn’t built for 9-to-5 work. The job turned food into a commodity, which I hated. I belonged back in the kitchen.

The pop-up was bringing in enough money to quit the corporate job. If I’m going to be miserable, I’ll be miserable on my own terms. Calls and emails were coming in pretty much daily from venues interested in having the pop-up at their bar or venue for a night, weekend or in a regular rotation.

That’s when the offer came. Rent our kitchen in Queens and serve your food here every night.

The opening date is March 1. Not a lot of time. I have to pull together equipment — stainless steel tables, an oven, induction burners — in the space of six weeks. I’m not rich. I don’t have a rich family. So I put together a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds. I’ve been humbled by the couple thousand bucks that have come in to date.

That’s where the motivation comes from. I’m going to make a lot of mistakes. That’s how any new job goes. But I’m sick of working for someone else’s ideas. I’m ready to take that next leap.

I don’t want to be on my death bed and not have tried to open my own place.

I’m also no stranger to what I’m getting into. Restaurants – even small order-from-a-window types – are hard to keep running. They’re constantly hemorrhaging money. It’s almost like an experiment. But I don’t want to be on my death bed and not have tried to open my own place. It’s really scary, but I know I can do it. So I’m just going to do it.

Beyond the fear is the excitement to run a little kitchen. It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid. Now it’s a possibility so I have to go for it. In the near future, my goal is to raise the funds, cook great food and hire a couple of people. But I would be perfectly happy just back there with my radio, cooking and singing all by myself. That’s heaven for me.

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Fernando Srohmeyer was born and raised in Boston in 1981. He started cooking at the age of 5 and professionally at the age of 14. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Luann and two cats where they hope to open a restaurant.