Part Four: Finding Balance, Chef Deb Paquette

Interior of Chef Paquette's Etch Restaurant

Read all parts in this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

We were talking about the craziness of this business. Do you have any advice on how to achieve a work/life balance?

Balance? I don’t know that that word means.

Finding Balance...

You say there’s no such thing?

Oh balance! That’s when I ride my unicycle! I still ride it. It’s funny to see a 64-year-old kid on a unicycle with her arms waving about! But then, that’s me!

Balance is letting your husband go fishing when he wants and hang out with his man friends at our local bar, and hoping he has the best time ever! He is the mayor of the bar, just so you know! I work too much, and he very rarely complains (I did just say rarely!). We see-saw!

I must use the word balance 20 times a day. Much of my time is working on the food for a new restaurant and all the recipes MUST balance. I have quite a few sauces and fun stuff on the plate, and each item has to taste great by itself and together…balance. A good cocktail has perfect balance. Casamigos has fabulous balance.

My advice on balance with work and life…place priorities on what is most important for you and your love ones. Don’t abuse your brain or your body! Let a sense of humor be your BFF! If you get unbalanced, go to the ocean. Don’t drink Jägermeister!

Taking a Break

This year I achieved a momentous work/life situation…I actually did not change my vacation with the hubby three times this year! Something always comes up in the workplace, and this year I should have changed it, but we got people in place. I will be slip-sliding in 30 SPF with a sippy cup full of balanced juice all the way to the beach!

Where are you going on vacation?

We go to this place in Florida where there’s like, no stores. It’s just this little peninsula that’s below Tallahassee, on the Gulf. Called Alligator Point. It’s just houses, beach, and shrimp season. Late summer is when we go to the beach, when it is bikini season for those over 60! Ernie fishes and shrimps. I walk a lot and read. Happy hour is whenever we like, and Ernie seems to like my bikini!

Ernie really wants to move back to the water, real bad, and he has for years. He has the ocean in his blood too. Ernie grew up in Eastham, Massachusetts,  which is the narrowest point on Cape Cod. He grew up being a surfer boy, and a fisherman, and a scalloper. 

Do you pickle shrimp?

I have pickled shrimp for menus but not at the beach…it’s gumbo time for us! But since you mentioned it, I think I will grab some vinegar and herbs for the trip. I am counting the days until I see Nashville in the rearview mirror!

It seems to me that you like Nashville. You’re not from there, and you’ve not left there. What is it that you like about Nashville? And what is it that you think is goofy about Nashville? Or am I mistaken, and you just don’t have anywhere else to go?

I am a Fort Lauderdale gal. The ocean runs through my veins! I left when I was 25, and I brought all those sunspots right along with my suitcase!

Oops, time for a story…when Ernie was 18, he worked on a scallop boat. Drags were out on the boat, and they were all playing cards on the lower deck. He went up top to pee off the side of the boat. A swell hit the boat and it was “bye now”- he went over the side! He kicked off his new boots and saw the lights of the boat disappear. (Scary!) Someone still in the card game realized Ernie was taking longer than normal. Cards down and up they go, and no Ernie. Ern has one of those monster-loud whistles, and he began the call for survival…or “get me the hell out of this cold-ass water!” Up came the drags and he saw the lights…luckily the boat lights!

Why Nashville?

Well, I need to get back to the Nashville question…deviation is good, right? I love Nashville, and the big trees. If I cannot have the ocean in my backyard, trees are the winners. They bring peace to my crazy life. I also love the southern charm (I have mastered nine southern dialects). Tennessee is beautiful, the economy here is good (except the red haze!), and the restaurant scene is fabulous!

The goofiest is the crazy amount of bachelorette parties going on. We are (or were, before COVID) the number one city for girls to become the debutants of Fireball, Jägermeister, and vomit pales. It is crazy! The summer uniform is the same for all: cowboy boots, tank tops, wedding sashes, and shorts that have a zip code in the crack of your ass. Lovely.

There is something about southern folks. Rules of respect and hospitality are passed down from generation to generation. It is in their blood (right next to whiskey!). You can feel it and you can see it. Good people, and not so good people, still shake your hand, look you in the eye, and ask you how your mama’s doing. “Yes sir” and “yes ma’am” are heard and listened to more than mating tree frogs! And if someone says, “well bless your cotton socks” it means they care about you!

Will I leave Nashville? I really love it here. Our home is 28 miles from Nashville, and is surrounded by lots of woods. My house gives me peace knowing there is a big couch and a sleepy husband waiting for me after a 13-hour day. One son lives down the street, and the other son in Massachusetts. That isn’t far, is it?

I do have places, friends, and family to go and see. Maybe one day I may move, as long as my couch fits in the car!

I think you gave me the answer. You found a place that had people similar to you.

Yeah, most likely. Why do you think I am in the restaurant business? We are perfectionists, most of us are ADHD, drinking is a sport, music is a necessity, laughing is a prerequisite, and you must have a pet (or pets). Plus, we all like really good food!

Don’t most of us seem to surround ourselves with people who have similarities, (like political parties – ha!)? One has to find comfort and resemblance. I just want to be around people who play nice (and drink nice) with each other. There is a strong gravitational pull to people who make me laugh. Fun folks help me to find the funny in me! I make life-long friends with the people I most laugh with! Don’t you?

Barry, I am leaving you with another short story…this is a few years ago when Ernie and I had our restaurant (yes, another Ernie story!). He was the manager on duty, and a gentleman with a party of five called Ernie over to his table. This gent wanted Ern to open a $150 bottle of wine and pour him one glass. Ernie apologized and said it was not feasible for us to do so, and explained why. The gent was persistent and was told he would need to purchase the whole bottle. Nope, he only wanted a glass. Mr. Ern said, “I am sorry, but this is our house rule,” and returned to the host station. Five minutes went by, and the bad dude approached Ernie. He looks at Ernie and says, “you know what…you made me look like and a*$hole in front of all my friends.” And Ernie replied, “sir, I don’t think you need any help with that!” The gent quietly left, with a tiny crack of almost a smile, and sat down.

Now you see our similarities…balance.

I know what I’m gonna do next time I’m close to y’all. I’m gonna go find his little bar and hang out with him.

It’s fun. It’s nothing but laughter…that’s why he goes. They just laugh, drink beer, and laugh and drink more beer, and laugh. You know, laughter, it’s the chicken soup.