The decision was a hard one, very hard. In turning down this very generous offer from some very good people I knew I would be walking away from some things I had dreamed about for quite some time; a partnership, artistic freedom and an opportunity to put my hard work into my own dream rather than the dreams of others.
I had thought that I would make my last stand in a kitchen in Costa Rica and that I would cook there always. I loved the environment, the climate, the fruit, the fish and the freedom that came from heading off in totally new culinary directions for the area I was in. I had been promised that the job I had would be mine until I no longer wanted it. Sadly, the final days of my time at La Cusinga made it clear that I was and would always be a gringo visitor and that Costa Rica is not my country.
When I considered the notion of trying to make what could possibly be my last effort at having my own restaurant in this, the summer I turned 60, I realized that it would never happen in Costa Rica. I watched other gringos attempt to realize their dreams there and saw frustration and failure mount. I watched rules and regulations vary and wander depending on those whom they were being administered to. I listened, and this part makes me so sad, as people I had come to trust and respect, people I had labored hard and long and honorably for, began to recant things they had said as truths. I came to the hard realization that this was the nature of the culture and the society and that it would never work for me to put my last and final eggs in this leaky basket.
So yes, the Chef of the Jungle is hanging up his self-penned sobriquet and is becoming the Chef of the Woods, or the Chef of the Trees, or whatever new moniker may fall upon him. Does it make me sad? Well yes, it does; sad, disappointed and a bit betrayed and hurt as well, but I have moved on and need to keep moving on away from those feelings. I am far too old and have experienced far too much in my life to blame disappointments on anyone but myself. I have always had the (in)ability to hear what I wanted to hear and a dreamer's nature that doesn't always temper what I hear with what is real.
I am lucky and grateful that I have the love of a woman, a wonderful woman; a home that feels for the first time to me in years, like a home; and a job that promises growth and opportunity. The jungle will always be in me, but I now know that the jungle belongs to those who come from it, and not to those who try, however hard, to be part of it.