The Brokejaw Chef
I was born a ridiculously clumsy child. I have broken my jaw a total of three times in my life, and it was on my third fortuitous trip to the E.R. at Portsmouth Naval Hospital with a cracked and dislocated mandible that my boss, Staff Sergeant Raegar, started calling me “Pfc. Brokejaw Brakes,” a pun off of my last name “Wheelock.”
I thought that was the most irritating thing in the world, but my best friend and fellow Marine, Rob, decided to make it stick among my peers. I kept the name as a reminder of some of the most fun times I have ever had in my life, some of the most painful, and some of the most meaningful.
I left the Marines to pursue a job in cooking. I fell in love with food during those same crazy times I had in the Corps: the 3 A.M. crawls to kebab shop in Berlin, sweating through the intense heat of eating Carolina Reaper pepper-filled ramen in an eating contest in Okinawa, the three bottles of Spanish Albariño we downed in Madrid with a plate of Iberian cured meats and local cheese. The schwarma and khubz we ate from the back of a pickup truck heated with a blowtorch in Al-Manama.
I remember the first time I worked as a Sous in a small restaurant that had no A/C. I remember dealing with 120 degrees of soul crushing heat and humidity while trying not to sweat onto a plate of $80 Kobe beef on my 64th hour at work that week.The whole time I thought to myself: at least this isn’t Kuwait.
My time in the Corps gave me insights into many areas of my life, what values I have, what I stand for, how to deal with fear, and how to attack challenges. For several years, I have wanted to put these ideas into words. Now as a journalism student at Drake University, I am sort of forced to.
That’s what this blog is. Fun, sad, painful, angering, and hopefully to someone, meaningful. With everything we see in the world around us, and for all the advocating I push on social media, I think it’s time I add my voice in some small way to the mix.