Years ago, when I first graduated from university, I found myself signing an employment offer for my very first full-time job. Yes, I was beginning my career.
“Any questions?” the head of Human Resources asked.
“Well,” I replied, “it’s not really a question; but I just wanted to let you know that I’d like to take a vacation day to celebrate my birthday next week.”
“Next week?” she said, stunned. “But you’ve only just started the position!”
“Oh I know,” I offered confidently. “It’s just that since I was a young girl, I promised myself that I would not work on my birthday. It was easy to book the day off when I worked part-time, and I’ve been able to do so every year leading up to now. And I know the timing is awkward, but even though I’m beginning my career, I don’t want to lose sight of that promise to myself.”
The HR Manager cocked one head to the side, and after looking at me for a long moment, said – “Okay. Your vacation day for April 13th has been approved.”
And every year after that, leading up to the day I gave birth to my first son, I took the day off.
Of course, laying in bed on birthday mornings, I couldn’t help but think of others who couldn’t do the same on their special day. Brain surgeons and restaurant owners. Students struggling to pay bills and seniors struggling to keep their jobs. Fishermen and crossing guards.
Then, after I became a mother, I started identifying with those men and women who have to work on their special day. Because being a mother is more than just being a business owner, brain surgeon or bookkeeper; it’s a 24/7 position that you can never really take a day off from.
So… what happens when you’re a restaurant owner/ chef /sommelier… and a mother? How do you unwind on Mother’s Day?
I’d like to introduce you to Aaron & Bronwyn Linley – Co-owners and chefs of Bijou Restaurant in Stratford, Ontario. Aaron is the executive chef and Bronwyn (formally trained as a pastry chef) runs the front of house and wine list (she is also a sommelier by trade). Theirs is a story made of fairy tales: they met at Stratford Chef School (perhaps their eyes met over a delicate terrine of foie gras?) and two years after they graduated, they married in 1998. One year later, baby Liam joined the family, followed by daughter Hazel in 2002.
Bronwyn is that woman – the hypothetical woman who works on birthdays and Mother’s Days. After the opening of Bijou 12 years ago, both Aaron and Bronwyn spend anywhere from 5 to 6 days a week there, working together. And, the Linley’s are about to become even busier when they take on the additional roles of executive chef (Aaron) and food and beverage manager (Bronwyn) of the lounge and restaurant at the soon-to open Bruce Hotel; a new luxury boutique hotel that is currently being built in Stratford.
So how does Bronwyn revive and rejuvenate? How does a busy culinary couple with their plates (pun intended) always piled high take the time to celebrate life?
“Aaron gets nailed in May because it’s not only my birthday and our wedding anniversary (15 years this year!), but it’s also my favourite holiday, Mother’s Day,” Bronwyn jokes.
The answer is simple: Aaron needs to get creative….