Yesterday Brett and I headed over to Charyn Auctions to dig through their large inventory of second hand restaurant supplies. Familiar Spanish phrases could be heard everywhere reminding us of the many markets we've visited in Mexico. But instead of calling out prices for vegetables and dried goods the air was filled with squabbling over pots, pans, grills, and appliances. All stocked high to the rafters in this giant Mission District warehouse.
Our shopping list was composed of a few very simple, but necessary items: Large Stock Pot, Roasting Pans, Roundo's and hopefully no surprise "must have" items. (Fortunately only one item fell into that category. A 6 foot baker's table that's a bit of a fixer project). We managed to get everything we needed and saved 50 bucks in the process.
Sifting through the remnants of restaurants past is a bipolar sort of experience. At one end of the spectrum there is a sense of exhilaration when you discover a great find, but there also looms an undeniable uneasiness as you pick over what is likely the last tangible pieces of someone's dream.
In one corner of the lofty warehouse we discovered the entire inventory of a closed coffee shop. Menu board, cups, signs, tables, chairs, all the way down to the computer system. In another corner, the remains of a restaurant / lounge that couldn't have been more than a few months old. The menus were stashed neatly away under one of the many work tables that litter the warehouse floor. All shiny and new with no dust, dirt, or any first course residue to be seen. A sobering sight for any restauranteur.
Having been to this auction house many times before, Brett and I usually know what to expect before entering. The smell of old caked grease on metal pans, the smoke from day laborers welding repairs on old appliances, the bad interior decorations of old Chinese restaurants. This old warehouse is akin to the best estate sale you have ever been to. All kinds of treasures stuffed away in deep and dark places. And just like an estate sale, you can't help but have a knot in your stomach as you make your way through the maze of pre-owned bits and peices from some stranger's past.
For me, I find the best remedy for this sense of unease is to imagine what once simmered away in these old pots and pans: the wrought iron stove tops where they sat, the hands that stirred their contents, and the journey those same hands made in effort to bring to life the ingredients of which they once contained. These images put my mind at ease and remind me that all things in life are cyclical. And that with death comes life, and that now it is our turn to have our hands stirring these same pots, adding one more chapter to their culinary legacy.
Before and after of the Baker's Table: