#MondayMotivation: Trust Your Gut, and You Might Just Save It

Seattle chef Perfecte Rocher opened his restaurant at a sprint—and his body paid the price.

June 5, 2017 ● 2 min read

As told to Priya Krishna by Perfecte Rocher | Image via Tarsan i Jane

I was only given a month to open my restaurant, Tarsan i Jane.  

We couldn’t find investors, but we found this guy who owned a place in Seattle and offered to let us take over the space—the catch was that we had to open quickly.  

Opening a restaurant in a month is really difficult. We were new to Seattle, we didn’t know the market or the people. The stress of having a restaurant and rent to pay but not having any investors really got to me. I developed so much anxiety, and I started eating like a crazy guy, gaining a lot of weight. I know some people don’t like to eat when they are feeling pressure, but it was the opposite for me—I was eating so much butter and fried food. I got really sick, to the point where I had to go to the hospital. I was diagnosed with chronic gastritis, which is when your stomach lining gets seriously inflamed. The doctor told me I was going to have to radically change my diet. Your stomach is your second brain, after all. If you don’t take care of that, you suffer. 

I had gotten to the point where I was scared to eat because I was afraid it would be painful, and after that visit, I took a serious look at our menu at Tarsan i Jane. We were serving this amazing Pacific Northwest and Valencia-influenced cuisine, but our food was on the heavier side. I wanted to serve the kinds of dishes that I could actually eat. We were a tasting menu, but I realized that most tasting menus leave you feeling kind of disgusting. You’re eating 12 to 18 courses and then you spend two days sick to your stomach with digestion issues. I didn’t want people to suffer what I suffered.  

I started to change everything about the restaurant. We would still serve a tasting menu, I decided, but it would be a healthy tasting menu. I swapped in olive oil for butter. I got into fermentation, making my own vinegars and kombucha and Injera. I got into ingredients like buckwheat, lentils, and medicinal herbs. I learned about foraging and wood-fired cooking. I refocused my menu on seafood and vegetables, all sourced from the area.  

Making these changes forced me to be more creative, and in the end, people loved the new, more natural menu. We got busier. GQ named us as one of its Best New Restaurants in America this year. Sometimes you wake up and you are like, What the fuck am I doing? And then something like GQ reminds you that what you’re doing is important. 

I feel like we are moving in a really good direction. I am now forced to be thoughtful in all my decisions related to the restaurant—like, do I really need to deep-fry this? Or cook it in butter? Can I steam it or use olive oil, and will it taste just as good, if not better? Personally, I feel so much more capable. I’ve lost 24 pounds. Before, I used to wake up with all this stress. Now, my mind is clear.

When your body is happy, you feel happy. You don’t have to worry as much anymore.