Several years ago I had this wild idea that I would learn the culinary trade and take my shot in the kitchen. I went to school on a very part time basis whilst remaining full time at the church and had a blast learning things like how to make stock and breaking down chickens and such.

***This is crazy, a person a day for the whole year of 2016 to show love and appreciation to on social media. It may be someone in my everyday life or someone I may not have spoken to for years. You can feel free to jump into this craziness with all of us and start today. It’s never to late this year to start the love and appreciation. Check out the rest of the crazies participating with: ‪#‎thisiscrazylove2016‬*** Tyler Merritt

After a couple of years of part time schooling I decided to see about getting an internship at a local restaurant to see what the real world looked like. 

I walked in that first day of my internship and met Chef Francesco Vito. Chef Vito is a quiet mannered, introspective chef with a  beautiful sense of humor and a heart that beats loudly for anyone in need. 

I felt at home with Chef Vito from the start.

 This was most likely the evening my wife fell in love with Francesco Vito. He jumped at the chance to wear her Mexican smock. 

This was most likely the evening my wife fell in love with Francesco Vito. He jumped at the chance to wear her Mexican smock. 

As was the case with most new interactions at the time, the conversation came around to what I did for a day job. 

I have to tell you I often hated that question. As a guy working as a pastor in a church it was not unusual for me to see the person or people asking take a physical step back as if to protect themselves from the God cooties. 

Aaron, Chef Vito’s right hand man at the time, did in fact take a step back. Of course Aaron was also one to give way to overacting and boisterous behavior.

 I'm the guy behind the sauté pan. Late nights cleaning up and making jokes and truly getting to know people.  

I'm the guy behind the sauté pan. Late nights cleaning up and making jokes and truly getting to know people.  

We spent the rest of the day talking about spiritual stuff and such. This was something I was also used to.

Over the course of the next month or so Chef Vito decided as some point to call me Friar Stokes. I kinda liked it. I liked that he recognized my faith was important to me and I liked that it also fit as I was most regularly working the fry station in the restaurant.

After shifts were over we’d sit out back of the restaurant and chat early into the mornings.

I knew I had to be up the next day for a full day at the church but I just really enjoyed the conversation. 

Sure, questions would come up from time to time about religion and I was happy to answer best I could but we would talk about a great many things. 

Vito remains a very special person in my life. I miss those late nights when your body is completely wrecked from standing on hard floors, arms and fingers burnt from hot pans and hands aching from constant knife work during prep. I miss the hustle of the moment when it seems from the kitchen that a bus load of people must have just crammed into the small restaurant as tickets wold begin to fly out of the machine barking orders. I gotta tell you though, at forty-one years of age I don’t miss doing it every night. Turns out, I’m not as tough as you might… ah who am I kidding? None of you thought I was tough.  

Chef Vito is not someone I speak with every day. We actually don’t speak but once a month or so. But when we do we make up for lost time, solving all the worlds problems and finding off color jokes to throw in the midst. I love Francesco more than he will ever really know. He is a special part of my life and I am happy to share this crazy love with him today.

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