Change is brewing

After over 30 years here at the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, I am officially retiring on Aug. 5.

A few months ago, on a whim (and a couple beers), I applied for a cooking position at Rapids Brewing. I was quite surprised to get a call for an interview, and honestly shocked when I was offered a job in the kitchen. I have been moonlighting there since Mother’s Day. Coincidentally, on a certain level, I feel a connection with my mother, and my roots. She was the head chef at the Sawmill for many years, and now I am following in her footsteps. She taught me how to cook with love.

Having no formal kitchen experience (other than cooking for my family), it has been quite the challenge. I have been loving it. The crew there is really great. Mostly a younger staff, with questionable taste in music ranging from video game theme songs, sea shanties, electro swing, and heavy metal. We have assembled somewhat of a misfits kitchen. I feel right at home.

My time at the paper has been long. I’ve done almost every job over the years (even filled in for the Editor in the Walker office). Typesetting. Developed film. My newborn baby at the time, Kaya (now 26), slept in her car seat in the break room while I pasted up the classifieds.

Working at a newspaper can be a challenge. You can look at the page pasted up on the boards 15 times, and not see an error. But it will pop out at you the second it is on the printed page. Mistakes are there for everyone to read in black and white. I recall typesetting an advertisement for a new salon that had come to town. Coupons had a lot of little tiny writing, so I did the customary “copy and paste”; only changing the % off, and the service offered at the salon. One of the most embarrassing moments of my career was the “bikini wax” printed with the same sub-text as the previous perm coupon, “long hair extra.” Horrified.

There was also a time that I was written up for an error made on the website. I was working on a new crime section that had not yet been published, and wrote an erroneous article about a certain editor at one of our newspapers in Wisconsin stealing toilet paper. It was meant to be a placeholder and a simple “test” article that nobody would see. I thought my co-worker who was helping on the project would get a little chuckle. Little did I know, it was a sub-section of an already “live” section, and the article went out on the local eNews brief. So sorry, Paul. That one I wish I could take back.

It was not an easy decision to decide to move on. The newspaper has been embedded in my entire life for so long. I have typed so much, that I barely have any fingerprints left. The newspaper holds that much of my identity. In the few short months already in the kitchen, I have burned off any and all remnants. But I’m not getting any younger. I have a love for cooking. My kids are grown. I’ve paid off my mortgage, a clean bill of health (recent cancer survivor), and have decided to follow my passion.

I have worked with many beloved staff over the years. I’m not even going to try to name names. You know who you are. I appreciate you. And you will be missed. Come on by to Rapids Brewing and I’ll cook you up the best damn pizza and smash burger in town. And thank you, Chef Kyle, for the opportunity at a new career. My dog, Dexter, really loves that I come home every night smelling like pepperoni.

Party on, Wayne!


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