From chef to chaos

Perhaps I’m dating myself, but some of you recall a network tagline from some years back before: “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.” They were trying to further the freshness date on sitcoms rerun during the summer months, but I’ve since found it relevant in plenty of other applications.

For instance: this stunning, gut-wrenching story by Allecia Vermillion from March of last year. It lays bare the final years of Cody Spafford, a deeply talented sous chef at the Walrus and the Carpenter, who lost his life to a SWAT team, dispatched after he held up a Wells Fargo bank.

“[Renee Erickson] had just inklings of her young employee’s past: A few months into his job Cody got busted with some marijuana in Oregon. His criminal history meant he had to spend a few nights in jail. Once he returned, Cody told his bosses he wanted—needed—to be more responsible. How could you not root for an ambitious, hardworking kid eager to vanquish his demons and succeed?”

“By early 2013 Cody had been clean for seven years and his career was catching up with his ambitions. He was promoted to be Dahlin’s sous chef, enforcing the high standards of the guy who had instilled them. Then Cody took over Walrus’s oyster program. He placed orders, made sure the wire baskets contained enough variety, and kept his delicate mollusk charges properly chilled. … He entered the occasional shucking competition, bringing home a hefty first-place trophy from that year’s SeafoodFest in Ballard.”

“In testimony months later, employees and customers would describe the bank robber as hyped, agitated. Maybe mentally ill, maybe high. And very, very nervous. … The man thrust his hands inside the opened vault and dumped about $90,000 in stacked $50s and $100s into his suitcase, then ran out the front door.”

“Everyone tried to figure out how, when, and most of all…why? What makes a guy undo eight years of being clean, right before moving to the country’s culinary epicenter to take a dream job? There are theories—painkillers prescribed for carpal tunnel syndrome, maybe someone he met at a party in New York. Still, nobody really knows.”

While the roots of Spafford’s decline may never be unearthed, the people who cared so deeply for him, and worked alongside him seem to agree that his tenure in the kitchen may be what staved it off for a while. This article is worth your time.

Read The Brief, Extraordinary Life of Cody Spafford on Seattle Met.

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