Greg Kuzia-Carmel

PHOTOS: Max Houtzager

LOCATION: San Francisco

My food and mood alike have taken the ultimate benefit from my newfound renaissance at the water’s edge. – Greg Kuzia-Carmel

“When you start feeling uneasy look at the horizon,” my father advised as he cinched the mast lines a bit tighter. We were swiftly gliding across the placid waters of Lake George in the Adirondacks of New York. We were aboard our Tanzer 22 foot sailboat but Dad wanted more. A little more oomph. A little more thrust. The boat pitched aggressively, slamming through the white-capped waves in our path and I used what little resolve I could muster to bring equilibrium to my small frame.

Some of us find our way to the shore, some of us are born there, some of us are brought there. Regardless of the circumstance, many of us find our peace there.

Having chosen an unlikely and difficult path, one of cuisine, I have had the fortune and misfortune to see the seas, both proverbially and literally, at their very best and at their very worst.

Some of my earliest travel memories revolve around our annual offseason trek to the outermost reaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where we held court high upon the dunes of South Truro under the powerful sweeping beam of the Highland Lighthouse. Dinners were often foraged or fished from the coasts below our small cottage.

Negative tides yielded some of the largest and sweetest scallops I have ever encountered. Striped Bass pulled from the shores were iridescent and their flesh deliciously briny, likely due to their gavage on oysters as they crawled up the coast. Steamer clams and lobsters alike anchored many a feast in our sparse shack on the eastern seaboard.

As lifestyle and vocation became a focal point in my early adolescence, I found community in various bands of outsiders. The skateboard and snowboard crowd soon provided introduction to the kitchen culture, if only as a means to fund the passion. But soon, I found a voice in both—and an identity, a sense of camaraderie, and a group of individuals who inspired me.

As profession began to outpace hobby, I found myself listing further and further from my true self. A string of unique professional experiences found me moving every few years. First, from school in the Hudson Valley of New York to Boston, then onto San Sebastian, Spain, before returning to New York City. It was here that I began to evolve as an individual and make strides forward as an independent young man.

My tenure in the mecca of cuisine was followed by a story-worthy attempt to build a new venture amongst friends. The project met premature mortality hands of Hurricane Sandy. After a few more years of toiling and tolerating the city life, unrest developed. Life beckoned and I relocated to Ocean Beach on the fringe of San Francisco.

The transition to this new life has not been easy but from my front yard I can get an unparalleled view of the oceanic pitch and distract myself from the choppy waters of life. My food and mood alike have taken the ultimate benefit from my newfound renaissance at the water’s edge.

I once sought to impress upon all the worthiness of my travel and tutelage through my grand visions of cuisine, but here in California, the products reign supreme. One harvests the natural beauty of walnut slabs rather than showcasing their steady hands’ ability to carefully mutilate pine. Words like ‘order’ and ‘structure’ give way to words like ‘natural’ and ‘flow.’ And along with them, the touch of my inner craftsman now yields to childlike curiosity of my inner purist.

Ultimately, the horizon is still my guide. Choosing a lifestyle that on its exterior presents a sense of inconvenience has offered up dawn patrol sessions and sunsets that rival the best in the world. Indeed, at the outermost locale I have found myself at home, never more than a few steps from an ocean of inspiration and closer to a world that accepts me for me, regardless of context. Both in vocation and in life I find satisfaction here and look forward to many moon cycles to come.