I tend to not write about my daily life happenings and ramble about things that probably have no relevance to most, but today I thought that I would do some soul searching and put feelings to “page” and try to figure out in my brain, and mostly my heart, what it is about being in this industry that makes me stay.
I could make it all fairy tales and happy endings by saying that it’s all about passion and that it feeds my “soul” or I could also say, it’s the rebel in me, that led me to this, chefs are a special breed of character and are normally the “outcasts”. We work in confined spaces and kitchens that are boiling, with people of all different colors and creeds, all chasing after the same goal, getting food out. I could say it’s the military precision of service or the poetry in motion, that plays out like a ballet, yet, at the end of the day, it’s all about this; it’s the shouting and screaming, the laughter and sometimes the crying, the raw emotion on someone’s face when they mess up an order, the adrenaline and the constant buzz, it’s the realization of what a dish would look like on a plate, the components coming together like a orchestra playing a master piece, the tastes and textures of a meal, the complete “high” that comes from sending 300 plates of food. It’s the satisfaction of seeing a full restaurant, knowing that you are about to get hammered, but you have your systems in place, you have your team behind you. It’s the dynamic of being able to think, on your toes, make decisions without batting an eyelid, and coorindiante the entire line, while trying to remain cool and calm and collected, because table 43 is a group of “gluten free, vegans, but eat meat on a Monday, that don’t want garlic or tomatoes or salt or life” on their plates. (Even though we love you guys)
It is HARD work, we hear it all the time, how chefs burn out, how it takes a knock on your mental stability, how you can’t keep a grasp on reality, because most days, you are at work for 18 hours and you have no sense of what else is going on in the world. Try having a normal relationship, your partner better love you, like really REALLY love you. You tend to only have a sense of normality with the people you work with, hence why most of us date other chefs, or FOH managers. We tend to work hard, and play harder, so our vices sit in drugs or alcohol, but luckily, a lot of chefs these days, have a healthier idea of what works for their mind and bodies.
Try working a 18 hour shift, that’s beyond draining and exhausting, then fit in a work out, then a date night, then a discussion about the lack of groceries in the fridge, then the reason why the laundry isn’t done…..and sleep!!!!! Then deal with family that ask you why you are single and make comments like “the clock is ticking”…the only clock that is ticking is the timer in my kitchen.
The reality of all of this comes to play, when you leaving work at midnight, after brining the pork belly, roasting the lamb, checking all the fridges and making the creme brûlée, launching a new menu, making sure the staff are coping and managing, testing the ice cream, and making sure that the medium steak is medium, focusing on orders, making sure that there is stock, then also running to the shops because “maybe we might run out of mushrooms”, we become mothers to our staff, making sure that they have eaten and that they drink enough water, we become teachers, advisors and instructors, we become focused on shit that we never knew possible, like obsessing over a dessert construction that causes a constant battle of “how do we make this work?” to “how do we make this pretty?” !!!!!!!!!!
This constant “idea” that the “normal” guest has on their mind that the kitchen is all pretty and looks something out of a TV set, is beyond me…(thanks Food Network) No one looks that pretty when the cook, (thanks Nigella) and no one pulls a 48 hour roast out of the oven, because, “oh, I made this one earlier”
We graft hard, days are filled with sweat, burns, cuts, coffee, cigarettes, copious amounts of water, photographic memory and everything in between, sometimes we don’t eat, (not your fault…just saying) we are on our feet the entire day and land up having constant neck, back, feet and leg problems, we have cuts on our hands that we don’t know about (squeeze a lemon) we have the strength of a super hero some days and then others are filled with trying to energize ourselves so that we can make it through the first 4 hours. We also need to deal with the amazing FOH, that don’t always wake up on the right side of the bed, managers that are annoying, owners and budgets and deadlines and meeting and suppliers, out of lamb or fuck up with an order and now we don’t have an entire dish on the menu.
What I know for sure. This is my entire being, I would not be in any other industry, I would not cope in a office, I would cry if I worked in a cubicle. This is in my DNA, it’s my driving force, it gives me purpose, it feeds my soul, it makes me happy. It’s a basic form of showing love, we feed someone to make sure they are happy, able to survive, to fill them, we feed a baby to nourish them, to provide comfort, to make them contnet. The love for what we do translates to plate, we take pride in it, in how we present something, in how we “magically” combine flavors to provide you with a euphoric state, a state of utter enjoyment and fulfillment.
It’s simple. Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.