For years now, I’ve sought out the relief & enjoyment of a Monday. In the same manner most celebrate the consistency & finality of a Friday, the beginning of a calendar week usually lets those in hospitality know they’ve survived another weekend. I recall as if it was yesterday, considering a career in the kitchen, being told that I may want to check with those close to me as I’m considering forfeiting my nights, weekends, and holidays to jump into a career path that benefits from working to please others while they are relaxing, socializing, & celebrating. I knew when I had the blessing of family & friends coincide with my desire to move forward, regardless of the market research, I was on the right path. But what a path it’s been.
Imagine being an artist, a creative of some sort. Now, include the fact that your work is not something that is so undoable to the average human. Turns out that, additionally, everyone is a consumer of your field. Hell, we’ve all been eating food our whole lives. It’s inevitable that this leads some to be just as knowledgable as us chefs, “foodies” per se, doing what we do as mere hobbies from other careers, or cooking merely to survive. So, what is it that feeds our desire as chefs to put our whole heart on a plate, figuratively? Rather than painting a picture, and setting it in a frame, allowing it to hang in view, waiting for the right person to lock eyes on it, realizing “thats the one!”, our soul often spends ten times the time it takes to make a dish that it takes to be consumed, sometimes eloquently, and many others as quick a shark devours a sea turtle. Our tangible becomes but a memory.
Then, unlike any museum or institute of hard work on display, it’s time for the feedback. The same green bean with a bit of bite is perfectly done to some, yet underdone to others. Some get freaked out over scrambled eggs that aren’t as dry as the plate they’re put on. To each their own. We all have taste (or lack thereof, depending on who you ask). Believe me, those that are in this for the right reasons have a level of giving a fuck what you think more than those in many other careers. Knowing this, chefs are faced with decisions throughout their journeys; using the experience gained in their training & upbringing vs. knowing their audience, and remaining who they are while progressing by pleasing palates. If this was our only focus, it would almost seems acceptably simplistic. Now, let’s welcome in the other aspects. Rarely is there a chair under our ass. We do sit, eat to study, maybe turn a stainless steel table into a desk to jot down some menu ideas, but usually, we our on our feet. It’s a physical job, one where we may stand still making sure a tomato sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, or literally racking up steps on our daily count because its time for service and no one sits still with the echoing of “behind!” & “corner!” throughout the chaos. Occasionally, we will be spoiled with a crew that can share a vision, work as a well oiled machine towards a common goal. Although, there are the times where we, as chefs, become counselors trying to harmoniously gather a bunch of misfits to not take each other personally, to not think too much on their own, and at the same time, do the job necessary without having their hand held.
But we’re rockstars, right? Or so TV would have you believe. Maybe financially cared for? I mean, these should make any of this tolerable. Reality is, I’ve never mopped so many floors after becoming a chef, nor have I found my pot of gold. I live minimally.. Prioritizing what is needed, but doing what I need to to enjoy this one life that I have. I may have cooked on television at times, but it was a hustle, a grind. Not so much the Emeril “someone tie my apron & handle my mise en place” kind of appearance.
I live in an atmosphere where I can add to my tattoos without judgement. I have an opportunity to give in to a sometimes vulgar culture, or bring a positive outlook. I can follow a historical presence of alcohol and drug addiction into a hole, or I can show that I can still be successful and sober. Most importantly, I have found a career where I can play with food, and I’m lucky enough to have found people who will pay me to do it. It’s who I am, it’s a key aspect of what makes me happy. How many of us can say we get to live our passions? I’ve made some good food, I’ve eaten my share of phenomenal food. I’ve laughed with clients, and I’ve barely survived services with some bad ass chefs.
Is our path ideal? Absolutely not. Conducive to a “normal life”? Not for a moment. That said, I couldn’t see my day to day being focused on anything other than food. Dishes I’ve made, and plates yet to be created. Ready for more? Yes, Chef… Hell of a career choice.