In an industry that really asks so much of the individual, how do you get to the top alive?
The easy answer is real hard work, but there is nothing easy about working in a kitchen. With a head chef constantly in your face, guests complaints an absolute reality, a kitchen that is warm and stuffy, a pressure cooker of attitudes and emotions, there is really from the outside nothing nice about this.
You see to enjoy working in a kitchen you need to enjoy working, being busy- FULLSTOP. This is one of those jobs where the work never stops, you just choose to stop and go home for a while.
Think about this…a (normal) person will go to a shop, buy a bread, tomatoes, and cheese, go home and make a sandwich, they may even put in a toaster, and yes it would probably taste great…but being a chef means you think about everything you do, nothing on the plate should just be to fill it, it should have a place of importance. The best cheese and tomato toastie I have ever had was with beautiful red ripe tomato thinly sliced, topped with thinly grated parmesan, black pepper and salt held between two slices of home baked bread covered in real butter on the outside then slowly toasted in pan on low heat until golden brown, nutty and crispy – absolutely delicious.
That is the difference…the details, the experience, the smile on a person’s face after he or she just ate that and cannot believe that a sandwich can taste that great or make you feel that good.
To get to the top, you need to decide at the start if you are willing to grind it out for a few years to get to that office at the top, to be that chef that makes people come back for more. It means from day one If the rest leaves work early, you leave last, if they start late you start early, If everybody takes two days off a week, you take one and still spend it in some or other way bettering yourself for the future.
Being a chef is not a job, it is a way of life.
You will be tired almost always, sore, hurt, humiliated, frustrated, you will cry (probably in the coldroom) more times than you would like to admit , but at the end of the day, when a single person stands up and says…
“chef! That was the best meal I have had in a long time”
That day it all becomes worth it, that day you know what it means to be a chef, when you are tired out of your wits and no one really gets it, because no sane person will work like that, but someone, just one, acknowledged that you’re effort was good.
so keep on learning, keep on smiling, keep on keeping on, and your day too will come.