I only know what I know and feel how I feel. I have been it the business for 22 years now; it’s been a great run for me. Living the “Chefs Life” has been everything and then some. When I started Culinary school it wasn’t so cool and trendy to be a Chef, I cooked because I loved to cook. (Thanks Dad) Kitchens were my sanctuary from life; it was the place that I felt the most comfortable. Despite the sometimes-extreme conditions, long hours and pay, I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 12-14 hour days would and do still fly by at the speed of light, a sure sign that I am doing what I should be doing.
I am still as much in love with the industry as the first day that I walked into a kitchen. I really don’t think it could have turned out any better than this. I have enjoyed the food, my friends, and travel and, of course, STILL being able to make people happy through my cooking. That being said I will say that it’s very disturbing to me that many cooks don’t feel the way I feel. As it sit and talk over a late nite beverage with some of my fellow good chef friends, we discuss why they feel no joy coming into work and have never have come to terms with their career choice; resentment runs deep about working off-hours for mediocre wages and prime time spent away from family. Few are willing to pay the price and make the sacrifices necessary to climb the culinary ladder. Their future in the industry is questionable. As much as they may say that they love kitchen work, the truth is, it doesn’t come naturally to them.
If you want to live the “Chefs Life”, do what you do best. It doesn’t matter what type of kitchen you work in, four stars or fast food, it’s all about the passion and commitment to excellence that you put into it. There is a market for all types of food and chefs. You have to pick your venue and make it the best it can be. If you’re any good, money and prestige will follow. If it doesn’t and you are doing it for the right reason, who cares?
Most of my days are filled with a series of emotional highs and lows. One moment I can experience the exhilaration associated with executing near perfection, only to be deflated moments later when something does not reach my standards. You don’t have to be a Four Star Chef at a high-end restaurant to feel this way. Passion and pride are not exclusive to any single segment of the industry, ethnicity, gender or age; you either feel this way or you don’t.
I beat myself up pretty good if things don’t work out as planned. Sleepless nights followed by stress filled days are occurrences. Those days are lost forever! What a waste of my most precious resource, time. I know that during these challenging times, many of my fellows Chefs are feeling the same strain. We are all on edge. Uncertain of what tomorrow will bring and how our daily performance will influence our futures.
A little extra planning, a few more hours committed to the job, and a backup plan for most everything will allow you to better enjoy your down time. You may actually have a little less down time, but it will be higher quality down time and definitely worth considering.
Remember that even the worst day will come to an end, try to brush yourself off, learn from it and set yourself up for future success!!