Passion of a Chef
With the advent of the internet, food channels, cooking shows, and celebrity chefs on TV, cooking has suddenly become some sort of glamorous. Out of the blue, culinary schools are springing up like mushrooms, packing to the brim with eager-eyed youngsters looking for a quick and easy road to fame and money.
But is it really that easy?
Passion of a Chef – Starting Out
These youngsters started out excited and raring to go. But after some time in the killer restaurant industry, reality hit them hard when they realized they do not possess thepassion of a chef. Their engines stutter and begin to choke…
Maybe you meant it steadfastly when you say things like you don’t mind working long hours, or even on public holidays during your interview. But wait till you get into the kitchen, standing for fourteen hours day in and day out, working in a hot, cramped environment, and hanging only with your group of fellow cooks. You will have virtually no social life. That dream of fame and money begins to fade when your friends are having fun partying without you, enjoying their Christmas dinners and New Year holidays, and yet you are in there slogging your guts out.
For what purpose you think? For peanuts pay that is barely enough to cover your bills. Here you are busting your balls out and yet still earning less than your peers.
You would think, ‘Maybe I’m better off working in the bank or in an office.’
These are the weaker ones that drop out of the race first. Those that remained are the tougher guys. In this high-testerone environment, where everyone is trying to outdo one another and most of the cooks are not willing to teach and share their knowledge, for fear of you being better than them someday. It is a survival of the fittest, and only those with thepassion of a chef can make it through.
There is no such thing as becoming a celebrity chef overnight. It takes years of hard work and passion of a chef, honing one’s skills and palate, developing your own unique style to make it to celebrity chef status. The truth is only a few handful will make it. The rest will just be toiling away unnoticed in the background for the rest of their kitchen lives.
So why do we continue to work in such soul-crushing condition?
For me, it is because of my love and passion for food and cooking. Besides, nothing can replace that rush of adrenalin during a busy period when the ticket orders come flying in. Every evening is show time. It is a live act in a pressure-cooker environment where a thousands things can go wrong.
You’re doing the grill station tonight. The first wave of orders comes in and you immediately spring into action.
“Four rib eyes, two lamb racks, three sea bass, two salmon.”
You begin searing four rib eyes and two lamb racks on the charcoal grill, while simultaneously seasoning three fillets of sea bass and two salmon steaks. Beautiful grill marks. You turn around and place the meats inside the oven to finish cooking. You focus your attention on cooking the fishes on the hot plate. All this while, more orders coming in…
“Two beef tenderloins, three cods, two more bass, and one salmon.”
You hurriedly take out the items from your cold drawers and start to sear them. Nicely coloured, and then into the oven behind. All this while, your mind making mental notes of the items that are cooking in the oven, each with different cooking timings and to customers’ desired doneness. The ticket machine continues spewing out new orders…
“Four lambs, two rib eyes, one cod, and one salmon.”
Before you know, there’s meat and fish everywhere; on your stainless steel table, seasoned and waiting to be cook, on the grill, on the hot plate, in the oven.
And then someone call for an ‘express’ salmon, because one of the idiotic service staff had dropped a plate of salmon on the way to the dining room. You curse at him for disrupting your flow, and your movements becomes even faster. Otherwise, you will lag far behind.
Even in all that rush, every dish that is sent out to the dining room is perfect. The intense pressure continues for the next two hours until dinner rush is over. At the end of service, you feel relieved. You feel good. Happy neuro-transmitters are coursing through your brain. You’d done something which weaker people will crumbled under all that pressure. Just watch an episode or two of Hell’s Kitchen to get an idea of how it is.
To me, the joy of cooking and the smiles on happy faces when they liked my food made it all worthwhile. I feel happiest when making people happy.
Such is the passion of a chef.