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Why do you love being a chef?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I have heard many answers but I am curious as to what exactly makes people want to cook. The pay (starting out) is terrible, the hrs are long. I am hoping to write a book about this, so if you have any input please let me know.

Interesting-I did a survey of birthdays where I work and I found that 95% of the cooks were born between December-January, and June-July-Aug. One or two in betweens, and they were pastry. Some of the cooks even had the same birthday! Any thoughts on this would be great.
post #2 of 28

good question

Well, in the begining, the pay does suck. The hours are horrible. You work when all your friends aren't. We won't even get into the injuries. So why do it? Well...

In the begining, it was a pay check for me. I didn't have many prospects on the job front and needed something quick. A family restaurant was hiring, so I applied and got the job. After awhile, it just felt right. I thought of other fields to work in, but there was always something that didn't seem right. Kitchen staff, lifers, are an odd bunch. It just kind of feels right. Yeah, I would love having weekends off to go out and do things, but when it all comes down to it, I don't really mind not.

Maybe it's seeing the faces of customers smiling and going on about how good their meal was. Maybe it's the fact you never have to worry about going hungry. Maybe I'm just a masakist (horrible spelling) who enjoys the heat, steam, fire and injuries. All I know is I'm happy when I'm there, love what I do because it's me.

And, to the birthday theory, mine is November 26.
"A brave man likes to feel the rain on his face." "Yeah, but a wise man knows when to get in out of the rain."
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"A brave man likes to feel the rain on his face." "Yeah, but a wise man knows when to get in out of the rain."
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post #3 of 28
::looks at the plethora of burns, blisters, and cuts on his hands and forearms:: ya lets no go into the injuries. Like blue_wolf it was a paycheck, I started slinging pots and pans at a family restaurant when I was 16, when a position opened on the line they asked me if i wanted the job, hey it came with a pay raise I was all over it. I ended up staying there for 2 years and while it was just a family restaurant I got an oppurtunity to work with some talented chefs, even at this point it was still just a job. I moved on and was working for a newspaper doing computer programming and while the pay was decent it was, well, dulldrum. I often caught myself thinking of when I worked in the kitchen and the fun I had had and the things I had learned as fate would have it, I wound up working back in kitchens and never again left them.

To answer your question "Why do we do it?" I do it because I enjoy it and the people I work with, all the way from the Executive Chef to the whinny server who describes pheasant as "Its kinda like chicken" to the brain-dead bus boy who has obviously smoked more then his fair share of weed. Its going home at the end of the day and hearing "You guys did an outstanding job" from the GM, watching people sit and enjoy their meal, or simply getting to be creative with the food you produce.

Simply put, I do it because I love doing it.

My bday is October 30th
"Non-cooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child
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"Non-cooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child
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post #4 of 28
I got into this biz late in life (44).
It took me that long to figure out what I was supposed to be doing all along.
It's not so much a matter of enjoyment, as finding one's little spot in the universe. You kind of know it when you find it. You feel generally in control of matters and know instinctively what to do. When things are going to ****, people look to you for the solution. You can generally deliver on every scheme you devise.

Like most of life, sometimes it's great, and sometimes it sucks, but mostly it just is.

But it's a comfortable and familiar is.
post #5 of 28
Well are you a chef or cook? Because being a great cook is like many other passions, you do it becasue you love it, i think if you were a chef/cook then you would understand it.

Being in the culinary field is always changing and you can learn something new everyday and food is changing constantly and you can be a apart of it, it's creating new dishes and menus. And the pay isn't so bad if you get in the right culinary field, being a line cook isn't going to make you any money and you'll work your butt off but you'll learn a lot and that's going to take to other jobs that will pay more. Well that's if you have ambition and drive.

My birthday is December 23 by the way
post #6 of 28
Can you really explain why you love you husband or wife? I think cooking professionally is the same. Yes there are some draw backs but if you love it your willing to put up with them. There are also ways to try and work around some of the more commom draw backs if you are lucky (again, not unlike a marriage)

My Birthday is June 7 .... Creepy!
Chef Bob


"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch?" ~ Orsen Wells (1915-1985)
http://www.frappr.com/cheftalkcafe
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Chef Bob


"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch?" ~ Orsen Wells (1915-1985)
http://www.frappr.com/cheftalkcafe
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post #7 of 28
True, the food is the most important thing to me, and the freedom being a chef gives me to do with it what I will is the most important aspect.

The rest of the 'being a chef' bits, like admininistrative duties and meetings I can take or leave.

Dec 7th by the way. Heh.
post #8 of 28
I'm not a Chef (yet), however I have cooked in the top 2 fine dining restaurants in the city. Honestly I don't know why I do it - pay does suck, hours are horrible, it's incredibly stressful. Of course, you never go hungry, theres always a job available somewhere, and making good food is fun :) BTW, birthday January 6...
post #9 of 28
I think that the love that you feel creating something is very nice feeling all the time.
December 21 Sagitarious :bounce:
post #10 of 28
For me it's the quick pace enviroment, stress and commotion. I hate to be in the pantry, and I am green with envy when we are knee deep in the weeds on the line and I am just standing around making the occasional salad, and dessert. In those moments i realize it is the pace that gets my juices flowing. The constant chatter of "what's on the new", the rush of heat you feel on your whole front side when you've just fired a juicy steak, the sound of fish being seared in the rocket hot pan, the beauty of the plated dish and how all that works in tandeum from most stations on the line, the bul*sh*t that is spoken on the line...all of it. That is what I love about it, and why I do it.
Oh and did I mention the completely wacked out personalities of the cooks standing next to me?
and mine is May 8th...I guess that makes me the oddball, as usual...LOL
Frizbee
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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post #11 of 28
Why do people jump out of planes, climb rocks, or run with the bulls in spain. Because we are all freaks. And, we all love the adrenaline. I don't care what management thinks, not really. When it slows, I look around the corner at customers and they are happy, or the occasional compliment to the chef from an impressed guest. That's what this business is all about to me.
Not to mention nobody parties harder than a rest. person. We are extremists in everything we do.
Sept. 2nd
post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 

thank you!

to all of you who took the time to respond, I really appreciate it. The stories and insight are great, and it was funny to see all of your birthdays! Thank you so much...cook on....
lovejen
Jan 30th
post #13 of 28
for me cooking is in the blood. my family is sweedish, english, iriquo, and dutch. when my my mothers side of the family came to the us they moved into the south and quickly took on the southern traditions as far as cooking. my grandfather on my dads side was a restaraunt owner for many years and now produces some of the best honey around. from both sides cooking has been imbeded into me. i started cooking semi professionaly when my mother and i started a catering buisness (i was 12). i went professional after trying to do several other things when i was 18 (i just couldnt stay out of the kitchen). as far as why i do it well, i guess its because it is the one place that everything feels right. i can let my creativity flow through my hands in the same way an artist does when creating a sculpture. as far as the people i work with just about everyone in that place (back of the house) is as crazy or more so as i am. all the B.S. we say spills over into beer 30 after work as well. i love hearing the customers talk about the food we produce and i go to church every now and then and hear folks talk of how their dinners were great and how they wished they could cook like that.

thats why i do what i do. :chef:

dec. 30 btw
i pledge my professional knowladge and skill to the advancement of our profession and to pass it on to those that are to follow..... ACF pledge
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i pledge my professional knowladge and skill to the advancement of our profession and to pass it on to those that are to follow..... ACF pledge
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post #14 of 28

Simple were all crazy!

Stress, live on it. Pain is temperary pride is forever, burns got em. Control is a must have. Intense always. Don't know how to do anything else as well as i cook. Creativity, you can do anything you want as long as it taste good. People, allsorts. Parties, your always invovled. Last, People gotta eat. :chef:
drink,eat, and be merry
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drink,eat, and be merry
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post #15 of 28

Bringing the world together

I always saw my grandmother in the kitchen, for her expression of love was "Food" and I started cooking when I was 6. I saw that the family gets together around food. Every ceremony was around food too. As I grew up with this belief and my world started growing. The horizons of families became much wider and all I wanted to do all my life was to bring the world together, maybe for a moment. I think its a very sacred path and a wonderful way to express my gratitude for the Creator.
Bon Appetit
Vikas Khanna
post #16 of 28
Food is our medium. It is up to us to craft it how we choose, to make it our own expression We sculpt, we paint, we practice alchemy.
Food is our merchandise. At the same time we produce, as as quickly, methodically, economically, as beautifully as more than humanly possible if it can be done.
Food is our millstone. A life of work that isolates us from everything but itself. We make food. Food feeds on us. And so it goes.
Food is our passion. For some a calling. For some just a bump on their bigger road. But every profession has its' tourists.
For me after 27 years of cooking, its like having to take care of an alcoholic parent. You love 'em to death, but but the unnecessary b*lls#it gets old.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #17 of 28
This is the only thing I have ever done. I, like most of you enjoy the organized chaos that is this life. The heat from the fire, the comroderie of your fellow cooks. I sometimes think of what I would do if not cooking, and I can't think of a single thing that is more interesting to me than this. To me cooking is more than just the repetition of making the same dish 1,000 times a week. It is an extension of my soul. I love being a chef because that is what I was born to be.


January 3, represent...
"Whatever you are, be a good one."
-Abraham Lincoln-

"The weak ones fall, the strong carry on."
-Tom Petty-
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"Whatever you are, be a good one."
-Abraham Lincoln-

"The weak ones fall, the strong carry on."
-Tom Petty-
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post #18 of 28

How shall I count the ways?

I love cooking for so many reasons that's it's sometimes difficult to dissect the whole beast and see it as the sum of it's parts.

1. The processes of making food. Caramelization, emulsion (remember the first time you made mayo? I was giddy), searing, frying, freezing, molding, dicing, mincing, roasting, steaming, grilling, deglazing, proofing, liquifying (always satisfying), tasting, tasting, tasting, and the are plenty more where that came from.

2. Eye of the hurricane. There's a real sense of power that comes from maintaining control in a situation that seems too large to be dealt with, and remaining calm and collected while delegating tasks in the exact order they need to be executed in. Balancing becomes a sort of spiritual ascension as turmoil is replaced by focus.

3. Food. I'm not sure how to convey the love I have for the products I receive and seeing that they're used in a manner that fits something provided for us by the Earth. There is for me, a soulful, quasi-religious connection to food, beyond the fact that it is nourishment and delicious. Just the fact that we eat to live makes me feel that my profession is sacred.

4. Community. There's small group psychology at work here, and by testing your limits with a unique group of individuals, you become as tightly bonded as soldiers in a foxhole. There's intelligence, humor, charisma, and many lesser traits that bind you to your co-workers. There's a feeling of belonging which is difficult to describe and impossible to explain to anyone who hasn't been in a group in that type of stressful situation.

5. Plating. There's no sense of accomplishment that I've felt that compares to finishing a plate exactly the way you want it, all elements balanced, and you get that moment to look at it objectively, getting out of the way and letting the food do the talking.

6. Sensuality. I don't think there's anything you can do that connects you more to another person than preparing their food. It requires an immense measure of trust, and your work becomes a part of another living breathing person.

7. Creative fullfillment. I can have the spark of an idea in the morning, and be making money on it by lunch. I can see all my leftovers and create something which is delicious and profitable. I can create with only my imagination and will as limitations.

8. Learning/teaching. These are the two sides of the same thing, and in cooking the only limitations to what you can learn are self imposed, and being able to easily disseminate that information and experience gives others the spark of passion that I feel for what I do. Even if cooking isn't what they want to do forever, I can help them look inside to find what it is that they must do to make themselves whole.

There's more, I'm sure, but those seem like the key points to me right now.
If no one will follow you, you can't be the leader.
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If no one will follow you, you can't be the leader.
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post #19 of 28
Great post DanBrown, everyone seems to have touched on all points that make cooking exciting and satisfying. Also being in such a transient industry, their is a great deal of pride involved in knowing you do something that a lot of individuals don't have the onions(culinary term for bravery) to do. June 16
post #20 of 28
Nobody here does it for the chicks?? ahah just kidding :)
post #21 of 28

Truth in cooking

For me, it was the moment I (at about 7yrs) sat beside Mrs. Feeley cooking some crazy French dish, and she let me smell the spices and herbs going in one by one. She asked me to describe what they smelled like.... I was hooked. It was like a drug -- the feeling of the kitchen, the connection, the familiarity without a formal introduction.... I was born to be in a kitchen.

I worked side jobs, but I now just cook for friends and family. I come up with amazing recipes, and refuse to submit to magazines ;-) Maybe someday Gourmet will publish my Lamb and Nightshade dish, or perhaps I will finally come out of my shell and ambush the Food Network LOL
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
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Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
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post #22 of 28
For those four little words.....

"This is sooooo good."

To see the happiness and content on people faces after they've eaten. Knowing I put that smile on their face is what it's all about.
Is there such a thing as Queen
of the Grill? Why do men only
get a royal title over the
barbeque? I should be queen.
Girls like to play with fire too.
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Is there such a thing as Queen
of the Grill? Why do men only
get a royal title over the
barbeque? I should be queen.
Girls like to play with fire too.
Reply
post #23 of 28
I would have to agree that the satisfaction you get from happy customers makes all the headaches worthwhile.
If you're not the lead dog, the view's always the same.
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If you're not the lead dog, the view's always the same.
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post #24 of 28

The Lore of the Kitchen

My story is much like many Chefs, started washing dishes and bussing tables at 13 years of age, then I got my hands on some food when I was 16-17 with prep work and the love affair began. I worked my way up the line, burnt myself more times then I could ever count, worked weekends, holidays, late nights. Yeah the pay was terrible in the beginning, but still there is something about creating something and getting the reaction from the guest. There is nothing like being a chef, the passion I have for what I get to do everyday has made my life complete.Now I enjoy bring up young cooks thru the ranks of my own business and watching there passion and the lore of the kitchen grab them. :chef:

Oh Yeah and it doesn't hurt with the ladies..LOL
Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks. Chef Rob
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Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks. Chef Rob
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post #25 of 28
vikas khanna and botanique said it for me (incidentally, botanique, you stole my quote!) i love choosing the best ingredients, making them into something scrumptious and serving it to my family and friends. it honors the food and the people i love. that and im frankly in love with my own cooking. but food and pretty much everything that has to do with it seems to be my 'place' in the scheme of things.
just got a killer deal on the most glorious shallots! :bounce:
post #26 of 28
vikas khanna and botanique said it for me (incidentally,
botanique, you stole my quote!) i love choosing the
best ingredients, making them into something scrumptious
and serving it to my family and friends. it honors the
food and the people i love. that and im frankly in love
with my own cooking. but food and pretty much everything
that has to do with it seems to be my 'place' in the scheme
of things.
just got a killer deal on the most glorious shallots! :bounce:
post #27 of 28

Sorry!

Didn't mean to steal anything from anyone redace ;-) :) It's been my quote for many years. Can't we share it? BTW for the study -- I don't think I posted my birthday -- November 24th
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
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Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
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post #28 of 28

one of the signs of altzheimers.....

d'oh! thanks for reminding me.
i aint no chef, but i is a wild, wild cook.
birthday 05-05-60
making me another boog, i guess.
have you noticed, though, the guy is right??? mostly winter birthdays!
woooo, trippy, dude...
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