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The Legend of the One-Handed Chef

post #1 of 7
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Alright, so I'm not quite a legend yet...Nor am I lacking any hands-But stay with me, I needed a catchy title to grab your attention! It's a big of a long one, but whoever can provide some insight for my plight will get the joy of helping your fellow man out.

...And a cookie I guess, does that sweeten the deal? Alright, without any further chatter, let's get into my issue here.

I wanna be a cook. I'm sure that's a pretty common dream for people on this forum, and you're probably rolling your eyes at poor ol' me, but there's a catch- I wanna be a cook, but I'm not sure anyone would wanna take food from these hands of mine. Ever since I was a child, my hands morph into these cracked crimson claws for a good 2/3rds of the year. No, I'm not a werelobster- I've got some serious eczema going on here. As soon as the weather drops below 20C, my hands decide to make like the sahara and dry right up. This is made a much bigger problem than you might think by the fact that I live in Canada. It happens mostly to the right hand [hence the one-handed chef title], but the left turns bad once it gets REALLY cold as well. Still, the left hand isn't nearly as visible as the right, which is a total lost cause. Between June and October or so, they're fine and feel great. However, once the summer is dead and gone, they get pretty painful. It used to bother me a lot, but I've learn to overcome it in pretty much every aspect of my life. It used to make me self-conscious around the ladies, but I overcame that. It made playing some sports kinda difficult, so I learned ways around it.

I'm not so sure I'll be able to find a way around this one. I never wanted to be a cook until I found myself in a kitchen job a couple years ago. Now, it's probably my ideal job. It's not a problem where I'm working right now, but how many restaurants are really going to want a cook who looks like his hands are about to fall right off? I've managed to keep them from bleeding very often and it's not like my flesh is flaking off everywhere- it's mostly the redness that's visible. Friends have often said that it looks like I've dipped my hands in paint- it's VERY obvious, it almost looks like I have some sort of circulation problem. The bleeding can pretty much be stopped entirely, I don't suffer from cuts anymore than the average person and whatever pain may arise is entirely manageable. It doesn't affect my dexterity, either.

So, now that my problem is out of the way, here's my question- how badly will this affect my chances of going far in the culinary world? I've wondered if I can just use vinyl gloves in the workplace, but that also leads me to wonder if the vinyl will affect the flavor of anything I touch. I really don't think anyone would want me handling their food when it looks like I'm suffering some sort of injury. Give me your insights straight up, I can handle the truth. If I really can't become a chef, I'll just find something else to do for a living and cook in my spare time. I don't identify myself that much with what I do for a living, so it's not like having to take another job would completely crush me- I'd just really like to become a chef. I also don't need to be working at the highest of high-end restaurants, either...So don't hold back on your answers in fear of crushing me. I'm uncrushable! ...Probably!

Here's the four options I see as currently viable.
1) If this won't completely rule out any chances I've got in the culinary world, just make the best of my situation and cook anyways. Wear gloves, if they won't mess up my food.

2) Give up on the idea of being a cook for a living, find something low-stress and easy. Cook on spare time.

3) Do everything I can to try and completely cure my chronic eczema, which is probably highly unlikely and will send me on a wild goose chase and cost me a good deal of cash on fake gimmick cures.

4) Cut off my right hand and assume my destiny as the One-Handed Chef, wreaking culinary havoc across the cruel world that cast me out.
post #2 of 7
I'm not a professional chef by any means, but I find it hard to believe anyone will consider it a bar to the profession that you have to wear latex gloves. As far as I understand it, this is a requirement of ServSafe procedure anyway. You'll need to be good about switching gloves between different foods, but other than that it seems to me that if you can do the job without excruciating agony and such, it's doable.
post #3 of 7
I'd move south.....seriously.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 7
We have a really great chef in the UK, called Michael Caines. He has 2 (or maybe three now, I'm not sure!) Michein stars. Michael lost an arm in an horrific accident whilst he was an apprentice chef - but just look what he achieved!

His food is great, by the way! To get a flavour, just google him.
post #5 of 7
yeah, i would have to agree. Canada is a nice place, been there. Hawaii is much much sweeter. My skin never felt as good as it did in Hawaii. I don't have eczema or even really dry skin. At least no more dried out then any other cooks. But the humidity and temp there didn't make me feel all muggy like it did in Louisiana.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #6 of 7
Honestly, you should have no reason to be held back in the kitchen. One thing to try is go to the drugstore, and get a rub for your hands. It is something like a medicated vaseline, that will help from when your hands are in the latex. You can also get gloves that don't have latex in them as well, but they are more costly.

Go with your passion, and perhaps stick to a section that you love. Most restaurants and hotels are climate controlled, so you may not have a problem there.

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

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Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

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post #7 of 7
My wife has same condition, we have been to all type doctors, tried all meds done everything. Vinyl gloves NG. get non vinyl they have them. At night when you sleep wear cotton on vasaline or ointment coated hands. I do a lot of butchering and in coldest weather im good I attribute it to my constant contact with meat fat. Now I have my wife rubbing meat fat on hands and slightly better. I asked doc about it and he said sure fat contains natural things that ointments try to make, Keep hands out of soap or clorox water. Good Luck
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