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What got you into cooking/being a chef ?

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
...what is the first memory you have of being inspired into cookery?


me, i was fascinated by the knife skills of Chefs on television how they could slice vegetables so fast without loosing their fingertips, when i was young i was like 'wow, i wish i could do that!' it looked impressive at the time...

cookery is also the most practical subject i studied at high school, it was the one subject i could learn more from practicality than theoretically ... theoretics lack creative and aesthetic aspects of a subject imo    
we're as good as our last meal.
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we're as good as our last meal.
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post #2 of 49
I think i was born wanting to cook.  I used to make mudpies for my whole childhood.  I knew where there was the dark dirt (chocolate) and the pale dirt (vanilla) and would mix in snow in season (sugar) (dark dirt plus snow made something much resembling fudge!).  I loved the manualness of it, the feeling of mixing, all that.  I used to imagine being on a cooking show (and this was before even julia child, so i don;t know what cooking show i thought i would be on, maybe just some advertisement or maybe there were some shows, I don;t remember.  
Then when i got to high school, i think it was, or maybe college, Julia Child and then the galloping gourmet shows came on and i learned many techniques and did a lot of cooking even back then. 
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #3 of 49
Accident. We lived in a bad neighborhood and for the summers my mom sent me to camp. I got to old to be a camper so took a job in camp bakery, for free camp and 50 cents an hour. Discovered I liked it and then enrolled in culinary high school in NewYork. My family was realy disapointed because in the late 50s & 60 s a chef was low on jobs totom pole.Decided if I am going to do this I want to learn all I can of it. I got into apprentice program in NY hotels. The old Astor, waldorf, pierre, commodore, essex house with the old european chefs and cooks. Nothing came already made everything scratch.and boy did you learn, these guys screamed and cursed you out if it was not right. . Would I do it again  YOU BET.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #4 of 49
Thanks for posting that "Ed B",  I have always respected your posts, and now I know a little bit about the man.
post #5 of 49
Hunger got me interested in cooking. I was poor and needed to learn improvisational style cooking if I wanted to live.

I've gotten interested in chef type cooking, since I developed Anorexia Nervosa. A low body weight makes the brain obsessed with food...all types...any kind. So now I have irresistible urges to hack up a carcass and eat strange things :-0 And my doctor wants me to engage in as many "normal" food activities as possible. So here I am :-) Wanting to learn all I can, especially the "yucky" stuff while I'm in a frame of mind to handle/enjoy it.
post #6 of 49
I got into cooking because, my Restaurant GM told me, if you ever want to fire your Chef, you better know how to cook. I thought good point, so I started my journey. I found it to be a job that you got quick gratification. You made the meal, they liked it, you feel good about it.............Chef Bill
post #7 of 49
you know for food was always around me, and yeas i enjoy  food alot, in my family money didnt matter as long as food was on the table and a roof over the head. I always wanted to be a cook and love it when people eat food it reminds them of the time they ate this dish or memories they get when eating food. it took me a while to actually go into culinary school but once i was in i knew this is what i want to do. if i could cook and do this for the rest of my life i am fine with it. i love cooking with few and simple ingredients such as italian and make food that tastes great
Chef it up errrrday!!!
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Chef it up errrrday!!!
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post #8 of 49
I was adopted (bear with me).
My adopted dad was a great mechanic.
He worked for Andy Granatelli and helped him develop the Novi engine.
There's even a picture of him in Andy's book "They call me Mr. 500".
He pretty much knew everything there was to know about cars, at least until computers started taking over mechanics.
I would attempt to help him in the garage, but my dad was also a mean drunk.
He would tell me to grab, say, the torque wrench, without ever having shown me what tools were what, and I would look for what I thought might be the right tool.
Invariably I'd pick the wrong one, and be met with obscenities.
So, I'd end up in the kitchen watching and helping my mom.

Years later, I took a job as a dishwasher just to have a job.
While other dishwashers hated to do pots and pans, I loved it, because the pot and pan sink was in the kitchen, where I could listen to and join in on the cook's raucous stories.
Eventually they would give me prep tasks and I took to it like a duck to water.
I had a knack it seemed.
From there I progressed upwards through the ranks, sometimes taking a step sideways or backwards but eventually going forward again.

I love cooking. More to the point, I love feeding people, seeing the looks on their faces as the enjoy what I have done.
Gives me a sense of fulfillment I get nowhere else.

With the right environment I could've ended up a mechanic.
While I enjoy doing simple tasks with my Mustang, I don't think I would enjoy it as much as I do cooking.

You asked.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #9 of 49
My mom wasn't the best cook, I don't think she liked it much and my dad was a big fusspot when it came to meals so meals when I was growing up were pretty boring.  I wanted some variety in what I ate, so when I moved out to go to college I started collecting recipes and cookbooks and trying them out just to see what I liked.  After staying home with the kids when they were small I knew I didn't want to go back to working with special needs people (I had been out of the field for too long) and I knew cooking was what I wanted to do.  I had thought of becoming a personal chef and still one day I would like to have my own pc business but right now I am very happy where I am in the kitchen.  
OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #10 of 49
My Dad passed away when I was little and because the family needed money, I was working as soon as I could. I had a job since I was eleven and some of my first employers were two fine restaurants.
 
I was just a dishwasher, bus boy, bar back, stock boy and even did plenty of prep work but I spent many hours around some great chefs. Barely a teenager and a hard worker, the chefs always took pity on me and made sure I ate well.
 
Only 12, 13 and 14 years old and I’m eating fois gras, duck confit, lobster, escargot, Beef Wellington, Baked Alaska and some of the finest steaks. It’s weird after all this time I still remember stuffing down those great meals while sitting on a side turned glass rack and wearing a filthy apron and even filthier Bata Bullets.  
 
Those kindly chefs turned me into a foodie for life and darn good cook if I do say so myself. I still remember those chefs almost 40 years later! Thank you for your kindness Chef Joseph, Chef Eddie and Chef Mon.  
post #11 of 49
Some really nice stories, glad you started this post. 
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #12 of 49
My Mom made amazing bread, cooked lavish meals, entertained and baked her butt off.  Her pastry was to DIE for, she was famous for her irresistible pie crust. I loved to watch her, she was in her element but never once helped beyond eating half the batter or messing with the icing and decorations or eating the bread before it cooled. I was the pouncer, the recipient of her bounty. When I got married and had a child it dawned on me I had to feed these people real food. And casseroles and mac n cheese weren't going to cut it. I missed eating GOOD food and had taken it for granted. Because I spent so much time in the kitchen watching Mom I wasn't intimidated just at a loss. Mom wasn't there to ask. I absorbed as much as I could watching chefs like Lydia and Biba and buying cookbooks to read. Pol Martin and Julia Child were responsible for the first meals from my kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was and how well everything turned out. The feedback was wonderful and I found that I loved not just feeding people but the work involved in shopping, planning and executing a big meal. The more complicated or seemingly intimidating, the bigger the rush. It is deeply satisfying.
 
If I want it bad enough, I'll learn to make it myself!  I'm not afraid to fail, I'm afraid of going without!
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If I want it bad enough, I'll learn to make it myself!  I'm not afraid to fail, I'm afraid of going without!
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post #13 of 49
First there are some interesting stories, especially Venom and Just Jim.

A home cook.
My Mom was an excellent cook, she was a waitress at a top restaurant in the late 40s in San Francisco,  and then waitress later in Modesto at different restaurants, she knew how food should taste.  However she worked nights and Dad cooked mostly.  I will never forget Dad making a mushroom potato meatball dish, which was very different from anything else he cooked, I could see how happy he was with how it turned out, and it dawned on me he had been thinking about making that dish before he started the prep.  In college 4 of us shared an apartment, each week someone else was responsible for meals on set nights.  I got the idea of trying to do different cuisine styles for my week, so one week it was Chinese, next Mexican, etc.  So I got my willingness to experiment from Dad and a sense of what tastes good from Mom.  Cooking BBQ  about 10 years ago and Smoking meat about 4 or 5 years ago, reignited my food passion.  Of course it doesn't hurt to have people who eat your food give encouraging feedback.
post #14 of 49
I agree this is a great discussion. Thank you for the great stories.
Quote:
Originally Posted by siduri View Post

Some really nice stories, glad you started this post. 
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #15 of 49
 When I was a kid (13) my sister and I both worked as busboys at our aunt and uncle's restaurant (Italian family style). Later we both worked as busboys at our other uncle's restaurant a Mexican restaurant and I even worked as the dishwasher there. Only did that once and told myself I would never wash dishes again. Later in high school my Uncle with the family style Italian restaurant opened another restaurant and I decided to try cooking on the line and I enjoyed it. If I remember that far back I was a junior / senior when I cooked there and gained some good experience. 

I was never very good academically and scored so low on my SAT's that I just could not get into any decent schools. I went to Bible College for one year to study the bible and it was there that I decided I would go to culinary school. I did not really seem cut out academically to go to law school or become a doctor and I enjoyed cooking and working the line so culinary school seemed like a good choice. I came back home and started working for a real chef at a local restaurant and also taking some cooking classes at a local community college. About year or so later I was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. 
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #16 of 49
Interesting to read some of your stories.

At age 10 I moved in with my dad, who was single and worked in the automobile business from 9am till 9-10pm pretty much everyday except Sunday. My sisters lived with my mother, so I was basically an "only child" from age 10+ and had to quickly learn to be independent. So I would play sports after school but usually be done by about 5pm and be hungry and cook for myself. 

So.. I love to eat, love food so one of the best discoveries of my life at that age was the food network! I would sit in the living room and watch it allll day and night. Some of my favorites were the original Iron Chef (only spoke japanese) with terrible translators, Two Fat Ladies, Julia Childs, The essence of Emeril, Molto Mario, etc...  And eventually I would just start making stuff I seen them make. By time I was about 14 my dad would come home to unbelievable meals everynight, I was like his personal chef lol.

After a few years of community college I was planning on transfering to JWu where I live in Providence, RI, but got involved with the automobile business and started making too much $$ to quit it for school. That was about 5 years ago. I don't know if I'll ever get the opportunity to pursue my passion for cooking, but hopefully one day.
post #17 of 49
I loved the two fat ladies on FN.. I miss the shows of the old days onthat network.. now it seems to be more showmanship than cooking on that station...
OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #18 of 49
When I was about five I 'baptised' myself into the cooking world by dropping a pot of bubbling oatmeal porridge all over my feet. 

 Determined not to be ever awakened by my blood curdling screams again, my mother started to teach me the ways of the kitchen.  She said that I was always fasciated with cooking and it was no surprise when I tried to cook breakfast on my own that fateful morning.

  So I remeber my first real technical lesson: Breakfast... fried eggs, toast, bacon and...oatmeal porridge.  The flipping of the eggs really stuck in my head as I remember absolutely butchering them and remember being determined to master the art of flipping.  32 years later I can safely say that first lesson has been well developed along with many others.

Thanks mom.. 

 
"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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post #19 of 49
This is going to sound ridiculously cliched, but I swear it is the God-honest truth. It was out of necessity. I was living in the Rockies on my savings, snowboarding everyday and drinking every night. At the end of the season I had run out of money and a friend told me he could probably get me a job in the kitchen he was working in. I ended up washing dishes, cooking and plating desserts and doing general prep. I loved it. It was unlike anything I had previously experienced. (I had only worked office jobs up until then.) My decision was solidified when the breakfast chef told me he thought I would make an amazing chef with time. I mean and I sort of like food as well. ;)
post #20 of 49
Mine was out of necessity also.   At age 9, my mom got the German Measles and as my grandparents had never had them could not come in the house.   My dad worked two jobs so someone had to cook and I was taught from my mom's bedside.   I made roast beef, mashed potatoes, spaghetti sauce (I would have written "sauce" or "gravy" but most of you wouldn't know unless you're Italian and from NYC) and a host of other dishes..   I always cooked a little after that.

However, about 6 years ago, after a trip to Italy, my tastes and talents took a major leap.   I got creative in the kitchen trying out all the new combinations I'd tasted!!   Now, my friends and family look forward to my meals and cooking; so much so, that I have two friends who are chefs and restaurant owners that I'm missing my calling.   Well, at 59, I'm not starting on a new career but playing at the local Italian ristorante may soon become a reality!

Great thread by the way...
post #21 of 49
I thoroughly enjoyed all these posts...I could just picture the kitchens, the food, the people.  

I think I have grown to love cooking by example. Both of my parents cooked and we didn't eat out unless it was a special occasion. They also both enjoyed cooking and made healthy great tasting meals. It took me a long time to have the focus and time to enjoy it but the last few years I've realized that it's an important part of my life. I find when I am stressed out I enjoy cooking a more complex meal...it makes me happy to lose myself in the kitchen.
post #22 of 49
I remmeber pransing around the kitchen as a kid dressed up with a big apron, chef hat and mums big oven mits on helping dad with dinner. Our specialty was sunday morning pancakes! i loved fliping the pancakes. From there my passion for food just grew and grew!
post #23 of 49
Love this thread and really enjoy people from all over sharing their journeys..  The highs, the lows.  That's life.

I got into it, for a short while, only ended up as a commis I guess, by needing a part time income.  Lots of people in our family so spending money was pretty scarce,  Took on a dishwashing job after school hours at 15 y.o., worked hard, tried to do my best. Got given more tasks and  was shown so very much.

Best discipline I ever got.  Everything go go go, has to be done just so, do it right first time.  This probably sounds cliched to some, That's how it was.  Even 30 odd years later I bless the time I spent in the kitchen trade,  I can tell myself "Time to go!" for whatever task it may be (not necessarily involving kitchen/food work).

In some ways, I would imagine and can't comment from personal experience. that the discipline is not dissimilar to the military.  But the time was most definitely not wasted.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #24 of 49
For me it was sort ran in the family. My Mom worked as a kid for her great-aunts in an inn in Westerly, RI, also at her great-uncles inn(now currently being refurbished, The Ocean House in Westerly) pretty much she was the indentured servant, but she learned a lot and passed it on to me. She had me baking and cooking at an early age, about 7, and that started my food journey. When I started working, it was as a waitress and bartender - but wanting a steady paycheck and health benefits - i ventured into the kitchens. What really made me want to cook professionally though, was being told that it was "boys only". Just had to knock that door down! 
I'm thankful that I did choose the profession, as with all the food allergies I've developed over the years, my training sure has come in handy!
post #25 of 49
In high school my family moved to a new town.  We got a townhome with a back deck, the neighbors next door were moving out as we were moving in.  My older brother saw they weren't planning on taking their gas grill and had my mom buy it for like $10.  Later on he moved out, and I started messing around with the grill.  Wow, it was like a whole new world opened up.  My mom (single mom) had been making us each cook a meal a week; plan the menu, go to the grocery store and make a meal with her help, so I had a little experience with cooking. 
But cooking over open fire....  Something clicked and I loved it.  Just the whole kind of Bugs Bunny mad scientist way of learning new things by trial and error was so much fun.  For my college graduation present my mom got me a new grill.  After I got married my father in law for our first Christmas got me a new grill.  My greatest change in cooking in the last 10 years has been learning to cook indoors.  By the way, this all happened in Montana and Minnesota, and grill season lasts all year round for me.  Have you ever had to shovel your way to the grill and sweep of a foot of snow from the top of the grill to make dinner?  I have many times without hesitation.  It teaches you to not play and poke at the food.  Run out, flip it, run back in.
post #26 of 49
When I was a young single geologist I survived on fast food and TV dinners.  Some of you may remember that microwave ovens did not always exist and that the TV dinners had to be cooked in the oven for about 30-45 minutes.  After finding some less than desirable ingredients such as nuts (the metallic version), used matches, etc. I became a bit discouraged.  It wasn't too long though before I realized that in the time it took to cook the TV dinner I could prepare something as good or better on my own.  Starting with Jeff Smith's Frugal Gourmet book I began to cook.  Having spent the entire week out doors in either the desert or mountains, I had no problem spending weekends indoors cooking and found that I enjoyed it.  It didn't hurt with the ladies either.  Not only didn't many of them not know how to cook but the idea of a guy cooking was a novelty.  A quick chicken marsala with rice, steamed vegetables and homemade bread followed by cognac in the hot tub 

I enjoy cooking even more today and am slowly improving although compared to many people I know and watching what people have in the supermarket checkout line, I feel like a pro.  Of course, when reading many of the posts here, I feel like rank beginner.... great board.

Rich
post #27 of 49
Sex, pride and kismet.

Sex:  Numero uno was definitely sex.  The simple fact that the way to a woman's heart is through her stomach put a lot of impetus into learning to do it well. 

Pride:  I got my first job in a professional kitchen on a dare.  I needed an evening job so I could spend mornings in acting school and working on a dissertation.  My then girlfriend's father took us to dinner at a big deal restaurant, and bet me I didn't have the stones to ask the chef for a job.  (It was probably at her instigation because she thought my job as a bouncer was too dangerous and attracted too much attention from the female customers.)  

Kismet:  Cooking (or at least most kinds of cooking) always came easy to me. 

BDL
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http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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post #28 of 49
Well I grew up in a restaurant ....my parents owned a Steakhouse ...way back   god this is really dating me   Ceasar Salad made at your table raw egg and all, Appetizers like Escargot in the shell with clarified butter ,Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, French Onion Soup,Bacon wrapped Scallops,  Main Courses were Chateaubriand , Whole Lobster Market Price, Sole Almondine, Braised Rack of Lamb,,,,,you get the idea

Women were not allowed behind the line ....and we also had all male waiters, Matre D ,busboys
I was aloud to do dishes ,peel potatoes ,wash lettuce and dry it ..oh and fill bread baskets and whipped butter dishes
I was so fasinated by the Chef ,Gus was his name and his Sous Chef  Spiro and there brigade of followers in that kitchen . I was bound and determined to show these guys a woman could handle it too ....and I did
Long after my parents had sold the restaurant I vowed to put my nose to the grindstone and prove myself and I did ...I worked dam hard to get here and I can call myself a certified Professional Chef ...I wish Gus and Spiro could see me now they'd be so proud
My feet are firmly planted in mid air
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My feet are firmly planted in mid air
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post #29 of 49
I got into cooking with the thought of traveling  on my mind.  I liked the idea of a job that could take me to different places and learn different things.  To this day I still move around. I like to see different places and see how they do it.  I don't nescessarily agree with most places, but having it as a trade gives the ability to pull up stakes (so to speak ;) ), and leave.  On to the next place, or back to the old place, whatever is feasible at the time.  I also liked to comraderie  of working in a kitchen with like minded individuals.  It makes it a fun albeit twisted career.

A limb on a tree and a tree in a hole and a hole in the blog and the blog down in the valley-o!

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A limb on a tree and a tree in a hole and a hole in the blog and the blog down in the valley-o!

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post #30 of 49
These are great stories!  It's interesting to see just how we ended up where we are today.
OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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