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I've lost my passion for the kitchen

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I've been working in the kitchen for 8 years. I've been cooking since I was a kid and I've always loved food. Becoming a chef seemed the right thing for me to do. I went into the kitchen as a dishwasher, after a few months I made it clear that I wanted to cook professionally and was slowly given more and more basic prep jobs. From there, I became a Commis Chef and did three years of classical training in a Michelin Star restaurant. I moved to a different restaurant in the same group as a Chef de Partie. I'd been there for three years before I really sat down and took stock of my career. I became a chef because I want to cook well, but almost all of my knowledge of cooking has come from what I've learnt from reading and watching television. The stuff that I've practiced at home. I wanted to move forward, and got a job as a junior sous chef in a very busy bistro here in London. I'm really beginning to think however, that my choice to go into cheffing was a poor one. I love to cook but "cooking", as you probably know, constitutes a couple of hours in my 16 hour work day. 

I'm fantastic at cooking but I'm not a great chef. I still work messy. I still get in a muddle when I've got 5 cheques to do by myself. I still burn the toast for my steak tartare when I'm busy with a dessert cheque. I absolutely dread cleaning down and labelling everything in my fridge at the end of service. Before, I was always convinced that I'd get better and more competent, that these things would become second nature. Now I feel like I've reached a level and it's a huge mental block. I guess what I want to know is, have you ever seen any chefs in a similar position as myself? Are some people just not cut out to go any further? Is there a new direction that I can take my knowledge of ingredients, recipes and techniques? 

post #2 of 8
Culinary is in your blood. You either have it or you don't
I think you are being challenged at your current job and you are beginning to feel it. This is a moment in your career you will remember. You need to get yourself to the point of excellence...be one step ahead of everyone...know everything going on in kitchen...note mistakes & call them out...
Once you reach this point your will surf on sense of accomplishment

Our work of hard labor never ends. We work everyone's leisure hours/days/holidays. We work LONG hours. Strenuous. We are not white collar even though our jacket collars might be white. We are PERCEIVED as white but work blue collar - pay is awful, benefits (depends where u work), hours, sacrifices, etc.
BUT
We love, live, eat & breathe it. It's rewarding.
I love feeding people something they enjoy. Something they "wow" at.
Keep moving forward.
Keep striving for the untouchable perfection.
Know that you lead by example.
8 years is just the beginning. Why thrown in your side towel now. I've done this for 19 years. Keep your head up and your knife sharp.
post #3 of 8
Quote:

 Now I feel like I've reached a level and it's a huge mental block. I guess what I want to know is, have you ever seen any chefs in a similar position as myself? Are some people just not cut out to go any further? Is there a new direction that I can take my knowledge of ingredients, recipes and techniques? 

Chef in a similar position? Yeah, me. Ive never worked in a Michelin starred restaurant so you are one up on me there. However, i have worked in all kinds of places for thirty years and with great success and great failure but only recently have I begun to feel like I have a handle on things. Allow me to explain why. 

   First, There is more to learn than you thought. Food service is a big industry. Banquets and buffets, hotels, fast food, fine dining, catering, corporate management, mom and pop management, customer relations, payroll, taxes, state regulations, employees relations, purchasing, Cooking styles including but not limited to continental, american, ethnic, vegan, dietetics, nutrition, ethnography, culture, history, food science and food chemistry to name just some of it.

Second, it isn't as easy as you thought. Here's a little cognitive dissonance for you. The more experienced you get, the more important the basics become. The great chefs understand that you need to have the discipline to do small jobs well. Each task is important. Straining a sauce, keeping the floor clean, clarifying a stock, wiping down your work area, peeling a turnip, labeling your miss en place. It is the combination of these small tasks done well by everyone that makes a successful kitchen. Cooking and running a kitchen are not the same thing but they are done in the same space. Learn to take enjoyment from these small, seemingly unimportant tasks. When you can do that all the time, you will be able to step back and see a much brighter picture.

     I like to think of a restaurant like an algorithm (really long combination of mathematic equations) on a chalkboard. Each equation is simple but get any of them wrong and the end result won't be what it should be. 

I'll suggest you visit a few other restaurants/food service operations of a completely different nature. Just to see how they operate. Buy a couple of famous chef cookbooks, esp the ones with beautiful photos. Take a walk in the woods. 

Most of all, take a deep breath and slow down. Todays society makes chefs out of everyone right away. The reality is that it takes many years of tremendous discipline. After only eight, you have a good start. Don't lose faith in yourself. Keep learning. 

post #4 of 8

Great post chefwriter. thumb.gif

 

 

Quote:

I still work messy. I still get in a muddle when I've got 5 cheques to do by myself. I still burn the toast for my steak tartare when I'm busy with a dessert cheque. I absolutely dread cleaning down and labelling everything in my fridge at the end of service

Really!?? Hmm, I see your point, I mean Im never guilty of ANY of that.......ever. **waits for nose to grow* rolleyes.gif

I agree, you need to look around and compare, maybe talk to otheres working in kitchens who are happy,

and compare jobs/duties. And if your current work situation isnt what you want, find another one.

Its one thing to love cooking. Its quite another to love working in the cooking INDUSTRY.

post #5 of 8
Loved the response "the more experienced you get the more important the basics are"
So true & many let the basics go.

Stay strong. This frustration will pass. It comes & goes, with anyone in any profession.
post #6 of 8

I say quit.  If you don't like cleaning your kitchen or labeling your food, you have no pride in what you are doing as a chef.  There is more to cleaning and labeling than keeping the health inspector off your case.  I'm allowed to keep prepared foods for up to seven days.  I don't.  If I walk into my cooler and see half a lexan of soup four days old, I know I have over-prepped and my clientele is not getting the best quality I can provide.  The soup then goes down the disposal and food cost goes up.  My kitchen stays clean because it is my job as a chef to provide a wholesome environment for food preparation and to keep my clientele from being exposed to food borne illness.  Also, you never know who is going to walk through your doors. Be it your owner, best friend, or complete stranger; the way your kitchen looks to them says a lot about you.

 

Running a kitchen and being a chef is dichotomous.  Part of you has to be a logistical leader; planning, crunching numbers, ordering, scheduling, cleaning, team building, etc.  The other part gets to be a mad scientist and composer of all instruments of food we call ingredients.  Without both parts, you will never be a successful chef.  Not one famous chef you see on TV, and the millions of others you will never hear of, got there just because they liked to cook.

post #7 of 8

I am just wondering if you just need to shift direction a little bit but still within the culinary field. You will clearly have skills that could be transfered to many other areas that involve food and beverages.

Respectfully I suggest you look to a educational event to rekindle your culinary fire.

I have no idea of your geography but such an event is happening here in Portland Or. read more here but part of the event aims to link people who may be looking to change culinary roles.

 

http://www.foodworxconference.com/

 

hang in there,

festive wishes to you,

Garry

post #8 of 8

Hello Jaggernut,

 

Personally, I think Michelin Star restos can turn you the direction you have described.  Your situation sounds very, very familiar. Most of what I learned about cooking came from books too, that's normal.  I also spent 3 years in Starred restos starting as garde manger and patissier working up to chef de partie tournant.   At the end I came out more or less a little crazy.   After, for some reason, I went back to the "normal" resto scene and I too doubted myself (even though I was better then than I am now), and I absolutely hated the drudgery and repetitiveness that sizzled my brain each night.  There came a point where I was either over qualified or a threat to some manager, and had a hard time fitting in.  I took work way too seriously feeling nothing I did was ever good enough, the weight of felling that there was always something a little wrong with everything I did almost killed me.

 

I think you are trying to go further the wrong way.  instead of fretting over your performance with 5 tickets or a little mess, occupy yourself with concept design or opening someones restaurant.  Don't doubt yourself.  Didn't you endure 3 years of being screamed at being told you were a slow, useless piece of $hit while busting out some of the highest quality most beautifully executed dishes in the world?  Most people can't endure a week of that stress and performance level, that you did it for 3 years while teaching yourself with books makes you better than most already.  Why did you think the way forward from the top is as a junior sous chef in a bistro?  If you have endured and advanced though haut gamme hell then forget line cooking and normal resto situations; you've graduated past that.  Someone else should be taking care of the little things for you.

 

After my tour in the starred joints the first thing I really had to learn was to relax.

 

Take a break if you like, but do not give up.  A great and perfect job awaits you.  

 

CDF

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