It’s a funny business, being a Chef. Especially nowadays, you look around and the entire landscape has shifted. Maybe more than shifted, the landscape has melted down, to reform to something that may look similar, but will operate drastically different. And yet we are drawn to it still, even though it seemed the world of food was ending months ago.
So in going forward, I have had to look back on my own experience and passion for creating food in order to find out what it is I am looking for. Spoiler Alert: I have no idea.
But yet I push forward because I know I need to have an impact on this industry that I have dedicated my life to. And with doing so, I pull on the words of cooks, chefs, and mentors of the past, in hopes to inspire you and me to get back into the world we love, and also in a place that aligns with who we want to be as Chefs.
“Be Willing to Go Anywhere.”
Not too surprising, but very powerful when you think about it. Are you really willing to go anywhere, to pursue an opportunity that would give you exactly the position you are looking for? The job you seek may be miles from your home, and while you may love your family, it may not hurt to leave for a while. I spent the past year traveling for work, and it was very tough, but also very rewarding to meet new people, and understand that people think and work differently.
Another aspect of this is the very real fact that the best place for you may be where you grew up. You could be near a town or city that is on the verge of establishing a very formidable dining scene, and you can play a part in that. I know from experience that I felt that I needed to run from my hometown in order to be successful, but in fact it could be a very real place for me to make my name. It is all about perspective, and the humility to understand what you want and not what your ego dictates.
“You Can’t Go Wrong Cooking From Your Heart.”
How strange it is that most cooks end up cooking the food they think they need to cook, and not the meals they actually want to cook. Through podcasts, conversations, and sharing of idea, it has come to my attention that we cook so much more based on the opinion of others. Cooking is all about what others like, but can we create something beautiful if it is not within the passions of our heart? I would argue no, you can’t.
“Please and Thank You Go A Long Way.”
Basic manners, yet hard for some when in the industry to remember. Thinking you need to go in, screaming and throwing pans is not a reality. It actually is a poor representation of what it means to be a Chef entirely. Having empathy, being polite, and showing others kindness builds more trust and loyalty than screaming and degrading. Would you follow someone into battle that bullies and beats you down mentally each day?
“Respect the Farmer”
Food does not just appear, contrary to popular belief. It is hard to grow food, and even harder to do it as your source of income. If you only respect the end product, and not the process, how will you create something worthwhile? It is so often more gratifying during the building and creating of your new dish concept rather than the end goal. There is almost a sadness when you finish formulating your idea.
The life and work of those who give us the chance to cook needs to be honored and respected. When you can look at the big picture, you start to realize nothing can be taken for granted, and something more simple will interest you. I once read that the longer you cook, the more simple yet beautiful your food becomes. I think this is due to the fact that you start to respect more and more just how much is involved into getting your dish out there.
“Wash Dishes Ray!”
I have nightmares of this being repeated to me. Seriously, nightmares. But dammit, wash your dishes! Remember the process we were just talking about? This goes hand in hand with that notion. Honestly, washing dishes can be a great way to build up your team morale, and also it is a great spot to think. Some of my best thoughts or realizations came while getting drenched in the dish pit. When you see your kitchen leader go over to the sink and start scrubbing, any excuse you had to do it goes out the window. So roll up your sleeves and get scrubbing.
“Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously. It’s Just Food”
At the end of the day, it is food. I think it’s this reason that I love cooks. Millions of ways to get to an end goal of eating. But when it gets too much, or you get trapped in your own head, it is important to remember it is just food. And food should be enjoyed. It should be passion, pain, and confusion. And it should ignite a fire in you to work as hard as you can. But it is also just food, and you need to remember that in order to fight another day.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are all safe and staying inspired.