Why do we continue to cook professionally?

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chefjbs

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It's kinda like " To be or not to be? That is the question."

I sometimes ask myself why do i still do it. 14 years in the business in some shape or form. A couple of those years spent in the front of the house... I know i'm sorry. But i must say, i have meet the most interesting people in the kitchen. These are the people that i would probably never talk to if i saw them walking down the street... some just because, others because i was scared.

I once had a cook that would ask me once a week if he could take a tub of knox gelatin home so he could do his hair. Yup... full on misfits punk rocker with a real mohawk before it was mainstream with parts of his face i never thought you could peirce.

But besides the love for cooking, its the love for the other people like me that don't like to talk to customers because we are angry at the world because they want their double veal chop well done and out in 5 minutes, beacuse they have a show to catch. Freaking Bridge and Tunnel crowd.

a great man once said "Heaven gives us good meat. Hell gives us good cooks!"

So why do you keep doing it?
 

JohnnyChance

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Because owning this many knives without a professional reason would lead to my name being put on a list somewhere?

But really, I just couldnt imagine doing anything else. I am very bad at long term projects, so preparing for service is perfect for me. Every deadline is 5 minutes from now and that suits me just fine.
 

steeley

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It's Passion
To walk in everyday with the mind set to learn and teach.
I been doing this for over 28 years and i still get a charge out of it

cuisine2.jpg
 

spinblue

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Dave, I can't click on the picture to expand it, no permission.

I don't cook professionally, but I got a job in a kitchen at a Chicago hot dog joint about 21 yrs old. I had just watched my best friend die in an accident. I wouldn't come out of my room for a month. My family finally gets me to go out for pizza. On the way home, my youngest brother was like "hey, you should get a job there". The next day I went down and applied and got the job. I really enjoyed working there and was there for 1-2 years.

Made a lot of great friends there that I will occasionally run in to.
 

ecchef

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What other industry welcomes maniacs like us with open arms?
 

Citizen Snips

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it gets harder and harder as the years go by. my wife and i are both chefs with different schedules. i was able to score a daytime shift without having to do lunch which, as im sure you all know, is very hard to come by in this industry. as the days go on i get more and more tired of cooking the same bs for the same group of people that think they know everything. i just want to cook my food in my home for friends and family with good drink. that is what cooking is really about.

i guess professional cooking gives me a glimpse of what i really enjoy every so often but im getting weary of it all and dont want to do it forever. it is my passion and something i share with my wife that not many others can but in the end, i know some of the food i make gives people great joy so for the time being, its worth it.
 

Vertigo

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I do it for the money.

I've been at it for 17 years now and have a rock solid skill set that can land me a job anywhere I end up. Even though I echo some of Brian's sentiments--that I'm getting more and more tired of cooking the same bs for the same group of people--at the end of the day, switching careers at this point in my life would mean a pay cut and some serious re-education. And if I loathed the work, maybe it'd be worth the effort. But for me, cooking professionally is easy as hell, the money is good, and the occasional "glimpses" of what I really enjoy make it hard to walk away.
 

PierreRodrigue

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17 years of surveying for me, with days like today (-45 wind chill) I wish I persued a chef's rateing back in the day...
 

monty

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I was a cook (no way I'd use the term chef) for about 3 years. I still have nightmares of orders backing up and 30 steaks on the grill. No one back there but me to prep, cook, and plate. Can't imagine why anyone would do that to themselves day in and day out :)
 

jonnachang

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That's funny Monty.I'm in my 40's and I couldn't imagine doin anything else.Twenty plus years in restaurants,clubs,and catering there is NO way I could ever work a desk job
 

shankster

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I've also been cooking "professionally" for 20+ years and although it gets harder every year I can't imagine doing anything else. I think it's in our blood,what's left of it.We love food and we love to cook what better job is there?
 

kalaeb

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Its funny, I have done it all from dish to cook, management for the last 5 years and my most recent foray is into corporate training. A few times a week I get a yearning to be back in the kitchen. I simply feel more at home there. But one thing is for certain, I would take the kitchen over the front any day of the week if I had the choice.
 

tweyland

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I used to be a computer guy. It was a great job (pay, benefits, co-workers, etc), but ultimately, fixing someone's computer didn't really give me much satisfaction. No matter how hard I worked or how well the computers ran, it was hard to see how it related to the success or failure of the company.

Six years ago, I made the switch and so far, so good. It was a tough transition financially, but I streamlined things a lot. I see how people like the food I prepare. I see how my work has contributed to the success and growth of the restaurants and caterers for which I have worked. I also like that especially in catering, we participate in special events in peoples lives, rather than fixing something that's not working. I also feel comraderie with cooks.

But my satisfaction definitely plummets when we have to cook for ungrateful, unappreciative know it alls or wannabe foodie blogger types.

~Tad
 

BertMor

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I've given it up. I used and abused myself, seriously affected my health. Lived like a hermit except for my' working' family. It took me until I was 49 y.o. before I got married, and everyone was suspicious, whats wrong with a guy wo is 50 and never married. My Mom told me my Dad thought I was gay!

I did it because the act of eating wonderful food thrilled my soul. I enjoyed the adrenaline high, I am a social misfit and there I barely fit in. I was good at it, I had an affinity for cooking.

In the end, I burned out. I no longer can stand for 12 hours without my back freezing up. The stress might induce a heart attack. I have arteries like an 80 y.o. and they loaded me up with stents so I could walk more than a (short) block. I have chef's block - everything has been done and I can't think of something different to make my own. I draw a blank when I see Top chef like challenges.

I dearly want to send in a tape to Top Chef, but my wife would kill me if I left her for 6 weeks. I used to dream about cooking now I have nightmares.

I don't know anything else that makes me happy. I am sick and tired of the crap that goes on.

I am Chef, have pity on me, and envy me!
 

Adamm

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I mainly cook becasue i love to do it. Theres always ups and downs, and good days and bad but I do it day in and day out because i love to cook and make people happy. I coulnt imagine myself doing anything else.
 

SpikeC

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**Snippy******
I see how people like the food I prepare. I see how my work has contributed to the success and growth of the restaurants and caterers for which I have worked. I also like that especially in catering, we participate in special events in peoples lives, rather than fixing something that's not working. I also feel comraderie with cooks.

But my satisfaction definitely plummets when we have to cook for ungrateful, unappreciative know it alls or wannabe foodie blogger types.

~Tad
This is so much like my life as a custom order jeweler, and why I stayed in it until health reasons made me stop. I do miss it............
 

aser

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Why I do it?

- thirst for knowledge
- glutton for punishment
- seeing how far you can push yourself
- working with top quality product/equipment
- making a customer's day with your food
- tangible, immediate results

Why I hate it?

- abuse of worker's rights (salary averaging out to less than min wage/hr)
- can't ever call in sick
- chefs taking advantage of students/externs/stages
- low pay for fine dining cooks (we compensate with knowledge, not pay)
- lack of benefits for most cooks
- job security (extremely transient industry)
 

chefjbs

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why is it that everyone thinks chef's make more than they do?? And hell, i don't even eat as good as i should. I'm making prime cuts of beef, the nicest game, and the freshest fish. But after the end of my shift you'll find me and a couple buddie eating disco fries and drinking beer. What a life.
 

Bryan G.

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it gets harder and harder as the years go by. my wife and i are both chefs with different schedules. i was able to score a daytime shift without having to do lunch which, as im sure you all know, is very hard to come by in this industry. as the days go on i get more and more tired of cooking the same bs for the same group of people that think they know everything. i just want to cook my food in my home for friends and family with good drink. that is what cooking is really about.

i guess professional cooking gives me a glimpse of what i really enjoy every so often but im getting weary of it all and dont want to do it forever. it is my passion and something i share with my wife that not many others can but in the end, i know some of the food i make gives people great joy so for the time being, its worth it.
I feel your pain B. And what tv and "French Laundry" hype doesn't tell you is that very few restaurants have the ability to truly hand pick employees that possess your level of anal retentive perfection and passion to execute your vision properly and you are going to have to just find trustworthy people and get the most out of them. And the bigger the kitchen the more personalities you have to deal with. It's like someone with multiple personalities trying to find balance and come across to others as a role model and not the crazy dysfunctional, perhaps psycotic or masocistic as Colin mentions they really are.

Some get lost in it, many can't hack it, and some manage to pull it off and do it well. But no matter which of those you are, you're a damn liar if you say it doesn't pay a toll on who you are as a human being.

At the end of the day it's about balance in your life and knowing your priorities that allow you to do it and still love it ... Or not

-Bryan
 

Citizen Snips

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I feel your pain B. And what tv and "French Laundry" hype doesn't tell you is that very few restaurants have the ability to truly hand pick employees that possess your level of anal retentive perfection and passion to execute your vision properly and you are going to have to just find trustworthy people and get the most out of them. And the bigger the kitchen the more personalities you have to deal with. It's like someone with multiple personalities trying to find balance and come across to others as a role model and not the crazy dysfunctional, perhaps psycotic or masocistic as Colin mentions they really are.

Some get lost in it, many can't hack it, and some manage to pull it off and do it well. But no matter which of those you are, you're a damn liar if you say it doesn't pay a toll on who you are as a human being.

At the end of the day it's about balance in your life and knowing your priorities that allow you to do it and still love it ... Or not

-Bryan
you said it bryan. the key to our business and life in general is balance. ive watched most people i work with take it so seriously that everything else suffers from relationships to personal health. so many people are fueled by an illusion of what the food network has made everyone think cooking in a professional kitchen really is. the other (and much worse) fuel is drugs/alcohol which seems to get people through to the next service but is really destroying them.

i think the biggest thing is all the hype some of these "chefs" from food network get. for me, there are very few people i respect that are TV personalities. Jacques Pépin for example is what i consider a true chef who found himself a much deserved home on television. there just aren't enough roll models for younger chefs these days. everyone thinks that people dont yell in kitchens and that gordon ramsay is doing something different for a camera. the truth is that kitchens are really like that. its no show. he is a jerk and most head chefs are. they are in for personal gain and nothing else.

i would say if anyone can find a chef they can work for that actually cares about his/her employees enough to teach and motivate them, grab that job with both hands and dont let go.

sorry to get all preachy but i feel as though my days are numbered as a professional and i have some things to say while i still have merit.
 

Pensacola Tiger

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sorry to get all preachy but i feel as though my days are numbered as a professional and i have some things to say while i still have merit.
You'll never lose merit.

"Been there, done that, got the t-shirt" is always a respected cred, even if you're not there in the fight anymore.
 

riverie

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i think food network channel and celebrity chef make people misunderstanding about this industry. it's way too far from all of those glamourous things, you got cut, burned, hearing screaming all the time, carry and lifting heavy stuff, many hours of working non-stop, and in the end of the day you'll see that most of the case the money you get is not really worth it. in fact, some of people that i know choose this career because they think they don't fit well in other professional working environment. i'm talking about full exposed tattoo, piercing all over, illegal immigration status, criminal history, etc. yet they can do well in this industry because we never discriminate them, it's the beauty of culinary field.

i always believe that i have an artistic side of me that i want to express. i was a tennis player before until i got injury that forced me to quit playing. i also played guitar but i failed to be the next jimmy hendrix because i just never that good. then i work my way up in culinary world, starting from cooking in the kitchen, and finding myself as a sushi chef now, i feel that this is finally something that i am good at. nothing's better than self accomplishment.
 

StephanFowler

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I was a cook at a seafood restaurant in Buckhead Atlanta for a couple years while I was in college.
seriously thought about going to CIA and going pro as a chef until I realized that most of the super chefs I looked up to at my restaurant and other local high end places made well less than $20/hour. And these are guys who had years and years of education.

Scared me off of that horse.
 

Bryan G.

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We most definitely don't do it for the money. If you make any real money and have the time to spend it you either sold your soul or you're the luckiest SOB in the industry.

Like Brian mentions I feel my path changing as well the older I get. I can never give up cooking/teaching in some kind of compacity ... But doing it everyday gets tiresome.

I will say having 3 children has been both great for my career while at the same time will probably end it. You look at people in your kitchen a little different and softens up the jagged hard edges that most of us have. Gives some of that "balance" we're talking about most of us lack. By learning to be a good father am also becoming a better chef. At the same time I want to be around to be a father figure to my children more and more everyday and less and less to those in the kitchen. Double edges sword.

The Chef I work with now is by far the best chef I have ever worked with. He has a saying "You have to MAKE it your own." That's the only way you can be a chef at a restaurant that is not your own if you ask me.

On another note I am so happy to see some of the things guys like Dave and others are doing as it makes me believe some of my future plans are on track and what I believe could be poplular amoung my kitchen brethern really is the popular.

Bryan

PS... Brian mentioned drugs and booze. Am I the only guy alive who has worked in a kitchen for 15 years or so and not done any drugs or drink?
 

shankster

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About 5 years ago I got out of restaurant kitchens and into catering.The money is great($20.00 hr in the shop,$30.00 to $40.00 on site) the hours are perfect,usually 8-5 5 days a week(except Xmas) and the food we cook is on par with any restaurant I've ever cooked in.it's not as steady as a restaurant,but at my age I don't mind at all.
 

Citizen Snips

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bryan-i dont do drugs but i drink my fair share of pabst blue ribbon as well as good wine with food. i do it because i enjoy it but not to escape from a bad day which is where i think a lot of people end up losing control of something as wonderful as booze :D

i also respect you so much for having 3 children and coming out of this with the same philosophy as i do. i couldn't imagine my life with children. the only comfort in my life is that bringing children into this world and schedule (etc) would be impossible without someone i love as much as i love my wife. im sure it is the same for you.

pensacola tiger-i may not lose merit and i appreciate your kind words but the feeling of merit would be entirely on my end. my wife thinks im the most wonderful cook ever but i say im just another guy who likes to make people happy with food.
 
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