Are You Cut Out For The Professional Kitchen?
By Food Gypsy on October 15, 2012
This is the reality of kitchen life. There are no camera crews and no one cares about your "need to create." You will be asked to lift and carry, and peel and chop. You will be told exactly how to do things and you will be expected to do them, accurately and expediently. You may, or may not, be yelled at. Some chefs have a reputation of yelling and profanity, while others are civil and supportive, but one thing's for sure, they're in charge. Listen and learn or find yourself looking for another job.
No matter who you are, you will start at the bottom and earn your way up, or you will quickly be churned out. There are plenty behind you who are hungry for success and recognition, and they will do whatever it takes to get there.
You might be thinking to yourself "I'll only have to do all the crap jobs at the beginning! Once people call ME chef, I won't be peeling vegetables and doing dishes!" That's where you're wrong. You will do it if it needs to be done. Your dishwasher might go on a bender and not be seen for a week, your prep cook can have a bad day and walk off the job, the gal who works the cold line could call in sick. Those tasks don't stop just because there's no one to do them, so you roll up your sleeves and hit the dish pit if that's what's necessary.
Yes, there's math. Your chef may turn to you and say, "I need three liters of lemonade, it's a six-to-one ration, sweeten to taste." How many lemons do you need? You will never escape the math.
Cooking for a living is taxing work. I won't go so far as to say "hard" work (digging ditches, now that's "hard" work). But standing on concrete all day, cutting, cooking, solving problems as you go, is hard on the body and the brain. Particularly once you leave the cozy confines of the kitchen for a tent atop a parking lot or a garage in the country, and you are still expected to deliver quality and perfection—now that is the "art" of catering. After a series of long days and a marathon of an on-site event I felt muscles I didn't even know I had, and I shall be going back for more.
My best advice to those entering the kitchen for the first time:
Listen. Write things down. Ask questions (it's better than making mistakes). Watch what the person next to you is doing—chances are you'll be doing it soon. Add a calculator to your knife kit, along with your favorite burn treatment (here's a link to mine) and get yourself the best non-slip, safety shoes money can buy.
I am fortunate to be working with a marvelous group of people, in an environment of respect and courtesy. I live for perfection and presentation so it's a good fit. We laugh a lot, and at the end of the day, while my body aches, my mind reels from taking in so much information. I dig that, the only thing better is making a couple hundred spring rolls. Perfectly. Every single time... and smelling like soup.
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