From the outside, you practice your art in a serious, studied manner under well lit conditions. From the inside, you are improvising your trade under often less than ideal circumstances using whatever tools are available to get the job done. The nature of the work forces you to be reactive, instead of proactive, more often than you would like, and certainly more often than is reasonable.
The popularity of the Food Network has something to do with this. The scripted, well edited “reality” shows we all know and love go a long way towards our impaired vision of what is real, and serve to reinforce the notion that restaurant kitchens are either full of bumbling idiots, maniacal chefs, rockstars or frou-frou ‘artistes’ yearning to explore their creative side through the creation of multi-tiered larger than life layer cakes. Of course, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Kitchens have all of those personality types, and indeed the closed-door nature of the trade probably encourages this more than the average work environment. Youth plays an important role in this too, as cooking is more of a contact sport than an art so as people in the industry get older, they either move up or move out. The fifty year old line cook is a rare breed, and one who can pull it off is most impressive.
Passion plays a big part. To be a great cook, you need to be passionate about what it is you do, because if it’s money you are after it’s best to keep looking for a job that doesn’t require two showers a day. It’s this passion that tends to be bastardized by popular culture, and it’s the elephantiasis of Gordon Ramsay’s ego tripping that sells younger, newer cooks the idea that he’s the norm. Pop culture is lying to you, and you are best to check your ego at the door if you wish to succeed. Those who come into the restaurant kitchen with an open mind, closed mouth and full hands are the ones likely to succeed and become more than just another cook.
Cooks and chefs are all kinds of people – parents, students, social butterflies and misfits. The best ones I know like to roll with the punches and prefer to practice their trade, and not their art, and know how to temper their passion with an even keel and light touch. In this reality series, we will get to look behind the kitchen door to see what makes us do what we do and how we do it, from farm to table, dishwasher to chef.