“How is your job stressful? All you do is cook all day.”
There’s tons of blogs out there that encompass Chef life. This particular post, is one of the few that I can actually get behind (with a few exceptions to some points he made, mostly because I am a woman and my lifestyle is a little different).
However, like most blogs, they’re very flowery and such because they’re bloggers. Then there’s me, I just occasionally vomit out words for the world to see.
You know, like now.
Explaining Chef life to a non industry person is tough. In general, there’s too much BS comparison period. How often do you see someone saying that they’re tired for whatever reason and someone will fire back something like “you don’t have kids, you have no idea what tired is” “When I did such a such a job, I did this.” “You just need to be more organized and everything will be fine”.
Criticizing someone/anyone for the life that live is just wrong and people need to shut their mouths. We’re all different, we all function differently and no one can relate or be empathetic or sympathetic to the life you live, unless they themselves share some similarities, even then, we all handle things differently. It’s great that you have a handle on your life, however it’s terribly unrealistic and rude to expect anyone to do as you would do when they’re not you.
When did life become such a pissing contest?
Anyway- Chef’s/Cooks fall into their own category, we kind of live in our own secluded world that most people have no real understanding about how it functions unless they themselves are also a Chef or an industry professional. Which is really, really frustrating when you try and explain it to outsiders. It’s a consuming career, you miss out on a lot of things because you can’t have a ‘normal’ life like most people. Chef life is rarely a 9-5, M-F kind of job.
I genuinely like my job and the people I work with (yes really) but let me tell you, the past few weeks (months?) have been nuts. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on in order to make your event happen. So I tend to get a little frustrated when people who have no right/business criticizing me about how I spend my time, why my organizational skills suck, why my memory is so bad or why haven’t I seen you, why is there no food in the house, why isn’t my Christmas shopping done yet, how come I don’t have any clean socks and more…
Here’s the thing, when the season is in a upswing, your time is no longer your own. You might go from working a few days a week to working weeks straight with maybe one day off in between. Those days that you spend at work can be anywhere from 8-12-15 hours a shot.
- Being a Sous Chef means that you are responsible for every single thing that goes on in your kitchen. It doesn’t matter who messed up what, it’s your problem period. Why? Because it’s your kitchen and you are responsible for overseeing everything that goes on. Every. Single. Thing. That’s why you’re there. Someone dumped a body in your fridge? Your problem. Light bulb breaks? That’s on you. Sauce doesn’t taste right? Didn’t double check that you have everything that you need? One of your cooks duct taped someone to the ceiling? That’s on you. You need to be five steps ahead always.
- Perfection matters. You have to know the taste and consistency of everything that you serve and it can’t leave your kitchen until it’s spot on period. If it’s not on point, you best be discovering that far enough in advance so that you can fix it, or in some cases start over before service starts. Otherwise your service will be a train wreck.
- You’re in charge of your team. While you’re doing your own thing, you have to stay on top of everyone else to make sure that they’re doing their job too and doing it well.
- Failure is not an option. Chef hired you because they felt you were the right person for the job. You are representing them, their name and their reputation. Not yours. Clients aren’t going to contact you to complain, they don’t know who you are. That needs to be respected and treated with care.
- Free time is scarce and very precious. Working in the industry means that your free time is extra precious and usually very random. While most people get Sat/Sun off, your weekend is most like Monday/Tuesday.
- We don’t have time for you. This sounds incredibly rude, however, it’s not personal. I have had two days off in three weeks. Getting more than 5 hours of sleep is a rarity. Forget about eating at home, you usually don’t have time because sleep becomes more important. Food is something that is usually grabbed en route to work because you take the bus and need to multi-task. When time off actually happens after working that much, you have to play catch up on all those things that you neglected. So when someone says oh so and so has three days off this week, they also likely neglected to mention the two weeks worth of laundry that you have sitting there, the dishes that your husband kindly started and forgot to finish. The Christmas gifts that you so smartly started buying in June (yes I do my shopping that early) except now you don’t know where they all are because your house is a disaster and you can’t remember your own name, let alone where you put all the presents. Then you have to find the time to get the one’s that you couldn’t buy early or online. So that eats up an entire day because you have to go all over the city and take the bus/metro to do it. Gifts which also need to be wrapped, as soon as you find them because you’ve had your hands full since early November and haven’t had the time. Only to discover that one of the things you bought needs a replacement battery that you don’t have time to buy so then you have to run out and get them something else that night close to home because your gifts are being dropped off the next day. All the while fighting fatigue and a cold that’s creeping in and making you feel like crap. On top of trying to find the time to pack because you’re leaving for the holidays and you have no clean clothes. This would all be easier if we had a housekeeper, a dishwasher and a car. Except we don’t and all of those things eat into precious hours of the day because you have to make more time for that too. So it’s not that we don’t think you’re not important (because you are), it’s just that there’s other things that need to get done and sometimes they simply can not wait. We’re not being ‘selfish’ out of want, sometimes it’s a necessity.
- We’re hard enough on ourselves, we don’t need your help. Chef’s tend to be perfectionists. Cooking is our baby, our pride and joy. Criticizing how we do things when you have no idea what we do is not OK. The only person I take criticism from is my boss. He knows his stuff and it’s constructive and helpful to me and my career. Which is something that I can respect. From other people? Not so much. Your opinion on my life and how I choose to do things is invalid. You do you however you see fit, please don’t expect me to do/be/react the same.
- We don’t want to cook for you on our days off. Another one for the ‘it’s not personal’ category. Cooking for pleasure is something that I am rarely in the mood for. However, when I am in the mood for such things, than it truly is a treat so please cherish it because it’s a rarity.
- No one cares that you’re having a bad day. This is a tough industry, not everyone can deal with it. We all have bad/off days, it’s not an excuse for not coming in or not being on top of your game. Work is work, home is home and you’re best to check your scene at the door. If you can’t handle that, then maybe being in this industry is not for you.
- Know your place. Kitchens have a pecking order that needs to be respected. Don’t ever second guess or talk back to your Chef (even if they’re wrong or you don’t agree). No one gives a shit about your precious ego, except for you. So being a smart mouth to the Chef/sous Chef is likely to result in some form of backlash. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
- Holidays and other special events fall to the wayside. I’m very fortunate to have a job that shuts down for two glorious weeks for the holidays. However, the time leading up to those two weeks is complete and utter chaos. So time with the people who truly matter to you most likely won’t happen. Same thing with your birthday or any other special occasion. That’s when we’re usually the busiest and taking the time off isn’t usually a viable option, no matter how much we love you.
- You have it easier because you’re [insert job title here]: Nope. Being in charge means that our time is more valuable, therefore we have a greater responsibility to the person we work for/under. Sure, we get paid a little more, but we’re also expected to do more. Which is only right. We don’t ‘get away’ with stuff/have it easier than anyone else because we’re management. We’re entrusted and responsible for the bigger tasks. We’ve done our time, it’s how we got to where we are now. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do ‘lesser’ tasks, at the end of the day, shit needs to get done no matter who does it. Someday, you’ll get there too if you want it bad enough.
So you see, we do more than just cook all day. Thankfully I love what I do and I enjoy where I work and the people I work with and for.
I wouldn’t change a thing.