Who’d be a Chef?
Well apparently lots of people would. Every semester students come to see me asking how to get into the business, telling me they really wanted to become a Chef but their parents thought it a good idea they got a “proper degree” (whatever that is) before heading off to culinary school.
Enrolment at culinary schools across the country is rising and there’s no sign of it slowing. There may be several reasons for this but perhaps the largest culprit (and I say culprit like it’s a bad thing…) are the myriad of TV shows about cooking.
“Hang on” I hear you cry; “didn’t you just talk about this in Blog the Fifth”. Well, yes, I did, sort of. I raged about TV show hosts and participants but this is a related area and not so much a rage as a concern so don’t get your undies in a bundle…
The first question I ask when people tell me they’d like to be a Chef is “Why?” Why would anyone want to subject themselves to:
· Long hours
On average about 10 hours per day with only sporadic breaks
· Unsocial Hours
Nights, weekends, Holidays, Early Mornings. Yes, all those times you would think of being with friends and family; kiss them goodbye
· Unsocial habitat
Working in extremely hot non-air-conditioned rooms slightly larger than a broom closet surrounded by things that can cut you, burn you, trap you or generally cause you major amounts of discomfort
· Antisocial People
Executive Chefs can be a nightmare! I should know, I am one. I’ve worked for many and several of them should have come with their own government health warning. Gordon Ramsey is a playful kitten compared to some
· Antisocial Guests
Picture Niles Crane from TV’s Frasier X100. Never satisfied, never quite knowing what they want only what they don’t want and never giving specific instructions but only saying things like “Oh I trust your judgment” only to find out that your judgment is the last thing on earth they’d trust, but it’s all your fault!
“If it’s all so bad why do you do it?” I’m often asked.
“Because it’s the best job in the world.” I often reply.
I know I rant and rave a little in this blog but in all honesty I love what I do and I don’t really want to do anything else. To take raw ingredients, mix them together and create something wonderful and edible out of them is a truly amazing feeling. But, you’ve got to love it. I mean really love it. It’s got to be a passion that drives you and makes you not mind working 14 hour days for two weeks straight without a day off. You’ve got to be able to switch from making elegant pastries one minute to washing the ever mounting pile of dishes by the pot sink because your pot washer didn’t show. It’s about humbling yourself to learn new techniques and take instruction from someone else because they’ve learned a different and sometimes better way of doing something than you. It’s about multitasking five completely different things at the same time, while juggling kittens and all with a smile on your face like it’s the best day you’ve ever had. It’s about all this and more; so much more.
So next time you think of opening up your own cupcake shop remember that it’s best to have worked your way up through the ranks of a kitchen/restaurant, that knowing and understanding baking (including the science behind it) is huge, that service really does matter and that 60% of all restaurants close in their first year. The commitment to make your cupcake shop a success will require you to work 365 days a year for the first five years at least. All this just because you wanted to be a Chef? Ugh!
So who’d be a Chef?
I would! I love it.