I cannot begin to tell you how many times, someone has said to me, “My dream is to be a chef!” My first reaction is cynicism. This is because my adult life has been devoted to food and I know what’s involved in achieving such a dream. After probing the Dreamer’s thoughts, it becomes clear to me that it’s not a dream…it’s a fantasy…people romanticizing about the idea of becoming the next big social media and television superstar.
A dream to be a “chef” is not the glamorous life people see on a daily refresh of Instagram. The lives of prep cooks/dishwashers/lead line cooks/line cooks/sous chefs are filled with long hours and toil, who typically get to work at 7 AM and leave at midnight when everyone is gone.
In the fitness world “chefs” are now known to people as “meal preppers”–aspirations from a culinary school education and investing $80K to buy the title of “chef”. Some Dreamers think they can take a shortcut and start a “business” of meal prep and delivery and muse of how THEY are different and will help the human body in some way.
“Their” culinary adventures began at home cooking with mom or grandma and their love for food continued to grow from those idyllic days in the kitchen. Then, after marriage, children, and an uninspiring career, the Dreamers realized their lives were missing something and had an epiphany…the dream of “Kitchen Life”. In fact it’s not even Kitchen Life, because that requires the Dreamers to leave the comforts of home and actually go to work in a kitchen (gasp!).
The Dreamers’ steps are the same as all the others. Take on as much business as they can…raid the grocery stores…post endless Pinterest ideas…throw up a website…screen some cool looking t-shirts, and, maybe, just maybe, set up a rental kitchen, then a…store front. I don’t expect you to fist bump me after you read this, in fact, I’m sure 90% of you will email me telling me that I’m FOS and say, “Who am I to take away from someone’s dream of being a chef?”
In fact, that’s the opposite of what I am trying to do. However, make no mistake, food is my life and Kitchen Life has given me everything I have today. A long time ago, I too, mistakenly thought culinary school was the path to a career. For some people, it is. Others quickly discover the reality that the true path to success is a long journey without shortcuts.
For me, part of that journey was an apprenticeship that paid no money, but rather I was paid in wisdom and experience from master chefs. That was a time in which you didn’t decide to become a chef, but rather a chef decided if you were worthy of their profession and invited you to study under them. Sadly, it feels that those days are in the past and anyone who can crack an egg with one hand thinks they will open the next chain of store fronts that will change fitness…Forever!
I even had my very own mother tear up when I was first starting out when I told her I was just a dish washer. Her 28 year old son, who, like all parents had dreams of their sons In a shiny suit of honor. The gap in my stomach, the water in my eyes that started fill quickly, showed her my feelings about my current situation as well.
My boss saw this; and on a slow Sunday brunch he took me aside and walked me through a dish so that my mom would see there MIGHT be a chance I would make it as cook one day. Chef Ryan told me, “It’s ok dude, cooks stick together because we have all been there. Work hard like you do, and you’ll be making some sort of living in no time.” That’s what happened for many years after. Never moving to far from the dish pit. You see…in a kitchen, when you are good at one job, this means you can do another. This means the chef saves on labor. So there is dish/prep, dish/prep/fry station. Don’t slow down, don’t mess the dish up. You’re making it. You’ve got nothing but time when your broke, so you just go till you drop. That’s falling in love with Kitchen Life.
Well if you have made it this far, I’m sure you are saying, “Who the F is this prick?” So this would be where I would tell you about all of the kitchens where I have cooked (which may be meaningless to some of you) and awards I have earned (which many of you will have no idea what they are). Yes you can Google those places and those awards and their significance, but it all goes back to my premise that most Dreamers are just engaging in fantasy.
The reality is if you want to become a chef and successful, you must harken back to when you first started cooking and channel that inner passion you had. Then, go to the best restaurant in your area and ask the chef if you can wash dishes so you can eventually learn.
Wait…you can’t do that? What is it? Kids? Your other job? Netflix? Dating? No time? There’s your answer. Food requires time. The business is a war of attrition and you must outlast everyone. Take their pocket books, take their souls, mine is warm in misery; the kind that is so dark and twisted from false words, failed chances, and missed opportunities to get out of your dream that the dream of yours filled willed rabbits and butterflies is false.
A real dream feels like a “true cooks” does. But we are happy in that formal dining area or miserable because we will love so vivaciously, and life, YES, yes we will live in pure joy! When you take away the extrinsic motivators like money and the spotlight, you’re left with hard work…hard, knuckle-breaking work. Do yourself a favor and take yourself back to an age where all there was to do was break your back performing hard work.
As you see, food is my passion and what I am going to attempt to do is educate the masses on food. My story is long. It will unfold for you over time as I incorporate it into my cooking philosophy in future posts. My methods are mine…take them or leave them. But to save you some suspense, the core of my philosophy is that I challenge conventional wisdom. I DO NOT believe in diets or calorie counts or anything else that occupies people’s minds when it comes to cooking and eating. I’m a contrarian and I will talk about is how our world is confused about what to eat…cook…share…even dream about.
I will end my introduction to all of you with this: If we do not protect our soil, and do not strip some layers of modern amenities, our children’s children will never have memories of eating together at the dinner table. That is a dream that doesn’t cost money or require you to start a business in order for you to realize it.