Why would anyone want to be a chef?

 January 25, 2016
Posted by Chris Rieke

Why would anyone in their right mind want to be a professional chef?

That’s a great question to ask yourself before getting into the cooking game. I heard a statistic the other day that half of all people in the U.S. work in some sort of food retail in their early years. There are no resources I’m going to point at the reveal that to be true or not, but it seems pretty feasible to me. And with so many people going into an industry full of scoundrels of all sorts, you could either love it or hate it. Or both.

So what kind of person would enter and stay in a profession that degrades, offends, and even occasionally humiliates? Well, I did it because it seemed like a great, respected profession, and of course for my love of creating and crafting food.

chef-04What is chef? And should you try to be one?

A chef, to me, is a professional cook who creates delicious dishes consistently and who runs a kitchen. To become a great cook is an achievement in itself, and as a chef if you encounter a great cook, do everything you can to get them on your team.

Should you try to be a chef? My best answer, go get a job in a kitchen and see. You could start at a Burger King and you would get an idea of having to ‘cook’ for your Manager, but you should start in a hotel or bar and grill and get into the mix. Working under a hardened Kitchen Manager or Experience Executive Chef could change your life. To see the trials and daily problem solving that are common place can inspire you to go after it, and become the top dog of your kitchen. It’s also incredible to watch a person sell a hundred steaks in a shift, and not get a single one back.

So should you? If you don’t want to work your ass off, and call a 45 hour work week a light week, then no, you shouldn’t. Worse yet, don’t go to a private college and take culinary classes and rack up 50K+ in student loans to start as a entry line cook for years. To be more specific, there are great culinary programs available, and affordable. There is a local community college near where I’m from, and they are amazing. Just make sure you are working in a kitchen to see if you like it. There are some culinary students I wouldn’t let touch a knife, let alone fire.

But, if your passion is there, and you want the uniquely rewarding feeling of being ‘the Chef’ then sharpen that knife, and pencil and go to work, every damn day. Don’t complain, don’t be late, don’t be drunk and work. Learn, grow and form relationships.

So what is all the hype about being a chef?

The TV Chef that was admired back in the day, pretty much just had to have a show, and some cool gadgets. Then they had to be fairly attractive, or have a New Orleans accent and a large, live audience, and a catch phrase never hurt. Nowadays, the star chefs are the ones with mountains of knowledge, and tattoos, or crazy hair.

To me, the best feeling of being the person in charge in the kitchen is the moments after the final execution of a dinner service, a busy one! Before the rush begins, you don’t really know what to expect, but after its done, and you are past that point where you think its never going to stop. Then… its done, cooks get their smoke breaks and they start breaking down their stations. Its a stellar feeling. You celebrate with the other people who helped make the night a success and you go home proud, not just of the job you did, but the hard work and badassness of the cooks who really made it possible.

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