A “Chef’s life” , huh, an oxymoron in just two words. Well because as a chef your life is limited to hours not days and breaks not days off. As a sous chef( assistant chef) it’s certainly not a 9 to 5 it’s a when you get there until you leave. The pay is not the greatest and maybe 1 in a million becomes TOP CHEF, a José Andrés or a Gordon Ramsey, we barely see our families and most of us have some sort of substance abuse problem. You say goodbye to your family and make that trek to the food Mecca of your your employment to become the next great Top chef. The image of well manicured plates and smiling customers fill your mind of hope, a executive chef that sings your praises and cooks that are eager to follow your lead and have a great shift. Then reality hits you walk through the door and into a buzzsaw! To get a grasp of your day you run to the “Chefs office” ( a closet with a computer ) to try and make a list of goals to accomplish, you try at least. You step out that door and like a mallet hitting a tenderized chicken breast, they hit you with problems of the day to be solved, who called out, what customer is not happy with their “ overpriced dish”, what cook is unhappy with their assignment, what item didn’t get order from the previous shift. We dive in head first and knock off one problem item at a time. There are many shifts that I work that I ask myself “ why are you doing this, your smarter than this”, and then all of a sudden it happens. A customer will come up to a server and say “ Hey I need something different, I really don’t like anything on the menu”, then the waiter or waitress will relay that information to me and I promptly reply, Challenge accepted! You see in my mind that customer just challenged me to blow their mind, expand their pallet and show them how one food experience can be sublime and inspirational. I dig into my mind castle for all those recipes that I know will work and I think how can I make it my own. I pick one, I start to dissect the recipe, I break it down to the point where it becomes new and unused ready for a fresh beginning. I gather my ingredients and begin the conception of my dish. I slave and slave until I finally get the dish to the ultimate state of perfection that would make any customer swoon with anticipation of my dish hitting their table.
I escort my creation to the table, I can see the excitement on the waiting customers face, the recipient of my handiwork. They smile, they take pictures, they gather with the OOO’s and Ahh’s. I explain what they are about to ingest, I give it a fancy name and enjoy the soaring feeling of the guest hanging on my every word. Once I present the dish I’m back to the kitchen, my staff still pushing out the dinner rush, gives me a head nod as if to say way to go chef or fuck off ( I never can tell).
Why we do it? Here is a reason for you the challenge, the thrill of creation. My reason is my team, they give me the reason to keep pushing their optimism, their grit in a job that doesn’t pay that well but they show up every day. As chefs we lead, we counsel, we teach and create that’s the day in the life of a sous chef. In reality, cooking is only 20 percent of what we do, but we do it nonetheless. Then why do we do it? It helps a person who is up to the task, to have a chance to lead, counsel, teach and create that’s the day in the life of a sous chef. We do it cause we love the challenge and the reward of accomplishing a goal that seems impossible, bringing a team together to create wonderful meals that people will remember forever and in turn come back to our Mecca of meat And vegetables and make memories. We do it for that customer saying “ this is the best meal I have ever eaten” or “I’m definitely telling my friends about you guys”. The rush of the challenge is why we do it, we are artists who use the cooks under our employment to create masterpieces of culinary pleasure and bring that to the masses so they can see what food is supposed to be about, a symphony of senses.