It’s bad enough that us chef’s have to work endless hours, cooking, planning, hiring, firing and simply dealing with the general madness that comes our way in the kitchen each day. But now because of some pretty major fundemental changes in our society we are now expected to move even further out of the box and into what I would call a new era of cooking.
When my journey began over thirty years ago, chefs were considered to be not much more than grease monkey’s. Now, thanks to The Food Network and other things there seems to be nothing hotter than working as a Chef. Consequently we are expected to move out of the kitchen and into the arena of becoming entertainers. I teach food entusiast classes all the time and for each class there is a questionaire for the students to rate the chef’s performance. Overwhelmingly I get more comments on how funny (or not) I am, or how well I present myself in front of an audience.My ability to cook seems to have taken second place over how well I can entertain a crowd and sometimes this is difficult.
Because I live in the wine country, I am also expected to be an expert on food and wine pairing. And the list of things I am supposed to excel in outside of the kitchen seems to be growing by the day.
I am not complaining. I love what I do, and it can only be considered a good thing that food has moved to such a place of honor in our society.But if I were to tell the truth, there are many days when I wish I could simply stay behind the kitchen walls and concentrate on what I do best, without any distractions.
Over the years I have learned to pace myself with all of the extra work, and trust that if I take the time to prepare, everything will work out fine. I try to train my staff in a way that I can trust them to take over for me when I am gone and I also make an effort to support them as much as possible by not overwhelming them with work I can do myself.
Being a chef is just as much about leadership and compassion as it is about the ability to cook. So if you find yourself in this new era of extreme multi-tasking, take some time out to breathe and then delegate what you can to your staff.
Mis en place (everything in its place) is just as important outside the kitchen, as it is at work. The more organized and level headed I remain, the smoother my events go. I also find that as a chef it is imperative to concentrate on the food and not the prospect of fame. Fame is fleeting and if my head gets too big my food suffers and the turn over rate in my kitchen rises because my staff does not feel supported.