I have been prone to excesses of one type or another most of my life and because I work as a chef I seem to get away with it. In fact not only do I get away with my compulsive behavior, to some extent it is expected of me, because the age old myth of chefdom is that was are the wild artists of fire.
I remember one day years ago when I was screaming at someone in the kitchen and regardless of what I said or how loud I said it, the person just kept smiling at me. This of course only enraged me further until I couldn’t stand it any longer and I asked her what she thought was so funny. “You’re a typical chef, that’s all,” she proclaimed.
To which I responded, “What the hell does that mean?”
“It means you’re a crazy bastard who likes to yell,” she quipped.
At first I wanted to strangle her for having the audacity to talk back to me. After all, doesn’t she know who I think I am? But even though I was younger and stupider back then, I was smart enough to know that she might have a point. Not to mention the fact that she had called me a crazy bastard using a very calm even voice, which she garnished with a twinkle in her eye.
Completely disarmed, I stomped back to my station and mumbled to myself the rest of the evening. When I got home though, I thought about what she had said and for some reason her words served as an epiphany for me. I began to realize that my crazy life style and raging temper where in some respects expected of me and therefore many of my thoughts and actions regardless of whether or not they had credence were often tossed aside as nothing more than weightless chef prerogative.
That evening I made a conscious decision to keep the rest of the restaurant world off balance by doing my utmost to become a civil well balanced human being. Oddly enough this worked in my favor. The less I yelled, partied and generally reeked havoc on the lives of my co-workers and myself, the more people listened to what I had to say and the better I felt as a person.
I would love to say that from that day one I became the perfect model of culinary decorum and health. The truth is that I do not yell and scream any more, unless I am pushed to absolute limit, which rarely happens because I like to surround myself with capable well balanced people. But from the health prospective I have not done such a good job. I love to party when I can, which includes all sorts of good mannered debauchery, and this seemed to work just fine until about ten days ago.
As luck would have it, I was sitting in a doctor’s office last week when I experienced a new feeling in my chest. Suddenly in mid-conversation with the doctor I was overwhelmed with the sensation of having what felt like a soft ball stuck in my chest, with someone standing on it. Although it was not incredibly painful (I have a high pain tolerance anyway) I did immediately become enormously uncomfortable. Because I like to think I am a tough guy, I did not say anything to the doctor at first. I simply attempted to clutch my chest with my day planner as if I was planning to get up and leave.