Tuesday, January 1, 2013


I love to say that to some people sometimes.
Mostly staff that whin about the heat or working hard and not taking short cuts  or even money.

Now I hate hot kitchens but after 26 years I am not about to complain about it. Gone are the days of sucking it up and just getting on with it. Now , the older chefs have to endure these new pampered cooks who think they are the end all of the culinary world. Most wont survive their first real job because hopefully a crunchy,grumpy old chef will make them peel 1000 pounds of carrots and potatoes. Peeling shrimp....peeling and deveining them till their fingers are numb. If they do survive  and still want to go on, then these are the people you want in our kitchens.

Devotion and work ethics can't be taught at work or school. It's either in you or not. And that brings up something. To go to school or to work your way up.

I went to the C.I.A. back in the early 1990's. it was rough. Chefs yelling at us, breaking our sports and then not bothering to really rebuild any of us. That was up to us to figure it out. They gave us the tools,it was up to us how to use them. I think I was yelled at twice, had my finger almost chopped off once( thank you chef Chang for not cutting it off) ,had no less than three objects thrown at me, was called a pathetic dog in four languages  and was punched in the chest( by a fellow student after I reacted to him shoving my face into rancid beef). Yeah ,it was a hoot ..seriously it was. I learned sooo much. More than I really could use in my daily life but when I can its like I am high. It sounds funny to say that but I am not talking about my basic principles of cooking though there are a lot of times I want to rip stuff out of my staff hands when they don't get basic stuff like why we braise certain foods or the difference between baking and roasting. Or just simply knowing the whys of food.
But that's where I come in. Even my sous chefs lack some basic knowledge ,though they are steps
above my staff. And speaking of them , they are a good example of culinary education versus  hands
on field work. Even though there is a slight age difference , the knowledge is quiet different too. But they I will get to in later posts.  But I will say that N and even my ex admired about me ( I am sure others do too but would never say it because some how that would make me in a way an awesome chef and we certainly can't have that getting out can we?... Lol) is my strange ability to just grab ingredients and just know it will turn out and my endless brain that can recall things and argue out why something will or will not work before a pan is heated. It's just about the only plus side to my thinking brain.

Did you know that turmeric is part of the ginger family?

As I have said I think...I think a lot ,sometimes way to much about stuff and sometimes not enough. Usually the not enough leads to chaotic emotion driven actions . These in principle aren't always bad things but not always fun because then well, that's a story too.

But hey, back to going to school or not. Honestly, if I was 18 with the same family I bet I would forgo  school and go around Europe for a year doing stages or working very cheap then come back to the states and doing the same.  I might go to school after all that but that's a big maybe. Don't get me wrong ,having C.I.A. On my résumé has opened doors at least those who know . When I first started looking for work after school , it was like hitting the duh wall. People thought its was either THAT C.I.A or Chicago  institute of art or something like that. Or worse one guy didn't believe me that I went to it and asked for my grades. Yeah true story....and it was for a shitty job too. Point being the schooling was a door opener at the time. Now I dare say ,that if you don't have something to back it
up like solid work experience in a real non corporate (ie Applebee's) restaurant then your education
means squat.

Just work...work the shitty shifts, the shitty hours and do whatever the chef,sous chefs and higher up cooks tell you. There will be no please or thank yous. If you want a squeaky clean banker hours job,be a fucking banker. Leave the sweaty hard work to those who can. This job can and will devour you and I doubt the kids coming out of schools these days have the stomach or the ethics to suck it up and start from the bottom no matter how much education you have....espically if your work experience sucks.
When all is said and done ,you will be better off.

When I got out of school, I thought I could be a sous chef. What I got was a line cooks job in a hack place. But I did it because it taught me shit like timing and working in tight spaces. And when I got my first sous chef job I failed and was fired in three months. Second sous chef job at 23 , luckily was in a small 80 seat places run by another C.I.A grad and his partner and one of the best times of my life. He taught me a lot ,not just cooking but also how not to run a business .

My point of all of this is an education worth $50k of debt? If you get a free ride,go for it. Otherwise whore your stupid self to other older chefs. ...and don't!!!!! Keep moving around so fucking much! Yes , a varied resume is great. But a bouncer just sends up red flags.

Trust me.....

Old Swiss tradition

Eating French onion soup just after midnight on New Years is suppose to bring good luck for the new year!!!

Stoke me a clipper, I'll be back for Christmas.

Ahhh a new year is breaking in a few minutes and one usually goes through all the " oh I am going to lose weight" or " I am going to be a better person" all the bullshit and crap we try to imagine we will do and inevitably within weeks drop because its to hard or whatever excuse.

Why not have no resolution except just do it. Don't pin point what it is. Just start each day a new.
We could all eat better, do better at our jobs,be better human beings. Time to stand up and walk the path less traveled and come out of the shadows into the light. The worst failure is not trying.

I guess I am actually speaking about myself. But am I not you. Only difference between humans is circumstances. And what you do with it. So why do we treat each other badly? Why do we hurt each other? Don't the differences make us a better world?

So now it is 2013 and there is a wonderful sense of calm that has taken over me...it literally has been this past week. If you have been following along I am a bit insane and a bit well off. I don't think any of that will change.
You can't function in my line of work as a normal human being. You just can't without becoming a ruined human. Well actually we as chefs are already ruined. So it's ok. It's those few of us that understand this ,accept it and just learn to work with it. It just is how it is . The more creative you are the more insane you are.
Now let me get out what this insanity is.... No, we aren't dangerous unless we forget the gas is one and light the kitchen up . That could be a problem . Mostly our insanity is just how anal we are and how self absorbed we become when we are in our creative mode. It's is pretty much most of the time. And it varies between chefs. I have found that age doesn't matter. I don't actually know what it is . But it's funny to see how people are.

You think as a chef we are all sort of similar in some aspects but really we couldn't be different . Even those of us that are on some levels the difference are very evident. Maybe again it's circumstances.
I grew up with slight off parents. Nice people ,hard working lovely generous people. But a little off. I might have to differ to my brother about this but while we were a tight family ,it wasn't all warm and fuzzy. We were loved and still are but I think my folks don't understand either of us. But thankfully, despite the distance ,we understand each other. And we are very different people to some degree yet probably very much alike. But that is for another time since tangent went a bit longer than planned and the beer and pâté are settling in.

But back to the calmness.

Chefs aren't calm people by nature. And I think I speak for those with the love and passion like mine when I say it's not that we like being this way. It's just is. There are varying degrees too. There are the Gordon Ramsey types that scream at people. Sorry but that doesn't teach nor motivate people. There are e Thomas Keller types...the serene calm which makes a harmonious kitchen. And there are the inbetweeners ones that float between both screaming and calm. That's probably the worse type and where I have in the past fallen into. But all that does is make people not want to work for you...at least not how they should want to. So I guess in a way I do have a New Years resolution though its not because of changes that have happen to me the calmness has happen. The only problem now is rebuilding. But that is the easiest part. I think people are willing to embrace leaders provided they're calm ,fair and above all consistent.

Of course getting other people on board is the hard part. But for me,not really because its time for its my way unless you have a better than me idea. But that's why I am in my position and they are not. My team will make me better as I make them exceptional.

So that brings it all back to resolutions...I have none. I have no intention of making promises because that's not what I am all about...at least not right now.

One thing I plan on doing and it's an on going thing till the day the last breath of my body departs is :

I am going to set the world on fire.

And it's not about fame or even a lot of money cause I don't need or want either.
It's about nothing more than a single idea.....a single word actually