Thursday, December 24, 2009

Romanticizing The Kitchen

Romanticizing The Kitchen

Here is a letter I received from an old “I’m cooking to get out of college” protégé of the CheffyBoy and the instigator of the next thought out of the Chef’s Office…Thanks Chef…

”Chef Mike,

First, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoy the Chef’s Office newsletters; I use them as a motivation for some of my more serious cooks and post them on the bulletin board at work. I take it even more personally because I have worked along side of your crazy butt for longer than either one of us care to remember. Ha ha.

I do have one comment though, although your articles are definitely thought provoking and sometimes downright heehaaaa motivating, I also feel that sometimes the articles romanticize the kitchen. Knowing you and the passion that you possess has been one of my coolest experiences as a cook and chef, but let’s think about this for a moment.

1.    Sometimes the culinary battlefield is anything but pretty.
2.    Tempers flare, no matter how much Zen you are bringing to light.
3.    The list of dream kitchens and the perfect culinary experience are few and far between.

As professionals, we are always seeking ways of making our worlds better by creating systems and analyzing everything that we and our staff do.  Of course, those of us that are serious would love to work in a world of Thomas Keller’s, Adrian Ferran’s and Gordon Ramsey’s but unfortunately this is the difference between fantasy and reality. Me? I got stuck with you and Chef Roy…ha ha

Although you have given me things to think about, have had me constantly second guessing and always re-thinking my preparations and executions, our world may have been a lot of fun, educational and motivating, but it was anything but pretty.

I could analyze this whole synopsis but it comes down to quite a few issues and we can break down any of these issues and come up with a thousand reasons why our world is less than perfect. Not only in the kitchen we first met, but in almost every kitchen since the beginning of time.

Key notes to figure are organization, communication, dedication and loyalty to all phases of who we are as chefs, cooks and managers. I could not tell you how many times I use your JJ DID TIE BUCKLE acronym; it is an effective management tool that when I analyze an event or mishap, I always find myself reflecting on the acronym. I laugh with my staff and tell them that you are “haunting me” ha-ha

Well, that is my two cents. Hope my words find you well and bouncing off the walls.

Miss and Love you,
Chef Ellen Young”

First, to explain the JJDIDTIEBUCKLE acronym, (an acronym from my Marine Corps days)

Justice, Judgment, Decisiveness, Integrity, Dependability, Tact, Intuition, Earnest, Bearing, Understanding, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty and Endurance

Man, JJ had one heck of a tie to buckle…

I used to say that if as a successful manager, of this or any other profession, you possess all of these traits; you will become a successful student, teacher, mentor, friend… I am moved that “CheffyBoy” lesson was well learned and is still being applied twenty years after the fact. That’s freaking awesome.

Now back to this Romanticism stuff…

Romanticism: To treat in an idealized or heroic manner. (Merriam-Webster 2004)

I read an article the other day in Sante Magazine (I think) that made a cool point. The general idea of the article was that there are three types of chefs. Those of us that do it for food, those of us that do it for money and those of us that do it for the food and the money…I thought that was an interesting thought, because I think that we sometimes desire, crave or imagine ourselves to be in one of the other two categories instead of the one that we are actually in.

“Idealized or heroic manner…”

If our real passion is in our food, granted this is a culinary world, and often it becomes a battlefield of wits, tempers, haves and have-nots, can and can not’s  success is all that matters. Although we may have the opportunity to “share that love”, and at times “lose the love”  in midst of getting my butt kicked on Saturday evening cleaning salmon on sauté  because enough wasn’t prepped instead of expediting like I should be…yeah, then it’s not pretty. But these things I understand. Do I condone them or wear a happy face? Probably not. Failure is not an option, and near failure is a stressful situation no matter what color you paint it. Our passion should insure that failure is never a question, and it is never an option. If we figure out the systems and abide by them in order to ascertain our success then little else matters. Focus on your art by mastering your craft!!!!

Do I romanticize my craft?


I may not love jobs that I may find myself in, (although there have been quite a few that I actually loved), I will always love food and love the fact that I am somewhat good at expressing my craft.

Webster’s had a good definition of romanticism. “…in art and literature, imaginative and free from classic rule…” Welcome to the world of the CheffyBoy…

Why not romanticize something or someone you love?

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