I’ve been asked on numerous occasions why I chose to pursue a career as a chef. I have spent a lot of time thinking about it and the short answer is, I thrive on chaos; or I’m just stupid.
Nobody looks good after cooking as a profession for 20 years. This field is physically and emotionally draining. You will be regularly riddled with burns and cuts. Your bones will ache. Your back and head will hurt. Your skin will start to break out like a 13 year old due to all the salt built up (due to sweat and the actually handling of salt every 30 seconds for your entire shift).
Your friendships will be strained, on Friday night when your friends are out at a show you will be covered in degreaser, scrubbing a flat top. Any romantic partner you have will also be joining a relationship with your career, they will marry your career. By the time I get off work my only options are bars, it’s no wonder this career breeds functioning alcoholics. Plating six dishes while five others are cooking and also retaining the next ten that are being yelled at you is stressful and exhausting. I am about to turn 26, I am constantly tired, I already have a bad back and knee (albeit that could be also due to the motorcycle wreck); yet here I am, spending my days off planning my own pop up that I will probably lose money on.
Yet there is no other life I would choose.
There are exceptions to this, corporate restaurants, culinary schools, etc. There are also plenty of people who cook just as a job, not a career; I am in no was discrediting these careers, however I am referring to a very particular sect of the culinary world. The people that thrive of this chaos. Who love the insanity. Adrenaline junkies looking for there next fix in the form of a perfectly emulsified hollandaise. The people who breathe food, dream of food and constantly think of food. The ones who constantly reasearch every new technique and dish they discover. It’s not a career choice, it’s an addiction, a disease, a madness.
For better or worse, this is the path I chose, until death do us part.
The following quotes sums it all up so well…
“I was attracted to cooking because it’s so beautiful; When you look at it from afar. What I didn’t understand when looking at the beauty is just how torturous it is, and that’s a lesson learned late.”
- Chef Dan Barber