Do chefs ever get to a point where chopping onions don't make their eyes tear up? Do they ever build up a tolerance/just get used to it or are there chefs that are forever cursed with teary eyes during prep?
This is a great question and the best answer I can give you is that everyone is different. Some people have a unique sensitivity to strong odors and no amount of exposure can desensitize that feeling. When onions are cut they release a gas into the air. The gas comes into contact with our eyes and that causes the irritation that makes most people cry. As this is a natural, chemical reaction it’s really hard to say that it’s something anyone can just “get used to”.
There are a few ways to prevent or alleviate the reaction for those of us who are extra sensitive. Holding a matchstick between your teeth is a method lots of cooks and chefs will swear by, insisting that the sulfur at the end of the stick helps to neutralize the gases emitting from the onion. Storing onions in the refrigerator as opposed to keeping them in dry storage can also work to dampen the effects and some kitchens even go as far as soaking them in cold water for a few minutes before they have to be prepped for service. Any cook or chef worth their salt will know that the best way to avoid crying while cutting onions is to practice proper knife skills, keep the cut sides down on the cutting board whenever possible and most importantly, WORK FAST!!! Hope that helps!