By: Chef Rick Powless
As a Chef, we are creatures of habit. What we do, what we say and what we think is very much a part of who we are. Our mannerisms reflect who we are. We are tattooed, pierced, potty-mouthed “kitchen pirates”; passionate, dedicated, skilled and loyal to a fault…to our craft.
When we are happy, everyone around us feels the sun beating down on them like a hot summer day. The beer is cold, the sand is silky smooth, and the cool breeze blows through your hair. When we are angry, pissed off and agitated…well, hell freezes over, everyone around us scurries past looking down, not making eye contact as if the ice-cold glare of the Chef’s eyes will pierce through you like Neptune’s trident. When we are embarrassed, insulted and hurt, we will find someone to blame. Our pride, our egos do get in the way more than not. As it is said, “When a lion is chasing you, all that matters is you’re faster than the slowest member”.
Why does all of this matter? Why would I go through this explanation as to the emotional instability of a Chef? Because it matters. It matters to the customer, both FOH & BOH. It matters to our friends and family. It matters to those who know us and call us acquaintances. This can determine the atmosphere of the working environment. A good Chef will always prevail when it gets tough, when things go awry. We do know it affects all those around us which is why we take what we do so seriously…though, on a day-to-day basis, you wouldn’t know it by how we talk, act and treat one another. But that’s for another time to discuss.
We care about those that we serve. After all, our reputations, our pride (and yes, our ego) is based on your experience and your satisfaction of our refined dishes, presented like a Michael Angelo painting, intoxicating to your every sense. We study hard to understand what is asked of us. Years of schooling, years working our way through the brigade system, working in cafes, diners, golf courses, steak houses and banquet halls. Working for angry, miserable chefs and/or working for amazing chefs who mentor, support and assist in our growth. When finally, we achieve that pedestal we call Chef/Executive Chef.
We are perfectionists, whether we are willing to admit it or not. A customer letting us know that they truly enjoyed our offering is like getting sent home early when it’s dead. So, when a Chef asks if you enjoyed your meal, if everything was to your satisfaction it isn’t because we are needy and need to be coddled or babied. We are not thin skinned (just ask our kitchen staff) and can take criticism. It’s not because we are insecure and have no confidence. Yes, it sounds like we require our egos to be padded and maybe a part of it is just that. We take pride in our craft and we are always willing to step up to the plate and give you the experience that we create with each and every dish. When we ask it is because we want to know that what we presented showcased the best of who and what we are…professionals.