04 August, 2014

water under the bridge and rising

      line cooking is an art and profession. the best compliment i heard from a chef when he mentioned another chef is 'he's a good line cook'. aspiring for a career in the field always begins with 'i want to be a chef like ____'. fill in the blank with any celebrity chef or local hero. people forget the basics when undertaking a career in cooking. line cooking is like a sport, not everyone who plays basket is gonna be like Micheal Jordan. not that i advocate mediocrity at any level. i just never aspired to be a hero or perhaps along the way deferred that dream in the face of reality.

       i have worked in the industry since i was 17. i'm a good cook, a dishwasher, a basic maintenance man, a kitchen cleaner, an opener, a closer, and  a gracious host when called out the kitchen. i can bring home the bacon, tell you where to get at a decent price and at the best quality, then fry it up in a pan. being a cook means that i am 'the food guy' at cocktail parties. people ask me for recipes and then tell me that they love food too much to choose it as a profession. my job sometimes entails the tedium of paperwork.  i make an inventory list and hand count every item in the kitchen. i write training manuals and recipes with food costs and weights and measurements. i prepare specs for every item on the menu and even photograph the items before i send them on to other cooks. i order food for parties and estimate how many people can be served with a banquet or platter of appetizers. it's a job and it's work.
     i have been known to work until midnight and then be back in the kitchen at seven the next morning. i can spend a week prepping for a event and then work the event for 3 days straight. I have portioned, prepped and cooked 700 lbs of lutefisk over a weekend event at a college. I see the procedures and the flow of the kitchen in my head when the room is bare and equipment hasn't even been purchased to fill the space. it's a mindset and i can function in the middle of room of sweaty angry people and still find peace in my craft. I have worked in 120 degrees and worn moist towels out the freezer for  cooling.

What i haven't done is appear on TV or get my name mentioned in a review.  i am humble when i need to get the work done and make my boss look good. a local chef after i congratulated him for winning an award told me 'they must have been drunk when they gave that to me'. this is cooking and eating and dancing, i coudn't wish for a more vital profession. i hardly ever sit down and when i do i get nervous like a caged animal. i keep moving and thinking and looking for a better way to serve food. i read and look at pictures and hang out with my peers when i can, but they understand when i can't make it because i have a job to do.  Sure, aspire to greatness but let the celebrities do their thing on TV, that's not line cooking.