Ahh, as I awaken from my slumber of non blogging hibernation, I’m enlightened to write about my journey from line cook to chef. More specifically, a front row soldier of physical battle in the trenches to learning the stresses and challenges of management and political communication.
You know, it’s funny. When I was a line cook I always thought my chefs that came out of the office exhausted wanting to go home was the funniest thing. I would laugh to myself in my head and think, “What’s so tiring about sitting all day putting numbers in the computer and going to meetings?” I’m over here running like my life depends on it, prepping shit non stop, doing crazy orders, cleaning up my blood after a deep cut, cringing at the oven burn on my wrist, wiping my sweat from my forehead so it doesn’t get on the plate, and remembering to breathe and drink tons of water.
And then I got off the line. We FINALLY hired enough cooks that were good enough to follow the high quality standards that my kitchen so proudly stands behind.
At first, I was lost. My head knew only to prep, to help the line cooks, and to cook. I’m not gonna lie - I love this life. I would be happy doing this forever. But I also want my own restaurant. With my own team of badass cooks. Badass servers. Badass food runners. Where we make profit. Cost things correctly. Deal with the media and guests properly. Know how to resolve problematic situations correctly. And the only way I’m going to know how to run all that is if I keep moving up and learning the true business aspect of running a successful operation.
In the old days, I would go home happy knowing I busted my ass all night and plated everything beautifully and without flaw. Now I go home happy knowing I led my team to success, came up with the right solutions for all the wildcards, and convinced all the bigwigs what we’re doing for the business through our department is what we should be doing.
As I expedite and communicate to my cooks what to put up and what to work on and what to re-plate and what to improve on, I remember when I was the one getting yelled at and told what to do. I see my cooks high five and fist pound each other after a gnarly service, and I grin with my soul because I know that feeling. I remember it like it was yesterday. Yes, I miss being in the trenches. But I’m just happy knowing my cooks are continuously learning and growing.
Meetings, side projects, one-on-ones with your employees, paperwork, numbers, scores, surveys, health department, licenses, guests engagement, schedules, write ups… This shit gets to you. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to talk to anyone, and that’s the day where everyone needs your advice. But that’s your job now. It may not be as fun as sautéing four pans of brussel sprouts, searing scallops and halibut on your flat top, frying fries, heating up your purees, grilling meats, melting cheese, and doing all your own plating and garnishing - but it will be well worth it in the end. ‘Cause I know once I get what I want, I can do what I want - run the business and be on the line. Plenty of chefs do it.
Wylie Dufresne worked his fish station every freakin’ night of service at WD-50 in New York. The only time he wasn’t was when he was out of town doing a demo for another kitchen or some other important off site project. That’s dedication. That’s passion. When you love what you do, it’s not really considered “work.” It’s more like… “life.”
And that’s a life worth living.