Everybody can cook, or so they believe.
That was one of the first things I was taught when I started in the hospitality industry training as a chef almost 30 years ago. Be it beans on toast, cheese on toast or Weetabix on toast (a personal favourite) everybody CAN cook to a certain degree and therefore they feel qualified to critique anything they eat which has been cooked by others.
You could have toiled in a kitchen for hours preparing a dish for that evening but if it’s a dish Joe Bloggs could cook at home then it will be compared to their efforts, so make sure it’s damn good so there’s no reason for complaints.
You’ll be working when everybody else is having fun
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys their weekends out, evenings at home watching TV, a family wedding, birthday party, Christmas Dinner followed by a hangover the morning after then you can forget about being a Chef. You will be working on all the important holidays to cater for those people who want to go out and have a good time. You won’t be able to make plans for 9pm because you may end up working until midnight because the kitchen porter phoned in sick (yeah right) and you need to clean down after a busy shift.
But it looks like fun on the telly
You’ve all seen the TV shows where the Chefs are running around calling out orders and there’s flaming pans in the background, Chefs are bringing individual items to the pass for the Head Chef to plate up. It all looks very exciting doesn’t it!! The reality is that you will probably be the one being shouted at, you will be the one sweating and getting ‘Chefs arse’ (Google it), and it will be the Head Chef who gets all the recognition and glory whilst you’re rubbing cream between your butt cheeks.
Pressure, you ain’t seen nothing yet
I remember my first Head Chef position in a seaside hotel, the hotel was fully booked, on top of this we had a sit down wedding for 120 followed by a buffet reception for 250 in the evening. We also had over 70 booked in the restaurant that evening. Due to staff shortages it ended being myself and my Second Chef Andy doing the whole lot on our own. The wedding party were late sitting down which knocked on to the restaurant service starting late. You get to a point where the stress manifests into laughter and you just get your head down and smile, we finished around 2:30am and had to be back at 6am for the breakfast shift. After that day in the kitchen myself and Andy are still very good friends 25 years later. The unexpected will always raise it’s head in the kitchen and you’ll need to anticipate these eventualities if you plan on keeping sane and not killing a waiter mid-shift.
Why should I become a Chef?
If you love to create dishes, if you love an active lifestyle, if you thrive under pressure, if you don’t mind working a ridiculous amount of hours for poor pay then this could be the job for you.
It’s rewarding in it’s own unique way but you HAVE to commit everything to it in order to enjoy the rewards. You can’t just think you’re going to be a top Chef by working 8 hours a day 5 days a week, it doesn’t happen. When I started at college I was studying 40 hours per week and working in the trade 40–50 hours per week too. I wanted to gain as much experience as possible and was prepared to put in the hours to get it. You need this commitment, going to college only, and then expecting some fantastic job with no practical real life experience is not going to happen either. College will teach you the basics but it will not teach you how those basics work in a working environment.
If you really want to be a Chef then give it go, but be under no illusions, it is not a glamourous job, certainly in the early years of your career. You will need to work hard but the personal rewards can far outweigh working in an office. You don’t hear a bank clerk after a busy shift say to themselves ‘damn I done well tonight’.
The most important thing to remember in my opinion is this
If you don’t enjoy then get out, it’s only your passion for the job which will make you a great Chef, if you’ve lost that passion then you need to stop!!!