Few days ago, I stopped by an article on my FB wall. 50 things they never told you about being a chef. The bad sides and the very few good ones.
One day or another in my professional life I shared few points with this list, I still share some, I also stopped sharing others and finally some points I never shared at all.
I wanted to just translate this list into French, but finally I modified it a little bit by removing few points, keeping some and adding my own experience into it.
The True Story about Being a Chef
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. Oops, sorry, always wanted to be a chef. To me, being a chef was better than being anything else in the world. I don’t know why as I can’t say that my parents were food connoisseurs and good cooks at home. We never went to the restaurant together, my first time was in Narbonne with one of my aunt. So no backgrounds for me, but the desire to become a chef was deeply in my mind.
I was warned that it would be difficult, that it was a very hard work with long hours and so on. That it was stressful and tiring. I still remember my english school teacher in Sévigné (Narbonne) claiming in front of the whole classroom that I would never ever manage to survive in this work and that I was useless.
I did it, and I’m still working as a chef. I travelled, I lived in a country I always wanted to go – Ireland. I’ve seen different kind of people, of different social classes. I had friends from all over the world. I worked in good restaurants, in average ones too, and just few hours in dreadful shitholes….
So now I’m 40. I’m working as a chef since I’m 16 (with few years break for more studies), and I don’t regret my choice. Even if it’ not such an easy job, it’s not the worst either. So don’t take this list too seriously, relax, think about it, and have fun with it.
Never I would wish my children to work in a kitchen. I would encourage them to cook at home, to like it, to be really good for their family, friends, I would teach them how to enjoy food, how to choose quality over quantity, how to appreciate great food, good products, nice wine and beers, how to appreciate real whiskey. In fact, I would teach them how to appreciate the good things in life.
But I would never push them to choose my job. Too many sacrifices….
So think a little before starting you career as a chef. The road will be long and treacherous. Read all these points. But as I already wrote, take them with a little sense of humor.
Not everything is that bad. I love my job. I love to cook for others, I love to create new dishes, new menu. I loved the atmosphere in a kitchen, the fun with the waiting staff, the night out with everybody, drinking beers and getting drunk, I loved the stress during a service. But now, I’m getting a little too old, I like to be quiet….
- Your hands will be continuously cut, burned, skinned. An open book about your life in a kitchen
- Your back will be painful all your life
- You will always be tired
- If you had friends, you will loose them. You will never manage any more to meet them for a night out or a birthday party. Yes, it’s right, you will be working during the week ends, bank holidays, their holidays, Xmas, Easter, Sylvester, Valentine’s day… Just name it, and you’re sure work that day
- You will be so cranky, all the time, and you will have constant mood swings
- You will spend most of your life in a tiny room, noisy, smelly, horribly hot, greasy, sticky, with a bunch of people who will be your only social relationship in your life
- You will work a lot, really a lot, so much that you will wonder if it’s legal. By the way, there is a good chance that you work illegally one day or another
- Your social life will be inexistent, you will only know your team mates. You will work with them, go out with them, drink with them, even have sex with them. They will know you better than your friends or family do
- You will hardly meet new people
- You will loose your social skills
- You will addicted to one of the following: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, even red bull (in Poland, they only drink that in kitchen)
- The only time of the day you will be able to sit down will be in the toilets
- Your working days will be longer than any of the working days of your normal friends
- Your shortest working day will be longer than the longest working day of your normal friends
- Your longest working day will be longer that half of a working week of a french civil servant, even more
- You will become either skinny, either fat
- You will eat all the time, at any hour of the day
- You will always be under pressure, you will be anxious, stressed
- You will always be asked to constantly give 110%
- You will make mistake, but you can’t. In case you made one, there is always someone who will show you how shitty you are
- You will never be sick, ever
- You will be expected to place your work before your social life, your partner, friends, children. Which in fact won’t be that difficult because you already don’t have a social life
- Anybody with more responsibilities than you is God, don’t argue with them
- If you’re at someone’s else place, and they are cooking, and you want to help them by providing some advices. Forget about it. They will take in a bad way
- You will have to work so many years in menial positions before even attaining some kind of responsibilities and authority in your work place
- Before that, you will be humiliated, you will be treated like shit, you will be yelled at…
- The better the restaurant, the longer the hours, the smallest the wages…
- If you are a woman, beware, it’s a man world. You will have to work much harder and better than men. And they will laugh at you.
- Nobody around you will ever undesrstand how difficult being a chef is. It looks so easy and lovely on TV.
- Your partner will not understand you, your state of mind, or why you always work. If you find someone who does understand and accept. Keep her! Don’t drop her!
- And then, she or he will tell you when you’re back from work that you are smelly, sticky, greasy. That your breath stinks garlic, onions…
- The only Xmas you will have off in 10 years, your family will ask you to cook for them
- And when you will eat with them, or with friends, they will stare at you waiting for your opinion on the dish that was just served
- Everybody in your entourage will expect you to have in your brain all the recipes ever created by human kind
If beside all these points, you still want to be a chef. Go for it, don’t look back, persevere, don’t give up. It’s worth it big time. Because after all these years of hard work, working countless hours, I would not change it if I had to go back to the past. I don’t regret anything because at the end of the day, it’s still a good damn job.
And my wife loves when I’m off and she comes back from work, that dinner is ready, waiting for her.
NB : I’m working in Poland where the working system is really different than all the other countries I worked in. Here, we have a 2 days on, 2 days off system. So it gives me lots of free social time with my wife, my friends and also to practice my other big hobby – photography. And I also have some Week Ends off, at least one a month.