THINGS THAT ARE ANNOYING ME AT THE MOMENT
Why I love being a cook, and why it annoys me when other cooks just don’t try…
I have been working in and out of the restaurant industry since I was 14 years old. Doing some quick math that means that for the past 18 years I have been part of this macabre brotherhood of fellow cooks who slave away in sweltering kitchens in order to serve good food to hungry people.
Why do we do it? For the Money? I doubt it, most average kitchen jobs pay a few bucks north of minimum wage. For the glory, and fame? Nope. Although, with the recent emergence of celebrity chefs, it is has become somewhat glamorous to work in a kitchen, but unfortunately, that glamour is bestowed onto a minute percentage of the hundreds of thousands of nameless people preparing food in America’s thousands of kitchens. So what, what could it possibly be..? well for some it is just a job, a way to earn money to pay bills. And in my experience there are a number of those people lurking in kitchens, putting the bare minimum of effort into preparing boring food, that people will not remember even seconds after the last bite has crossed their lips.
I like to believe that those cooks are in the minority. In my years of passing through countless kitchens, I have met some of the most meticulous, prideful and passionate artisans of a trade I have ever come across. Most cooks want to produce good food.. they want people to eat it and be satisfied, to have their taste buds come alive, to exclaim to their friends.. “you have to try this..”. This is the reward for getting up early and spending countless hours prepping, and working nights and weekends and holidays, and missing out on time with our families.. to produce something that someone will remember, and to take pride in it.
We are becoming a society of consumers, and every day getting further and further away from people who make things.. and take pride in it. It is a shame. I love working in kitchens, it is long, hot, hard and often thankless work, but it is all worth it when just one person tells you how good their food was.. how satisfying it was, how it reminded them of the meatballs their mom used to make.. it is something that most cooks take very seriously.
It is why I cook still, part time, even though I work full time M-F at a job that pays well, but bores me to death. Which is why I have included this rather depressing picture of a bowl of french onion soup. It is something that is so simple, yet can be so delicious. A coming together of a few very humble ingredients to make something wonderful, and salty, and cheesy, and crunchy. Essentially some sauteed onions, in some beef stock with maybe some thyme, and sherry.. with a crouton floating atop, covered with a piece of Swiss cheese that has been melted under a broiler so it bubbles, and melts down the side. Perfection achieved through simplicity and honoring a few basic ingredients.
Instead, at a not to be named restaurant, I received this.. some onion water, with a few stale croutons and a cold piece of cheese on top. This is not French onion soup. After dropping it on my table, I asked the waitress if the cheese was supposed to be melted.. to which she replied.. “Oh yeah, I forgot to put it in the microwave..” Sigh. I told her to leave it, I ate it with about as much enthusiasm as a child eats broccoli. To be honest the soup wasn’t half bad, it was just disappointing as a whole. Restaurants and cooks out there, do me a favor, if you can’t do something right, or with an ounce of pride or care.. just don’t do it.. don’t put it on your menu, don’t try and fail; because you owe it to the people who come in and pay for your food, which pays your salaries, to care and provide quality.
And most importantly you owe it to yourself to take pride in the fruits of your labor, to taste and adjust seasoning, to wipe the edge of that plate, to refire that piece of chicken when you hear your self about to say,”its not that bad”.. it is, and to put that French onion soup under the broiler you have in your kitchen, instead of in the microwave.. come on, do the right thing, it feels better.