50 Things They Never Told You About Being a Chef

When people are thinking of taking their first steps into kitchens, many around them are quick to give advice. They will warn of the toil involved, the strength of character and the stamina that are needed, the long hours… But however much warning is given, one is always quick to disregard it and shrug one’s shoulders because really, how hard can it be?
 
Every year, cooks come and cooks go; eager at the start but quickly disenchanted and just as eager to get out. Only a small percentage of people who walk into the world of gastronomy stay there once faced with this harsh environment.
What you can expect from making a living in a professional kitchen:
1       You’ll almost always have open wounds on your hands and arms.
2       You’ll never meet new people because your social life deteriorates into non-existence.
3       You’ll find it hard to start relationships because alone time will become a precious thing.
4       You’ll lose your social skills.
5       Your sense of humor will degrade into the politically incorrect and socially unacceptable.
6       You’ll eventually start swearing like a sailor and you won’t even notice yourself doing it.
7       You’ll turn into an anorak/monomaniac and always turn all conversations back to food.
8       You’ll earn a pittance for years/decades.
9       You’ll either lose a vast amount of weight or gain a vast amount of weight.
10    You’ll never ever have a tan ever again.
11    You won’t become famous.
12    You’ll develop a habit, whether it is coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, cannabis, cocaine, or even red bull.
13    Your feet will get destroyed.
14    Your back will get destroyed.
15    Your hands will get destroyed.
16    You’ll live in a constant state of sleep deprivation, indefinitely.
17    You’ll have to ask your friends to plan everything around your schedule, which is in complete opposition with their availability, because you never know your days off in advance and you probably won’t be able to change it.
18    You’ll become of a very highly strung nature
19    You’ll become more prone to temper flare ups
20    Your awareness of other people’s lack of efficiency and common sense will increase and your tolerance of it will decrease.
21    You’ll spend the largest part of your life cooped up in a small, undecorated room with poor ventilation, high temperatures, a lot of noise, humidity, no natural light and no windows, with a small group of people who will become your only social interactions.
22    You will work longer hours than you ever imagined possible or thought legal.
23    You will spend all your waking hours on your feet, never getting a chance to sit down even for 5 minutes.
24    Your shortest work days will be longer than most people’s longest, and your longer work days, which make up about half of your working week, will be longer than the average person is awake in a day.
25    You will not cook gourmet dinners at home. You’ll be too tired, and too fed up of cooking.
26    You will probably start eating mostly fast food and cheap instant noodles.
27    You will be the subject of abuse, whether physical or emotional. Officially, it will be as a test of character. In reality, it will be as a form of entertainment.
28    You will end up spending so much time at work that your colleagues will know you better than your partner/family/friends do.
29    You will meet and form strong bonds with types of people whom you’d previously never even have imagined sharing conversations with.
30    You will be in a constant state of stress.
31    You will never be irreplaceable and will be expected to constantly give 110%.
32    You will always be exhausted.
33    You will not be allowed to call in sick for a hangover.
34    You will be expected to place your work before any other part of your life in your list of priorities.
35    You will never be congratulated on your work.
36    You will be expected to treat your superiors as absolute masters and never answer back, try to explain yourself, start a conversation, or show any other type of insubordination, even if you know that they are in the wrong or feel as if their behavior towards you is unacceptable.
37    It will become very difficult to watch friends cook.
38    Your mum will stop cooking for you because she feels embarrassed.
39    You will be expected to cook for family gatherings such as Christmas EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Luckily, at least one year out of two, you will be working on Christmas.
40    At least one year out of two, and maybe every year, you will work Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, Valentine’s day, Mother’s day, Father’s day, bank holidays, Halloween, your birthday, and pretty much every other day of celebration on the calendar.
41    You will have to work many years in menial positions before attaining any level of authority in the workplace.
42    The better the restaurant is, the longer the work hours become, the more pressure you end up under, the more unhealthy your lifestyle will  become, the more likely you will be to develop a habit, the more competitive the people around you will become, the less sleep you’ll get, the less you’ll eat etc.
43    You will constantly make mistakes, and every time you do make a mistake, someone will notice it and make you understand that you are clearly a subhuman because only a subhuman could make such a mistake.
44    If you are a woman, you will constantly be the subject of misogynist remarks and jokes, sexual harassment, belittlement and remarks about your menstrual cycle.
45    None of your friends or family will understand what is involved in your work and you will never be able to make them understand.
46    You will spend vast amounts of money on equipment, books, eating in good restaurants etc., which will leave you with not much money for other things.
47    You will develop a creepy obsession with knives.
48    If you are a pastry chef, you will develop a creepy obsession with spoons.
49    You will get a rash in your are crack from the mixture of heat, sweat and friction that will not heal well, sometimes get infected, will mostly always be slimy and itchy and will be there most of the time.
50    If you are the right type of person, you will thank your lucky star every single day for the rest of your life for making you take the best decision you ever did and become a chef. And you will fall in love with your job and never look back.
Many thanks to Chloe Chandless for this great article

7 Comments

  1. CalRose42

    I went into cooking school and worked a line with like 20 of us in the class. We only had one dish to serve up each. It was awful and all of these things came into my sight. I will never introduce myself into a kitchen again. But am so thankful for all the knowledge I gained. However, I still can't watch others cook very well.

  2. Anonymous

    Almost a decade in kitchens broke me (and my marriage) – almost a year in the civvie world and I still don't know how to cope without the various aspects of kitchen life. I've broken the habits, lost the weight, started trying to socialize again, but often I miss the pressure of a busy Friday night. The high of pushing out dishes like there's no tomorrow, getting that high turnover and breaking a previous sales record without shooting food cost through the roof. I miss having co-workers that read my moods like a sailor reads the weather. I miss the bleary-eyed joy of opening a kitchen six hours after I closed it down. I miss the shouting, the swearing, the sexism, the debauchery. Most of all I miss the pride of cooking a dish that I would almost not want to serve, knowing that such perfection will never be in my grasp again, only to pull it off twenty minutes later with the same fierce pride.I will likely never get back into kitchens. My life is better now, living among the normal people, a 9-5 job, sleeping 8 hours a night and not going to alternating nic fits and caffeine fueled rages. I have a social life. I am balanced, and my hands aren't bleeding or cracked from dishwater. So why do I miss it?

  3. Chef Chris Colburn

    It's physics!The professional kitchen is a complex system that shows sensitivity to initial conditions, like having all of your mise en place. In such systems, any uncertainty (no matter how small) in the beginning will produce rapidly escalating and compounding errors in the prediction of the system's future behavior. To make an accurate prediction of long-term behavior of such systems, the initial conditions must be known in their entirety and to an infinite level of accuracy. In other words, it is impossible to predict the future behavior of any complex system.The chaotic system of the kitchen appears to be disorderly, even random. But it is not. Beneath the random behavior is a sense of order and pattern. In the long run, a sense or order and pattern helps us understand our universe. Even if our universe happens to be a small, undecorated room with poor ventilation, high temperatures, a lot of noise, humidity, no natural light and no windows, with a small group of people who will become your only social interactions.

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