I have been a chef for over 34 years now. That is a long time in a very demanding profession. Over the years, I have been asked many questions such as, “I can really cook do you think I am a chef? ” (No). “I have been told that I throw great dinner parties, do you think I should open a restaurant?” (No). “Would you like me to share my mother’s recipe to you for use in your restaurant?” (NOOO!!). “Do you cook at home?” (Of course I do, I have to eat also!).
It’s all good though. I know it is all about being part of the profession. I am sure other professions endure the same type of questions. I really feel for what doctors have to endure. But my least favorite question that I was asked repeatedly was, “What is your specialty?”
A fellow chef shared the following with me a few years ago and I was a little pissed that I didn’t write it, but it really nails what being a chef truly is. I was reminded of this letter today when I had one staff member on vacation and another chose to call in sick. So I really had to chef it today!
“I’m a chef” I say.
“Oh! What’s your specialty?” they always ask.
My “Specialty”…? I’m a chef, I said.
My specialty is maintaining peace among a staff of professionals, immigrants, part-timers, waiting on my real job-ers, burnouts, disgruntles and people genuinely motivated by service.
My specialty is knowing how to do everyone’s job so they respect me but also at the blink of an eye I could be pulling their function as they are pulling that crumpled suit out of the closet, for the job search has begun yet again.
My specialty is delivering high quality food in a timely manner within the constraints of archaic equipment, new fads, ancient techniques all while abiding by the unfair, unrealistic, ever-changing demands of the health department.
My specialty is receiving the same products every other chef across the world receives but somehow convincing you to come eat mine. Taking ingredients that are already expensive, putting them together & somehow trying to squeeze every possible nickel out of it.
My specialty is being impervious to burns. Using duct tape as a band-aid. Standing, running, pacing within the same 10 foot square for 16 hours at a time. Specializing in walking without a limp although my ankles feel broken, my knees pop with every step & my back is one gigantic (albeit muscular…very muscular) cramp.
My specialty is sleeping very little. Waking when a lot of people are going to bed. Never seeing the sunlight during the holidays. Working countless days in a row. Being the first in & the last to leave.
My specialty is actually having fun in such a high demanding, stressful job. Taking pride in a job well done. Seeing doubt in people’s eyes sometimes & somehow pulling it off.
I’m a Chef, I said.
That IS my specialty.
I could not have said it better…