I jotted these down last week. Many people I know have romantic notions about what it’s like to work in a restaurant. HAHAHA. Professional kitchens are run with a precision, rigorousness and hierarchical structure that is like the military.
Friends of mine, especially writers dismayed by the current state of journalism, periodically express a desire to ditch their current profession and do something else — like work in the food world. It makes sense. You love to cook. Doing it professionally sounds like a dream. Maybe you’re imagining yourself sipping a glass of red wine while lazily rolling out fresh pasta dough, like you’re Marcella Hazan, with the Tuscan hills as a backdrop. Adorable. But not reality. After apprenticing in a pro kitchen (which has been a fantastic experience), let me disabuse you of those notions. You’ll be on your feet 10 (or more) hours a day. You’ll be assigned lots of difficult, tedious, repetitive tasks. (Ever picked 100g of thyme? Or minced a crate of onions? Or fabricated 40 chicken thighs?) You’ll come home simultaneously bone-tired and wired. Still sound good?
1. You get annoyed with the person doling out samples at Costco and have to restrain yourself from saying, “You’re doing it wrong. Let me work your station!”
2. You drink ice water out of plastic deli containers. You eat food out of deli containers. You store food in deli containers. Deli containers for everything.
3. You habitually refer to everyone as “chef.”
4. You use “mise” as a verb.
5. You constantly reach for your side towel and feel weirdly naked without it.
6. You have to stop yourself from saying “behind” and “hot” everywhere you go.
7. You’re never stupid enough to walk with a knife that’s not held down, at your side.
8. You threaten to cut anyone who touches your knife or Joyce Chen scissors.
9. You obsessively wipe every counter, stove, plate and surface before you can sit down to eat, no matter how much your bae asks, “Can you please stop and sit down already?”
10. Whenever ANYONE in ANY kitchen ANYWHERE (and this includes your home) asks you ANY question, you instinctively and automatically say, “Yes, chef.”
1. You don’t understand why someone would be offended by you saying, “Hot behind!”
2. You’ve inadvertently learned Spanish, but it’s not a Spanish you would ever dare use in front of a priest.
3. Watching TV “chefs” cutting things with creative knife holds makes you physically violent.
4. Even if you live in a shoebox of an apartment and only cook ramen noodles (because, let’s be honest, nobody wants to go home after all day in a kitchen and cook a gourmet meal), you have a set of prep bowls in your cabinet.
5. You go to a dinner party where they serve roast chicken and have to restrain yourself from asking for the carcasses to make stock. There is never enough stock.
6. You go out to a restaurant and can tell when the back-of-house staff is in the weeds even without looking at your watch.
7. You won’t cook barefoot in your home kitchen. Or in open-toed shoes. That’s how accidents happen.