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In the era of social media the term “friend” has been misconstrued. A Facebook friend is likely distant from the true definition that has been an essential part of a full life since the beginning of time. A social media friend is likely only a person who chooses, in the moment, to click on that designation displayed on a person’s page, but comes with little or no real connection between the two. If you think about the components of real friendship each of us would probably narrow down a friend list to those people we could count on both hands.

Friend: “a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person.”

-Webster’s Dictionary

The key element in this definition is “trust”. Trust is something that doesn’t come easy, it allows us to be exposed and transparent – it makes those people involved in friendship to be vulnerable, yet comfortable at the same time. How many people in your life do you truly trust?

Something unique happens in a kitchen, something that defies the norm while creating an environment that builds bonds of trust and vulnerability. It is this “something” that transitions a group of people into a cohesive team. This is what every chef strives to help create – this is an environment of friendship that leads to success.

So, why is the kitchen environment so unique in this regard (at least from my perspective)? Here are my thoughts:


The work, the challenges, the stress, the demand for consistency, the level of commitment that is required, the talent and skill, the fears, the joy of accomplishment, the terror of failure, the heat, burns, cuts, and aching feet culminate in an environment that is very difficult to describe and even more difficult to imagine unless you have been there. There is a bond that exists among those who tie on an apron, a bond that is universal. Cooks feel this connection with every other cook no matter where they work, what type of food they cook, which language they speak, and what part of the world they call home. There is a universal understanding among cooks.

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”

-Lucius Annaeus Seneca


What pulls individuals together in the bond of friendship is more often than not, some type of common interest. Due to the nature of the work, cooks think and talk about food and life in the kitchen – a lot. This common area of interest is the starting point and the lasting connection that feeds a friendship.


As much as cooks (most of them anyway) enjoy the work of cooking, there are common frustrations that pull at their commitment. The hours, the unpredictability of scheduling, the physical and mental work, the emotional nature of presenting their work for critique, and the inevitable stress of working under extreme conditions is another point of common interest. When cooks are not talking about food and cooking in a positive vein, they are complaining about those frustrations that they all share. This is something that friends do.


Let’s face it – if you are not in the restaurant business it is way too hard to be friends with a cook. They work obscene hours, they can never plan ahead, they think that they work harder than anyone else (might be true), they accentuate their conversations with more expletives than you thought were possible, and they have no patience for people who work at a “normal” job.   Only cooks accept this from other cooks.


It is hard to appreciate this unless you are a card-carrying member, but there is a club for cooks and chefs – a club without formal membership, without financial dues, without meetings and without any form of structure. This “club” is reserved for anyone who works in the kitchen – all are welcome. This club only requires a nod and a smile to another cook – this acknowledgement states that you know what they are going through and as such can enjoy a bond through experience. Although not every member will be your friend – the potential is there.

[]         SKILLS BIND

Just like in the trades, music, art, writing, and theater – cooks respect the skills that every other cook exhibits. They know what it takes to acquire and master these skills and feel a connection with those who dedicate themselves to gaining proficiency. At the same time – cooks have little patience for those who wear the uniform and fail to dedicate themselves to gaining the proper skills to perform at a high level.

[]         TRUST IS A FACTOR

Back to that “trust” factor: cooks who work together must develop a high level of trust in each other’s skills and commitment to excellence. When this trust is present then a few things happen: goals are achieved, the operation runs efficiently, and friendships are made.

“Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.”

-Isaac Watts


I am sure that other professions where non-traditional hours are a factor develop a bond that is a direct result of that form of isolation. When your shift begins in the morning and doesn’t end until midnight or later then you connect with those who share in this challenge. When you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, then there is a bond that is made out of necessity. Who else are you going to be friends with?


The language of the kitchen is developed out of necessity. We use acronyms, abbreviations, words that can’t be found in the dictionary, and a staccato delivery of these driven by the need for simplicity and effect. We use four letter words as nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives as a way of accentuating the emotion behind a communication and a release from the stress of the moment. Watch a cook attempt to mingle with a crowd of non-cooks and carry on a conversation – those around will look on with confusion and sometimes embarrassment. Only cooks will nod with approval and understanding when another cook has the stage.


Certainly cooking is an art form and those who prepare food – artists. Every, yes every, serious cook that I have known is an artist at heart – an artist looking for a medium of expression that works for them. Look around at how many cooks you know who play an instrument (maybe not too well), paint, draw, carve, write, or build. Cooking is a unique, tactile craft that serves as a perfect medium for that inner artist. Every day that a cook stands in front of a stove he or she is entering the world of the artist. At the same time, this artist, unlike any other, is able to appeal to every human sense and build an experience that others can enjoy at multiple levels. Knowing this is a bond that brings friendships to the surface.


Can you cook, are you dependable, will you have my back, and are you serious about your work? These are the defining characteristics of a team member, a fellow cook, and a friend in the kitchen. If you live up to these parameters then there is trust. Cooks do not care about anything else regarding your lifestyle – your likes and dislikes, your beliefs and your flaws. Cooks tend not to be judgmental.

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”

-Jim Morrison



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Restaurant Consulting and Training