Many have pointed to the abuse of drugs and alcohol that seems far too commonplace among restaurant employees. It may be part of the culture, possibly a release from the accentuated stress that exists in kitchens, and it may simply be more visible yet just as prevalent in other careers. This does not take away from the reality of use and abuse. What those who point their finger fail to note are the non-chemical drugs that are just as commonplace in kitchens and a source of pride and very positive outcomes.
Some cooks and servers may choose to lean on drugs and alcohol to help them escape, forget, or celebrate, but in reality it is the achievements in life, the process of learning and growing, the chance to work with others, and the act of giving back that provide the greatest adrenaline high. Here are some thoughts on the best ways to feel good about you as a cook.
“One of the greatest pleasures of my life has been that I have never stopped learning about good cooking and good food.”
 THE DRUG OF SUPERB SKILLS
Some may view the accumulation of skills as a requirement of the job, and they certainly are correct, but, as a cook builds his or her skill level, so too does that same cook build confidence. Every time that cook adds something new to his or her bag of tricks there is a rush of adrenaline that is a direct result of that confidence. Whether it is a technique, speed, efficiency, or an added flavor profile – the cook is invigorated by competence. This feeling of competence is as intoxicating and addictive as caffeine – after a period of time the cook needs to feel the rush, so they continue to build on what they know and are able to do.
“Skill and confidence is an unconquered army.”
 THE DRUG OF SERVICE
Sure we talk about service as being the core of what we are about and a noble objective, but until a person really feels this they cannot measure the impact that service has on how they feel. True service providers – those who believe what they do helps to improve a person’s life, are invigorated when they are able to do so. Does the service of food help to improve a person’s life? Well – yes it does. When what you do puts a smile on a guests face – then life is improved. When what you do brings a little sunshine to another person’s challenging day – then life is improved. When you dedicate your time and skills to helping a person feel alive and well – then life is truly improved. This feeling of service to others is also addictive. When we give successfully, we are inspired to do more of the same.
 THE DRUG OF TEAM
I would dare say that anyone who has been a part of a team knows the feeling of being on the same page, working together for a common goal, accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and doing whatever it takes for each person to be successful. Winning as a team is a real adrenaline rush, losing, as a team can be humbling, but unifying in a different way. Similar to the work of a competitive football, basketball. baseball, soccer, or hockey team – being part of a kitchen crew that functions in unison is so invigorating that it draws cooks back day after day for a grueling battle on the line.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
– Amy Poehler
 THE DRUG OF GIVING BACK
“I am a huge believer in giving back and helping out in the community and the world. Think globally, act locally I suppose. I believe that the measure of a person’s life is the affect they have on others.”
As I have previously pointed out – the act of giving need not involve extensive amounts of time or effort, or monetary donations to help a worthy cause. More often than not – giving back can be as simple as showing another cook how a task is done properly, taking a moment to thank someone else for an effort they made in your behalf, donating a small amount of time to prepare a meal for someone in need, or offering an attentive ear to someone who simply needs a person to listen. There are few things in life that are more rewarding, more invigorating, and more important than giving back.
“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.”
– Napolean Hill
 THE DRUG OF ORGANIZATION
Good cooks are obsessive when it comes to organization. Mise en place isn’t a task; it is a way of life. Cooks understand full well that their success is very much dependent on the ability to organize and plan and when their mise is spot on then a smile comes into play, confidence is riding high, a sense of readiness and accomplishment over-ride the fear of the unknown once the printer starts ticking off orders, and good things do happen as a result. Mise en place is more than this – to cooks it becomes their philosophy, a way of life – how they interact with others and a definition of how the world must be to make them feel right. When they are organized, they are good.
“Everything has a place and everything is in it’s place = confidence and happiness.”
 THE DRUG OF WINNING THE BATTLE
There is no substitute for being part of a winning initiative, of winning the game, the battle, the project, or the goals that are set. When a cook finishes service and finds pride in the number of guests served, the satisfaction of great food from his or her station, a complement from the chef or paying guest, and the knowledge that his or her station was totally on fire (in a good way) then the feeling is physically, mentally, and emotionally charged.
When it comes to the work that we do as cooks and chefs – then much of what Coach Vince Lombardi said during his career holds true:
“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.”
It is that desire and the effort that accompanies it that makes us all feel proud to cook and willing to do the hard work necessary to accomplish goals. This attitude is our second cup of coffee, our feeling of purpose, and the spark of enjoyment that brings us back tomorrow.
 THE DRUG OF REPUTATION AND CHARACTER
It is always important to an individual that his or her reputation is strong among allies and foes. That feeling that we are good people is always more significant than being good at what we do. Others respect us and give a thumbs up to our reputation when we are of strong character and never falter from those stakes in the ground that define the kind of person we want to be and that we are. Above everything else – this is the fruit of our labor.
“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting and Training
*Second Photo: Part of the team at Quail Valley River Club
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