This appears to be one of those times of reflection – a time when those hard working people in kitchens around the country are asking a simple question: “Why am I doing this?” The pandemic is not the cause of this period of questioning – it simply brought it to the forefront. Everyone that I know in this business has asked that question a few times in their life, and rightfully so. To not question is to ignore the possibility that maybe, just maybe there is something that you are better suited to do. That’s OK – we should all strive to find our niche – a place where we are happy and where we can make a difference. Of course we need to earn a living and support ourselves, and possibly a family, but beyond that we all have an innate desire to find our place.
I for one have been and will continue to be very happy with my career choice and the opportunities that continue to arise as a result of my decision to focus on food. I feel fortunate to call many of my friends – equal advocates for a great decision in this regard. There have been moments when that decision wasn’t clear, and there have been moments when I considered looking in a different direction, but those moments were fleeting and I jumped right back in. I have always found that being methodical about career decisions served me well, so why not share my approach with others? So, here is a good exercise that will allow you to assess where you are and where you might turn.
- Do you spend more days looking forward to kitchen work or do you constantly dread another day?
- Do you look forward to the chance to work with other talented people who have the ability to create on the plate?
- Do you find working with people of different nationalities, races, cultures, and beliefs to be inspirational?
- Do you feel privileged to work with the ingredients that come from farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and artisans?
- Do you find satisfaction in creating something tangible each day that reflects on the skills that you have acquired over time?
- Do you enjoy cooking for the benefit of others?
- Do you find physical work to be gratifying?
- Are you a person who relishes organization and planning?
- Are you proud to wear a uniform that represents a history of cooks and chefs who came before you?
- Do you relish an environment where there is a need for structured discipline?
- Do you consider yourself to be artistic and a person looking for a medium to express yourself?
- Do you enjoy accomplishing goals as part of a team?
If you answer yes to all or most of these questions then it is very likely that working with food is something that will always satisfy you. If you feel forced to step away because of the negatives that certainly do exist: long hours, unpredictable schedules, far too modest pay scales, a lack of benefits, etc., then know that any other choice of career will leave you a bit empty. My advice is to look around and seek out the numerous opportunities to work with food in different operations or in related fields that can satisfy your innate, intangible needs as well as those tangible ones that help with the physical requirements of life. Don’t give up on what you are destined to do.
We can, and maybe should unite in finding ways to help the restaurant industry finds its groove and finally address what drives good people away. It is a challenge that we all must share. We can all help to find ways for operations to become more efficient and profitable so that some of the challenges listed can be addressed. Let’s think about making 2021 and beyond a time when we collectively own the problems and commit to finding solutions. Let’s not give up on what we are meant to do with a career. Hang in there!
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
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