At this time, when it seems so easy to complain, to point fingers, to question, and sometimes even to bail on a career in the kitchen – I offer these insights for a professional cook:
I am a cook, hear me roar
*I am proud to be a cook, and to be a caretaker of beautiful ingredients from the land, the sea, and the air.
*I am proud to wear the uniform of the cook and know that it represents a proud tradition of one of the world’s oldest professions.
*I am protective and proud of the tools I use. My knives are an extension of my hands and I respect and care for them making sure that they are sharp and clean and used for their intended purpose.
*I am fully aware that my future as a cook or chef lies in my hands. I can be whatever I hope to be – the world is and always has been my oyster.
*I know that success results from hard work, it is never a given. My future depends on how hard I am willing to work to get there.
*As a proud cook I know that my skills are important but will fail to result in a great product without collaboration with others.
*I know that organization is paramount to success.
*I understand that my role is to respect the ingredients I use and coax out the flavor and nutrition that is already there.
*I know that great cooking comes from an understanding of the culture, traditions, methods, trials and tribulations, and celebrations behind a cuisine or a dish.
*I know that the only way to become truly masterful at my craft is to practice, practice, practice.
*As a cook I understand the importance of respect for others, respect for the chain of command in the kitchen, and respect for the foundations of cooking.
*I know that cooking and giving people a chance to break bread is a gift that keeps on giving.
*I know that hard work and smart work must go hand-in-hand.
*As a cook I understand that my growth to the position of chef will take time, experience, wins and losses, joy and sorrow, and a willingness to listen and learn.
*I know the satisfaction that comes from a dish well prepared and presented.
*As a cook I understand the importance of a well-rounded palate and know that it will take time to develop, even if I seem to have the gift of developed taste buds.
*As a cook I respect those who have been able to benefit from a formal culinary education but realize that they too will need to experience day-to-day kitchen intensity before they can celebrate their ability.
*As a cook I understand just how important every person in the kitchen and dining room is to our collective success.
*As a cook I will never discount the importance of the dishwasher.
*I live to work clean and am proud of the fact that no one ever need remind me to clean as I go.
*I understand that mise en place is the key to success on the line.
*I understand that serving the food that I prepare is also stressful and demanding so I respect those who do so with enthusiasm and professionalism.
*As a professional cook I know that everyone is equal, some simply have different jobs. Whether white or of color, young or old, male, or female, college educated or from the school of hard knocks, short, small, tall, thin, or heavy, American born or from any of the hundreds of countries around the globe – as long as you work hard and respect others – I will respect you.
*I am an artist who uses the plate as a canvas.
*I have burns, cuts, sore muscles and backs, and many insecurities that I try to work out daily, but so do you – so I shouldn’t invest too much energy in complaining.
*I know that with all the challenges that cooks face, all the perceived inequities, all of the scabs that cover the cuts beneath, this is a rewarding profession like no other.
*I know that a kind word goes a long way toward understanding and respect. I also know that vicious talk and demeaning attitudes will tear a team apart and leave far too many people without the confidence to perform well.
*As a professional cook I relish the opportunity to learn something new, to try a new food, to build my palate and advance my skill proficiency – this is what makes me stronger.
*I know the difference between critique and criticism. I embrace the prior and reject the later.
*I accept critique but feel that if others need to point out my mistakes it is because I was not paying attention. I know when I haven’t lived up to my own standards and when I fall short of the necessary skills required. Tell me what I need to do but show me how to do it and I will listen and learn.
All of this I know with certainty. This is the same as it always was and how it will always be for those who view working in a kitchen as a chance to grab the bull by the horns, determine where they want to be in the future, create a roadmap to get there, and stay the course. I ask myself every day: “Is what I am doing right now bringing me any closer to reaching my goals?” If the answer is “no” then it is time to self-correct.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Why do I cook – because it’s who I am
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
CAFÉ Talks Podcast