It is so easy to fall into the trap of a stereotypical line cook. It seems, at times, written in stone that those who work in kitchens will be quick to point out other’s mistakes, easily angered, inflexible, excessive drinkers, lacking in balance, and outside of their job in the kitchen – somewhat irresponsible. We can deny it and point to examples of cooks who are always professional, kind, cool under pressure, and willing to listen, but face it – this is more the exception to the rule rather than the rule itself. Why is this?

The job is difficult: true; the hours are temperament crushing: sometimes; we can’t get the respect we deserve: maybe sometimes but respect must be earned; or we don’t get paid enough to be kind: really? In just about any profession one can find reasons to support volatile or inconsistent attitudes, but then again, there is no legitimate rationale for simply falling into a trap of the notorious line cook. There is little reward for the person who is unable or unwilling to break the mold and seek to be positive.

OK, so some will say: “The chef, the manager, or the owner is the reason why I lash out and add to the tension at work.” Sure, point the finger elsewhere – but this means that you are releasing any responsibility for your own actions. Some will say: “This is just the way it is in kitchens.” Again, you are failing to represent positive change and simply giving in to the temperament of the crowd, or the belief in horrible traditions. Is this the person you want to be? Does this help to correct any challenges that exist, or are you simply feeding those challenges with the fuel of acceptance and discontent?

Let’s assume a few things for the moment without the cloud of challenges that certainly do exist:

  • You started out in the kitchen because the craft is something that inspired you – something that made sense.
  • Creativity was always in the back of your mind – something that gave you purpose and drove you to learn about the art of cooking.
  • You felt at home in the kitchen; you thought that this was a space where you belonged and where you might stand tall and make a difference.
  • You are either very good at the job of cooking or well on your way to that point.

If we can assume this (and I believe that most cooks do relate to these assumptions) then a good starting point is reflecting on your initial reason for taking on that first job as cook. There was a spark of real interest – an intent to pursue this with enthusiasm. So WHY DID YOU ALLOW YOUR FEELINGS TO GO SOUTH? The key here is the word: “ALLOW”. Yes, your attitude toward the job and people of the kitchen is totally within your control. Stop blaming others for a decision you made to fall into the role of a stereotypical sometimes arrogant, angry, and unpredictable cook. This is not to infer that the challenges you face are not real. THEY ARE VERY REAL, but I am speaking of how you choose to face those challenges. As is often said: “you can choose to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.” Which will it be?

Here is something to chew on: based on numerous studies the following outcomes are associated with negativity and anger:

  • Outbursts of anger can put your heart at risk: outbursts will raise your blood pressure – one of the key contributors to heart disease.
  • This rise in blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke.
  • Anger and negativity can weaken your immune system: people who are constantly looking at their cup as half empty and tend to lash out at others with bursts of anger are frequently sick.
  • Anger and negativity are linked to a rise in anxiety levels: if you have ever experienced high anxiety or panic attacks you know how frightening and debilitating they can be.
  • Constant negativity and anger have been linked to inflammation in the lungs: this can impact your ability to breathe normally and can cause you to feel winded and fatigued.
  • Anger and negativity can ultimately shorten your life!

This doesn’t even address the fact that it takes all the fun out of the work that you were initially excited about – the work that you are good at. It doesn’t address the impact this has on your teammates, employer, and even customers. Your negativity and anger can be habit forming and can then be passed on to others who will experience the same trauma in their lives.

When negativity and anger become a habit, then it is only natural that the body and mind seek ways to release the pressure – oftentimes in an equally negative way. How many of you, or those you know, find release through lashing out, demeaning and insulting others, drinking to excess, using drugs, and eventually bouncing from job to job looking for someone else to “make things better for you”?

Try to break the stereotype and experience the difference it can make. Try saying “yes” far more often than “no”. Ask others: “how can I help?” Use the words: “I’m sorry” when it is appropriate, and mean it. Take a deep breath and ask yourself: “does this really matter” before you lash out in anger. Try seeing things from the other person’s perspective rather than assuming you are right and they are wrong. Try it for a day, a week, or go out and make the attitude adjustment for a month. See the difference it will make in your life, in your performance on the job, and in the “feel” of the kitchen.

Anger and negativity lead to depression and fear. Calmness and positive action lead to enjoyment and an open door to solving many of those challenges you face.

Life is too short to be a prisoner to negativity, to fall into the trap of the stereotypical angry cook, and to limit your ability to enjoy what you do while building your personal brand as a person who seeks to be “part of the solution”. YOU CAN CHOOSE to be different and to step into the shoes of a role model. This will pay you back tenfold and maybe even help with your health and wellbeing.


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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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