More than friends, beyond being co-workers, and far more complex than just people who share a set of skills – cooks and chefs who work together become brothers and sisters.  I don’t know if it’s totally unique to the kitchen trades, but aside from the bonds of sporting teams or the unbreakable ties that those in the military, law enforcement, and fire departments share, being part of a kitchen family is quite unique.

Is it the love of food that creates this incredible link? The knowledge that they are working with ingredients that farmers, cattlemen, artisan cheese makers, fishermen, and vintners poured their lives into can be incredibly humbling – is this the reason?

Maybe, it’s the nature of the physical work. Functioning in a kitchen requires a strong back, sturdy legs, hands that grip like steel, and the endurance that is required to work hard under adverse conditions of heat, sweat, twelve-hour days on your feet, pivot steps, bending, and stretching constantly – is this the reason?

Or it might just be the constant stress that chips away at the cook’s psyche.  The pressure of time, the need to be consistent and precise, the knowledge that what each cook does impacts the work quality of everyone else.  The knowledge that an unhappy guest will likely not return and through their dissatisfaction will share their dismay with dozens of others – maybe, this is the reason.

There is, however, another logical factor.  Cooks are inherently creative people who have found a blank canvas that allows them to paint what they feel and express what they know for all to see and enjoy.  The canvas is the plate, and the menu provides the ingredients, and the palette of paints, to show this creativity.  In this, the team of cooks and chefs is united, focused, and interdependent.  Each pushing and supporting the other to constantly improve and put their signatures on the canvas.  Their goal and their reward are the return of clean plates from the dining room, smiling faces of guests, and the sound of laughter from happy diners.  Cooks inherently know that their art form is the most comprehensive.  More than painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, writers, or film makers – these artists have the chance to appeal to every human sense simultaneously.  What a thrill this is, what a humbling experience for a craftsperson.

These cooks and chefs spend a lifetime building an expansive portfolio of skills, striving like hell for the confidence that comes from competence.  They work, and work, and work until those skills are second nature.  These skills are one with the person and as such appear to be innate.  These same cooks, because of the nature of a kitchen environment, build a learning ecosystem where everything that one knows is public domain for everyone else.  They teach each other and as a result the whole becomes stronger, more productive, and fun. 

There are moments when things go sideways, but the family pulls together and adjusts.  There are times when the physical work and the stress are overwhelming, but the family supports and adjusts.  There are times when it’s hard to put one foot in front of the other, but the family is there to lift each other up.  On the other hand, there are even more instances when everything comes together like a perfect piece of music; when everything flows, and each person is in sync.  It is those moments that create a bond and an energy that is fulfilling and beautiful.  There are just as many times when each plate in the pass brings a smile to all involved, when the family knows that they are on point and the food is exceptional.  There are times when one person shines but knows that this is only possible because the others have created the environment for excellence.  It is moments like this that make cooks look forward to another day spent with special people, on a mission to create, support, learn, and express. 

These are the bonds of the kitchen, the things that make a group a team, and a team a family.  This is why many choose to make the kitchen their home and their fellow cooks, their adopted family members.

There are many times when cooks can align with the question posed by the former NFL coach, Marv Levy:

“Where would you rather be than right here, right now.”

Be something special, be a cook or chef!


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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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