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No—don’t say it! August 20, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here (again). Just yesterday, I was working out at my local Curves and chatting with the owner about cooking, and suddenly, she said IT: “You really ought to be a chef!” AAAAHHHHHH!!! Don’t say that to me!

I love to cook, I’m a good cook, and I love to invent my own recipes. But as all of you know who are in the same boat, this is not the same thing as being a chef. I cook for pleasure, for relaxation, for delight. If I don’t feel like cooking, for whatever reason, I grab our friend Ben by the throat and pleasantly suggest that perhaps we should go out tonight. (Ben, who is not stupid, usually enthusiastically agrees.) Chefs, by contrast, get up at 3 a.m. to spend the day in their hot, steamy, chaotic kitchens overseeing a madhouse of food preparation six days a week until they finally stagger home at, say, 1 a.m. You do the math.

If I were to own my dream restaurant, here’s how it would be: Each Monday, my devoted, attentive staff and I would meet in the spacious, window-bright kitchen of Real. (Tempting as it is to call the restaurant Real Food for Real People, I doubt that would actually go over.) I would hand out the week’s menus, with recipes, and make sure everyone was on board with their tasks, from shopping for the freshest produce to adding the final flourishes. Then, smiling sweetly, I’d return home and leave them to it.

Somehow, I doubt that’s how it works. Instead, I’d be hoisting hide at 3 a.m., kicking poor Ben a few hundred times just to make sure he was aware of my suffering, and keeping up a nonstop stream of cursing, which would only increase in passion and volume as I staggered through the restaurant kitchen’s doors. No doubt there are sweet, genial chefs who are a pleasure to be around, even when everything goes wrong. I, however, identify more closely with those mediaeval chefs who were immortalized in song for chopping up the beautiful young princess and serving her for supper.

Cooking on a family-sized scale, accompanied by enthusiastic, shrieking parrots, crashing noises from cats just out of sight (not to mention their endearing “I’m-about-to-vomit-can-you-guess-where” vocalizations), ringing phones (always telemarketers, damn them), begging dogs, and family members who seem, no matter how often you tell them not to, constitutionally unable to keep out of the kitchen while you’re cooking, is challenging enough. But in your heart of hearts, you know that, even if the food boils over or burns while you’re busy chewing out the cats, dog, parrots, and family members, you can always say “to hell with it” and go out, or order in. Not so for professionals. The show, after all, must go on.

So please, even if you think it, do not tell me that I should be a chef. Do not tell your friends that they should be chefs. Do not think about becoming a chef yourself, unless you’re 19 years old and as fond of cocaine as Anthony Bourdain. Spend some time thinking about really dire threats to use on your kids if you overhear them saying they’d like to be chefs. (Like, say, making them watch “Ratatouille” about 5,000 times.)

Ben, I am saying this for the last time. If you ever want to eat again, you will not turn to all our friends and say “She really ought to be a chef!” Are you reading this, Ben? BEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cooking is fun, a sensual delight. Try telling me that about a restaurant kitchen. No. No way. Crazy chefs!

        ‘Til next time,



1. ceecee - August 20, 2008

People say the exact same thing about me and my pies. “Your pies are so wonderful, everybody loves pie, you should open a shop that’s just pies, you could even name it that “Just Pie”…”
I run screaming from the room. Having my own shop would take all the love out of it and bring in frantic stress to replace it.
I, long ago (in my early 20s) thought being a chef would be a romantic profession. People would be fascinated by me and love me for the dishes I could create. That idea went in the can when I began working at a restaurant (wait staff) and saw the reality of being a chef. Unless you like drinking, staying up late, getting up early, and living on adrenaline, the job would suck eggs.
Give me my leisurely pie making. Romance and stardom be damned.

Yes, I can’t begin to tell you how many friends I have who thought becoming a chef and/or opening their own restaurant would be romantic. Thank goodness you wised up in time!

2. sjones71 - August 20, 2008

Ha!! I once worked in a fairly nice kitchen here in Connecticut next to a theater on the river. And.. .. my.. LORD! The hours, the hot hot hotness. And a kitchen full of vikings because that’s what chef’s usually are! Hard-living, no sleep-having, cursing, drinking gods of the walk in freezer!

Now let me just say.. I would go to your imagined restaurant. Build it. We will come.

Ha! Vikings! Berserkers!!! The Conan the Barbarian of the kitchen! Yup, that would be me…

3. Barbee' - August 21, 2008

Horrors! Silence, we love you the way you are. Don’t listen to them!

Thanks, Barbee’! The chef’s life is definitely not the life for me!

4. deb - August 21, 2008

I waited tables for a nice hotel in my early 20’s. That kitchen was hell. Kitchen staff cursing in spanish, waitresses who learned to respond in spanish to ugly taunts, raving crazy chefs. No thank you. My family has suggested I bake my bread to sell. My grandfather, who was a baker before entering the military, put an end to that talk. He told them to “leave the girl alone. You don’t want to punish her in a hot bakery at 2:00 am. I enlisted to get out of that” Keep cooking for pleasure and sharing your great recipes.

Ha! Thanks, Deb! Good thing you had your grandfather there to speak up!!!

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