Thursday, February 26, 2015

"The Things We Do"

"I learned about food in my mother's kitchen." The first sentence in my book says much about who I am but says nothing about why I do what I do and why I've spent my adult life doing it... I'm not alone when I say that I love being a chef. If I wasn't a chef I wouldn't know the lessons I've learned. I'd have a different list of things checked off if I was an actor or a lawyer or an auto mechanic. I can say that we work tirelessly (usually) and endlessly (always) to make others happy. We work when our families and friends do not. We have someone else in mind, often a person that we do not know but understand, when we produce food. We touch people very intensely. We make things that people take pictures of, they smell to delight their noses, they put our work in their mouths to taste our creations and then ingest them - we create to please the senses. We touch people viscerally, soulfully, creatively, and sensually. We offer life to people. Man, we're cool. The Need to Feed has always been about the journeys we have taken and the struggles we've endured. Will all of this said, we have to be very good at what we do or none of the above will happen. We become non-essential at that point. If we are not uplifting ourselves then we are not doing justice to the craft and the art of the Chef. A billion words can be written but the essence of who we are and what we do is boiled down and concentrated into these eight key words: DEDICATION. MASTERY (of Method & Technique). FOCUS. HUMILITY. PASSION. LEADERSHIP. CONSISTENCY. OBSESSION. I wrote one of my first MBA papers on the definition of a Chef. This small list is the key to the door of endless creation. From the above words we find our individual paths to our own glory. We cling to these words as medicine for our souls and salve for our wounds (which are many). Chefs allow themselves to be swept away by these words into periods of creative indulgency and comfortably wrapped by them in moments of despair or wonder. The pursuit of perfection, clearly never attained, should be our road map and our compass. Vince Lombardi is oft-quoted as such: "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence." Charlie Trotter said much the same thing about "reaching for the stars" and falling short only to "grab the moon." Heed the words of those who came before you, your mentors and heroes, and follow their lessons of failure and success for the differences between the two are small and seemingly innocuous. One thing is for sure. I take a lot more Ibuprophen than I did ten years ago. Peace. ~R

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