Hello, dolls!! Hello, July!! <3 I’ve been focusing on cleaning up my blog lately so it has been a while since I last posted an entry. I have so many thoughts in my head that I need to let go of — one of which is work. I have been pretty vocal about my work life here on my blog and I’ve expressed how many times I had to sacrifice time for family because of it. Time is the trade you have to give if you want to succeed in the kitchen.
I may not have 30 years of experience leading a kitchen but over the years I was able to get a good grasp of what being a Chef is all about — and no, it’s not just about putting an Instagrammable dish on the table or knowing how to cook the perfect steak!
This entry is pretty heavy for me because for the first time, I am opening up about a part of my life that I am heavily deliberating on now. I will be sharing some photos of the dishes I made in between points so please do not hesitate to ask me for recipes or tips! 🙂
Being A Chef is Mentally and Physically Exhausting
Like many other jobs, working in the kitchen can be very exhausting. Imagine being on a time crunch every minute of every day. The biggest enemy that you have to deal with on the regular is pressure and it’s in every corner of the restaurant. Over time I have learned how to live with it, and it still doesn’t make it any easier. Not even sleep can relieve us from the exhaustion … because really, do we even get to sleep?
That rush…the adrenaline that runs through our veins when we cook especially during a busy dinner service, that’s what keeps us going — red bull, monster, or 5-hour energy drink for most cooks. When we hit our ticket times and no plate comes back from the dining room, that is when our nerves calm down. It’s like we were never exhausted at all.
Grilled Lamb Chops, Seared Scallops, Parsley Gnocchi, Buerre Blanc
No Social Life
When A and I were both working in the kitchen, it was easier for us to turn down invitations than to try to get off. It was hard to make new friends outside of work and even harder to reconnect with old friends. Most chefs resort to drinking after work — I never really got into that.
I missed a lot of great birthday parties, dinners, and bonding opportunities with my friends. Some people thought we were just shunning them but really, we were trapped in a world that most people just couldn’t understand. On the other hand, I truly think that poeple who work in hospitality are the friendliest and most understanding people you will meet!
Fall inspired dishes.
Summer’s Best Peppers
What you do with 4 cases of heirloom tomatoes — roast them and make different kinds of tomato sauce!
In case you don’t know…robots don’t cook your food when you decide to eat out on a holiday. People who work in the food industry are generally not happy about this — but we do what we have to do because we do not have a choice. I used to be excited about eating out with family on holidays until I started working on “All Saint’s Day” (a holiday in the Philippines celebrating Saints who were not awarded feast days and to remember the lives of the deceased).
I realized that once you decide to work in the kitchen, you are obligated to devote most of your time to work — no buts no ifs because at the end of the day everyone is on the same page. When I was an intern, I did not really mind missing out on holidays here in the US since I wasn’t really accustomed to it. I actually liked it because we were granted double pay if you work a holiday. When A and I got engaged, there was a part of me that yearned for the day that we could both celebrate a holiday like most couples do. It took us 5 years to get a job that enabled us to be together on special occasions without fighting tooth and nail for it.
Collaboration is a big thing in the kitchen! My then Sous Chef Ryan and I created a fall inspired dish. Ryan makes one of the best sweet potato gratin ever! So I decided to serve it with my Grilled Bone In Pork Chop, Apple Chutney, and Seared Scallops.
Cooks work at least 50 hours a week, and Chefs work at least 65 hours a week in most restaurants, hotels, or private clubs. Would you believe me if I tell you that line cooks are paid $12 average here in Baltimore? It’s crazy! Especially when you think about how everyone in the kitchen is always on their feet and definitely working their a$$ off! It’s not just about the norm and just putting a number out there, the restaurant business is tricky and dealing with labor and worrying about the costs of every little thing in the restaurant greatly affect the rate of cooks. I remember feeling bad whenever I hire someone and I can’t give them what they truly deserve, I try to compensate by giving them great hours but on the other hand, they have to sacrifice a lot of their personal time.
Okay, I know the number of hours that you work PLUS overtime makes it seem “worth it” when you see your paycheck. When you look at it deeply, it’s really not fair because of the number of things a cook has to accomplish in a day and the amount of energy this job require. Did I mention the majority of cooks don’t get any benefits too?
Why do you think everyone is such in a rush to get the top spot? Not only because of the title Chef, but also because the paycheck is bigger and better. I am fortunate that I am in a position that I am well compensated, but really, there should be a higher regard for everyone else in the kitchen because, at the end of the day, it’s who we have on our team that makes a Chef successful.
Donut day at work! One of our suppliers dropped off a box of donuts for us to try. #Winning
Cooking is very diverse. Your options are limitless when it comes to coming up with a dish.
…but at the end of the day, you have to be smart about food cost. When we ran out of Ryan’s gratin, we needed another component that would complete this “surf and turf” since we still had plenty of the proteins. I decided to make four cheese orzo to go with this.
It is no secret that kitchen life can open doors for other activities. They always say that being a Chef is a profession for bad-asses since most people that work in the kitchen like to explore. Alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes are the top common things that Chefs/cooks do outside of work. Some people find it difficult to quit these things because of the environment they are in so often they shut the door by leaving the industry.
Aside from the vices listed above, lifestyle, in general, is pretty unique too. Believe it or not, though we are in front of food all the time, we have the weirdest meal schedule. We skip breakfast because really, who has time for that? We always feel like time is against us so after a long night at work, coming in early the day after makes it hard for us to accomplish anything — even eating! Coffee..coffee..coffee! That’s everyone’s fuel from breakfast until 2PM after the lunch rush, cause yes, we can’t eat until after lunch! The next meal is when we come home after work which usually is around midnight.
After 4 years of being with A, we started wondering what life is like having dinner together every day at 7PM. When baby A was born, we realized we needed to restructure our home. We knew we both had to be home for dinner so we can raise baby A knowing what family time is all about.
I love doing cheeseboards! I can definitely do this for a living! lol
Can you imagine yourself working 12-16 hours 6 days every week? Can you also imagine the feeling that you will get when someone tells you how to do your job better and imply that you need to be putting in more hours to get your number better? This industry is ever-changing — numbers can decline without sufficient explanation but it seems like most owners or GMs still don’t get it.
I worked in a kitchen where the exhaust did not work properly. It was at least 150 degrees in the kitchen and 200 at the grill station every day for 4 months. As a result, most of our equipment would break down because it just couldn’t handle the extreme heat. I consistently addressed the issues to the owner of the restaurant but he just made me feel like it wasn’t a priority since we were struggling to hit our numbers.
Criticism is in the kitchen’s DNA. guests can quickly judge the entire restaurant because of one bad dish and it gets to us. It cuts us deep that sometimes it’s hard for us to move on. You know what I hate in my entire life? YELP REVIEWERS! I feel like most of the people that are on Yelp don’t even know any basic knowledge of cooking. One customer wrote a review on Yelp about the herb roasted beets that I put on a dish. He said it was rotten because it was too soft – dude was probably expecting canned type beets!
Linguine with Clams and Lime
“The world is your oyster, it’s up to you to find the pearls”.
The final straw for Chefs is the feeling of being trapped in a dark corner. When exhaustion, pressure, and stress kicks in that’s when we usually start to evaluate what life is like away from the kitchen.
Burnout is the feeling of being done. Just ready to start another life.
It all boils down to prioritizing family. For A and I, it was when baby A was born. That’s when we decided to draw the line. The lifestyle that we had was just not going to work. We hated the idea of missing out on being parents to a wonderful boy. I couldn’t fathom the idea of not being home to nurture my son and just simply devote my time and energy to him.
It’s all about time and honestly…realizing that you have to love yourself more. When I was working more than 10 hours, I forgot to focus on myself. I felt flat emotionally, and physically, I lost track of things that made me appreciate myself more. Little things like skincare, getting my hair done, and working out! Little joys matter cause it’s the foundation of who we are and who we want to be.
To all the Chefs who are fighting every day to beat all the odds. To every cook who believes that their dreams are bigger. To all of the courageous people in the industry making it happen — hats off to you! It’s not easy and it’s about time people recognize the strength we hold within and the inspiration we have to continue learning and serving!