Tuesday, August 12, 2008

To cleanse the soul

The Apostle James reminds us that confession is good for the soul, and I have a confession I would like to share. Chef's are assholes. No argument there. All of us have heard some horror stories about screaming, tyrannical chefs who stalk around their kitchens ready at a moments notice to rip some poor sap a new butt hole for some small mistake. In my early days of being "the chef" I was one of these shit heads. So full of myself that I forgot those working under me were human beings. I remember the day I came to realization how wrong it is to be like that. I had a father-son team working for me and it was the son's last day. He made some mistake or another and I lost my mind, and can you believe he had the audacity to talk back to me while I was treating him like a sub-human. Well, that made me even madder and I started to yell louder. At some the point the father spoke up and said, "Hey, I think that's enough". I'm lucky I didn't get my ass kicked up one side to Sunday, and the father would have justified doing it. I look back at that incident with nothing but shame and have wished many times I could apologize both to the father and his son for my actions that evening. It is a sad fact of kitchen life that abuse is common, and like any abusive relationship the abused often times becomes the abuser. Many chefs have worked in some horrendous conditions and have learned that screaming and abusing is the way things get done in the kitchen. That in order to maintain high standards ones must use fear as the motivator. It's really too bad. Two chefs stand out in my mind who can and should be used as role models for us to imitate. The first is Auguste Escoffier. It is said when a cook angered him, he would compose himself and leave the kitchen so as to get himself calmed down and then come back in and correct the cook in a calm manner all the while never showing any disrespect for the cook. The second is Anton Mosimann. Ever the gentleman, Chef Mosimann has the reputation of being in complete control of himself in the kitchen and never yelling and screaming and carrying on. He keeps the highest standards by motivating his staff with positive means, not fear. I learned long ago that everyone working for me is someone, and when that someone goes home at night they are someone's hero. Who am I take that away from them because of my ego? I believe yelling and screaming is a sign of weakness in the chef. If the chef has to use fear and intimidation to keep his standards then that chef fails. It makes no matter if the highest standards are kept if those working for the chef are demoralized in the process. Don't get me wrong. I am still stern with my staff when I need to be. I still believe in striving to be the best we can but my tactics have changed over the years. So if Pierre or Serg ever reads this please know I am sorry and that I have changed my ways.


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