‘Should I Become a Chef?’
It doesn't frustrate or even annoy me, which shocks me, as I’ve now answered a variation of that question somewhere in the thousands of times. More than anything, it just makes me uneasy and hesitant. I don’t question the soundness of my ability to give advice — hell, I’ve made half a career out of dishing out advice. Honestly, I’m humbled that anyone would consider me a reasonable candidate to offer such insight, seeing as I had my fair share of bouncing around before finally gripping my feet into the kitchen and over the cutting board, a half dozen years ago.
The question above makes me uneasy, because I think people are asking mentor-types, as well as themselves, a question that in its context is quite fundamentally flawed.
The question shouldn’t be:
Should I become a chef?
What are the qualities shared by leading chefs that I would need to learn and nurture, in order to become a respected chef?
You can’t answer the first question with a good conscience, until you address and have a grasp on the second. That’s to say, these are the things that I must commit myself to, in order to be successful in the kitchen…. if I choose to become a chef.
The problem is, it’s much easier to convince ourselves that we want to become a chef, versus convincing ourselves to actually do the work necessary, in order to compete on a high level…..
I can outline a very non-sexy list of things to practice every day and books to read, in order to have a better chance at being a successful chef. That’s great, but what’s not great is that 98 percent of the people reading this will understand what I just explained, and will STILLchoose NOT to adhere.
What’s the point of doing anything, if you don’t show up to give it your best shot — every single day ( ahem…husbands.. wives.. significant others)?
And we wonder why most of the country is perfectly content being stuck in mediocrity, just scraping by?
I mean, we give every fricking person a trophy in Little League for participating — to willfully, or perhaps begrudgingly be a part of a team — we honor people for that? How ill does this serve our youth?
It’s absolutely insane.
‘Kids it’s okay if you aren’t that great, as long as you let me drop you off? This is what eats people alive once they become adults. Sadly, most of the time their completely oblivious to it — par for the course.
We like to ask the easy questions, because they provide easy answers — comfort zone.
The more difficult ones, the ones that are a bit more cerebral involve a deeper, more committed part of ourselves that most are ignorantly content in not ever even addressing. For the love of god, for the important decisions in life, please don’t mail it in, or take the easy, comfortable route just because it’s there and is widely traveled.
So, to come full circle, I can’t tell you whether or not you should become a chef — it’s certainly not for everyone in terms of lifestyle, physicality, work-related stress, and the list goes on. On the other hand, there are plenty who do embrace the conditions, the lifestyle and these folks are often able to find ways to minimize that very same stress, in order to make it manageable. These are the chefs making a difference, creating success for themselves, and are the ones to whom we look up.
So you can ask your college advisor, your dad, your current employer or even me the question,
Should I become a chef?
We can’t answer that for you, however I hope this rant steers you into the direction of at least having an honest intellectual conversation with yourself. So, before answering yes to that question, ask yourself if you are willing to do the things necessary to become a great chef.
If not — what’s the point?
The last thing this country and world needs is another shitty worker who’s labor can most likely be replaced by a robot, or worse — no one will miss you when you’re gone. The only thing missing ends up being money for rent, and the landlord could give a shit about the ‘Showing Up’ trophies you earned back in Little League.
Come on y’all — it’s just about giving a damn.
So ask yourself — am I willing to do things required of me, in order to achieve success for myself, even if that means a lot farther down the line? If not, stop — you’re wasting your’s and everyone else’s time that’s involved.
BUT, if you are willing to do these things — cut the ropes behind you and commit to it. It takes guts, and it’s often often an uncertain, scary ride — a life in the kitchen isn’t easy; the hours are long, hard and you’re on your feet for twelve hours a day.
At the same time, there is something to be gained for working one’s ass off to accomplish something (or even falling short sometimes). The most meaningful things of my life haven’t just been handed to me, but rather, were created out of a struggle for something more.The struggle is what gives things value and what makes things meaningful. Why else would anyone climb Mt. Everest or run a marathon?
They can say:
‘LOOK — I made it out to the other side… I’m still here… and I feel so…..alive!’
It’s really about being proud of something, which is the exertion of energy towards something you care value (careers, kids, relationships, communities). Being proud of one’s work doesn’t always translate into getting exactly what we want when we want it. But the score, it seems, typically seems to take care of itself over the long-run — it’s important to remember that, when you want to call it quits. Adversity will knock like Hell on that door of yours, and you’ll feel like the whole house is caving in. Just stand your ground, and remind yourself of what you set out for, and of how much you have of which to be grateful
Because, yeah, just like the Mormon kid with the neck tie riding his bike all over town — after a few knocks, he’ll give up, and try his luck elsewhere. Hard luck will always come and go, you’ve got to be resilient, knowing you’ve made a commitment to show up every single day, looking to get better. Some days you’ll want to throw in the towel, because, yeah, the life of a chef is hard, but is it worth it?
You betcha.Please, don’t just be a chef.Be a Damn Good Chef.
So, if you skipped to the bottom, or got sick of the rant, the moral of the story is this:
Before deciding what it is we want to strive for in life, we must first determine whether or not we can realistically put ourselves in a position that allows for us to be successful in pursuit of it. If so, go kick some ass.
I hope this answers your question….
P.S. I’m always here to answer questions about this kind of stuff — my loyal followers, you know that —I’m not really mad (about career questions), I really just wanted to shift some thinking going on out there. Thanks for reading.
— Chris Hill