It’s busy. It’s hot. It’s demanding on body, mind and soul even. The show must always go on and ignore the woman behind the curtain who is flushed with equal parts exhaustion and adrenaline.
As a female Chef I have no hesitation in saying that I have worked and fought harder than most males in this profession. I have earned the privilege of being called Chef not only because of the hard work I have put in but because I remain on the front lines with my team and acknowledge that I am a leader and to grow as a leader I must always be learning and accept graciously that can come from any direction. I wouldn’t ask my team to do something I’m not willing to do myself. No dishwasher in? I’ll be in the pit. Service is running slow, I’ll carry the loaded tray. End of the night and we are all worn down, I’ll do the close and send the team home to rest before we do it all over again. Why? Because they’d do it for me and if they don’t have that attitude, they don’t belong here with me.
Being the Chef doesn’t make me anything more but the most accountable; be it for good or bad and I make sure to share the good and make improvements from the bad.
I don’t take praise easily, I don’t need the praise to keep me going. I don’t need to be seen or acknowledged by the world beyond the kitchens to feel validated in what I do. I need to see clean plates coming back, smiling clients and guests who return time after time. I need to see a staff, both front and back of house, with pride in what they are doing and confidence that when they set a plate in front of a guest it will be enjoyed for what it is, part of an experience we are all providing for them.
I also don’t take the negatives well. They eat at me a little bit and I have to find ways of dealing with them, one of the tallest orders of my career. Acknowledging when I need help. Admitting when I’ve let things slip, even if I feel I have a valid justification there is a better way. Giving myself a hard shake when it’s pointed out to me that I’m not doing something in the best interests of the three most important things I have in my career: The Guests. The Staff. My Food. Yes I realize I am missing from that, it’s something else I continue to work on.
I love what I do. I am lucky to have that in my life. I still live and breath food but I’ve come to realize that I don’t care who won best restaurant in the world, what Chef is on TV or if I’ll ever be considered a ‘great’ Chef by the world. I don’t want or need to be a rock star. The knives I carry into the kitchen don’t need to be latest and greatest that I spent my entire last paycheck on. I can learn from anyone and be grateful for the opportunity without letting pride get in my way. But I can also lead and make decisions with confidence, accept the outcome of those be they good or bad and shoulder it like a Chef. Not a man or a woman, just a Chef.