Before I became a pastry chef the life of a chef seemed so glamorous to me. I watched my favorite chefs in Denver cook on the line, mingle with guests in the dining room and teach classes at the local cooking school. They had a great sense of humor. They were so charming. They seemed to love their job. We talked about food and wine and restaurants all over the world. This is great, I thought. I want to become a chef.
Fast forward to now. The reality of being a chef is far from the glamorous life I imagined. Being a chef means waking up at the butt crack of dawn to go to work if you do pastry production, or working late if you are scheduled for service. Your back hurts. Your feet hurt. When you squeeze a lemon you feel every little crack in your skin. You get cut, burned and bruised. You deal with situations that seem impossible.
And yet at the end of every day you feel a great sense of accomplishment. You have crossed dozens of items off your prep list. You have negotiated your way through a small kitchen full of sharp knives and very hot surfaces without dying. You have made diners happy. You have worked under immense pressure with your fellow cooks – love them or hate them. You have survived another day in the kitchen.
I ask myself regularly – would I leave my corporate job to become a chef again? The answer is a resounding YES! I love the pleasure I get from taking a cake out of the oven and listening to it sing to me. I enjoy the satisfaction when my pear or apple tarts are glazed and servers stop what they’re doing at pre-service to tell me how beautiful they look. Being a chef is worth having the oven temperature bumped up accidentally burning three hours of work; or being chased down on the street by my executive chef as I was leaving to go home because he didn’t feel as though I had made enough dessert for the night. It’s worth the agony of standing in front of a hot, hot stove crowded on all sides by line cooks making batches of vanilla ice cream base, rolling chocolate ganache balls, making endless doughnuts and turnovers. It’s worth coming back in after a long day to write Happy Anniversary in chocolate on a plate for your pastry chef idol who stopped in from New York for dinner. It’s worth the few sips of wine you get to try after a Monday night wine dinner. It’s worth working with other cooks and learning something new everyday. It’s worth watching diners smile as they bite into a dessert you made.
It’s not for the faint of heart or for anyone lazy. It’s far from glamorous but it’s where I want to be. Cheers!