When I first went to culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America, I had grandiose dreams of one day being an executive chef. My mind was filled with ideas for restaurants, menu designs, and plans for my future. Since I took my break for back surgery back in May, I never imagined that even before my graduation that I’d attain such an honor in my young career. Yet, due to some strange people and multiple chefs quitting, here I am, an Executive Chef at the age of 24.
The lessons that have been taught to me in these short few months could not have opened my eyes more to the true reality of being a head chef. In school, its something you idolize, but in the real world, its not nearly as exotic or fun. It takes a great deal of patience to deal with all of the issues on the line, the drama of your cooks, staff, and of course, the owners. You need to spend each day thinking about specials for the week, delegation of prep work, timing everything down to the minute and second. Inventory constantly runs out, and precise ordering is always so critical. Is your mind tough enough to handle the constant pressure of cooking and devoting all of your free time, your social life, to the restaurant?
No longer does the day just end when I clock out at work. I’m forced to think about the day ahead, sometime even weeks ahead, triple and quadruple check everything in my head just to make sure we are prepared for the forthcoming days ahead. Restaurant Week, where multiple local fine dining places offered their very best for only $20.10, taught me true patience. Orders never stop coming in. No lull, no end till the nights over. My attention only is on my work.
If you would ask me, to do it all over again, I would tell you that time and experience are a chef’s two greatest allies. No lesson I could learn over and over again that doesn’t deeply educate you on what it really takes to run a good place. Do you want to work 6 to 7 days a week, work long hours doing back breaking labor, only to do it over and over again each and every day. I learned so much about responsibility and leadership, what it takes to rally morale, to care about each personality of each guy on the line. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.