Sometimes when in the kitchen and the rush is on, you get this feeling in the pit of your gut. Orders keep piling up while the six portions of chicken breasts you had on saute just started to burn. This feeling flows straight up from your gullet into your head, as the panic sets in. Rushing to fix the slightly damaged proteins, your now ruined fond, all the while your now 12 orders behinds and sinking into the weeds faster and faster. Then sinking feeling has set in, and the more you rush, it seems the worse it gets. Congratulations, the fear has struck you.
In class today I got to see this firsthand while on expo. The entire chicken line, from start to finish, got the fear. You could see it in their eyes, their faces, every moment the dread ever apparent. It spread like a cancer, from saute all the way down to the guy making fines herb sauce. As soon as chef stepped in I knew it was too late. They had broken.
The problem inherent with the fear is the worry of screwing up. No one likes to screw up, and if they say they do, go find one of those mallets used for pounding cutlets and give them a good one to the knees. Especially is the case at the Culinary Institute of America, where chef's are unforgiving, and each has their own set of standards that must be kept. One might wonder how to overcome the fear, and that only happens in one of two ways.
Firstly, it can be done by having a strong will, a quarterback mentality, that allows you to spring back from failure and regain your momentum. They don't dwell on their mistakes, instead focus directly on recovering their lost ground. They can pull themselves out of the weeds and inspire others. Secondly, and most often, the fear is driven away by an angry chef. Once a chef has broken you down, literally turned you into shambles, then nothing can scare you again. Either you'll step up or drop out. Simple as that.
Often, much too often rather, students can't handle it. They falter and fear retribution. Today wasn't like that. I'm proud to say that, with a little help from the chef, the rebounded with some on the spot leadership from team members not on the line. I'm proud of some of my classmates. They fell into the fire, and lost the fear.