The hospitality industry has seduced a lot of young people, and even some career-changers, who come from very interesting and diverse backgrounds. The media has helped to bring a lot of awareness to our industry. I would like to use my last Wine Spectator blog entry to share some insight and advice for those who are thinking about becoming a chef.
Being a chef is very demanding physically. You have to stand on your feet for hours, you're in a very hot environment, and at times you may have to carry very heavy loads, like a pot full of hot stock or a case of potatoes.
It is also a stressful environment, especially during the hours of service. You'll obviously be expected to spend what would otherwise be your dinner and leisure hours serving people. And you can pretty much say "goodbye" to celebrating most holidays with family and friends outside the kitchen. It's also a challenging career for those people who want to have a family, as you need to divide your time between the children and the kitchen. It's not clear to me which one is more demanding …
There is prestige in being a chef that has developed in the last 10 to 20 years in the United States. However, it's not a financially rewarding field in comparison to other stressful, demanding fields like law, medicine or finance. And cooking in a restaurant is a very different thing than entertaining at home or cooking for friends. This is a reality that's important to take into account.
Despite all this, to be a cook or a chef is still a very rewarding experience, and if you are passionate about cooking, managing a team, and pleasing people, you will have an incredibly exciting life.
What I love the most about cooking is the opportunity it gives me to be creative and use seasonal ingredients to create a harmonious and exciting combination of flavors. I also very much enjoy being a leader in the kitchen. I enjoy mentoring and inspiring my team. And I'm also very happy when I see smiles on the faces of our guests. No money can buy that feeling. I've been very lucky to have had my work at Le Bernardin recognized and supported by the press. It feels good to have had that encouragement over the years. My position allows me to travel and meet people all over the world. I am constantly learning, and I have a lot of freedom.
In short, let me say this: Do not enter this industry if your goal is to be a star. It’s not about having your picture in magazines. Join us in the kitchen if you want to live your life intensely.
It has been our pleasure sharing my thoughts with you on this blog. Thank you for reading, and for all of your comments and questions.
Brad Kanipe — Atlanta — March 20, 2007 4:39pm ET
Damien Carter — March 22, 2007 5:58am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — March 22, 2007 6:37pm ET
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