It’s the impossible balance of personal time and professional life, how to keep them from becoming the same thing or simply allowing them to co-exist? Cooking is a profession that consumes the participant, a never ending process limited only by your desire. No chef will ever learn everything and there is no one right way to do anything.
Serious chefs loose track of time. Time itself is a chef’s greatest enemy, minutes and seconds are the difference between perfection and disaster. These few crucial moments only come after days and hours of preparation leaving you either exhilarated or heartbroken.
Chefs are perfectionists by default and everything is personal, it doesn’t matter what anyone says – “It’s only work, don’t take it personally buddy”…uh huh. Chefs can be selfless and selfish simultaneously, they are accused of being workaholics while becoming emotionally unavailable and disconnected when stepping out of the kitchen.
LESS IS MORE
Now in the modern age there is more focus on creating balanced lifestyles within kitchen teams, it’s no longer about how many hours you work but how you manage free time. Managers understand that controlling working hours is a long term investment in creativity and the engagement of their teams. Happy chefs are engaged chefs and engaged individuals inspire others through their passion and enthusiasm, it’s addictive.
Like they say “there is no point in flogging a dead horse”, you can’t expect high performance results from a tired and frustrated team. By giving chefs more time to themselves managers benefit from a solid 10-11 hours per day vs 13-15 hour days, shorter intense shifts vs long drawn out sagas.
Pale scared skin, bloodshot eyes rimmed with heavy bags and a constant nervous twitch while staring silently into nothingness. Vampire syndrome is a disease that affects around 6 out 10 chefs according to the world health journal published in 2016. It’s a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and frontal lobe of the brain.
Vampire syndrome is caused by stress, vegans, waiters, heat, over exposure to stupidity and a general lack of sunshine or vitamin B. Advanced symptoms may include general “Vampire” appearance, tattoo addiction, distancing from friends and family, fear of sunlight and open spaces, unquenchable thirst for alcohol, incomprehensible language skills and a general disregard for personal well being.
Treatments for progressed vampire syndrome vary depending on nationality, age and gender. There have been a few successful cures reported from around the world using the following combination – daily exposure to small amounts of sunshine, finding another interest other than cooking, one weekend off a month, remembering you have a family, friends who are not chefs, remembering to eat and finding someone to love you who is not a chef.
It’s not easy to love a chef, even when not working they are working. You may physically leave the kitchen but a chef never really leaves the kitchen. Their minds are consumed with what’s just happened and what’s coming next. When you finally get to see the ones you love you’re most likely going to be tired, selfish and generally a very unsociable person.
Chefs are designed to give everything at work and leave very little for themselves, this includes relationships, love and family. The worst thing is the ones you love will be waiting days/weeks for some quality time but all you will want is time alone. It’s a common misunderstanding that leads to the demise of so many chefs relationships, setting them on the path of the eternal bachelor. It’s common for chefs to fall in love with similar minded, hospitality types as the other half has some idea what they are getting themselves into.
Being social for most people simply means getting together for a chat or catching up over a few drinks. They have been in the office all day without much human interaction and being social is a great way to unwind and relax. For young chefs it usually means substance abuse until they need to work again but without all the mindless chit chat. This comes from having to always over communicate in a very sociable industry, chefs despise unnecessary information or details but utterly love common sense and simplicity.
Chefs will enjoy the company of self-sufficient, low maintenance friends and have a ridiculous amount of acquaintances but very few meaningful relationships. Chefs are usually the ones working while others are being social, this generally means that they like to socialise with other dysfunctional hospitality types. In this case opposites don’t always attract and yes when chefs have been drinking they will still want to talk about work or food.
So it all sounds pretty bleak, but if you manage your time and become content with understanding that you will never learn everything – then life is pretty good. Don’t waste time in kitchens where the chefs are not trying to develop and grow there teams, success is developing younger chefs to the point where they cook as well as or better than yourself.
Yes you will miss a lot of public holidays, weekends and special events and there is no such thing as a 9-5 chef’s job. But cooking will also take you around the world changing your view on life through different cultures cuisine. Food is a direct representation of a countries people, history, religion, wealth, natural environment and geography.
Chefs are not cooks, cooking is only the action – it’s what we all do at home every day. The biggest difference between a cook and a chef is the emotional connection with food and a clear direction of where they want to go. Some chefs will burn-out very fast, moving onto another profession but always telling stories of “when I used to be a chef”. There are also the accidental cooks or “worker bees” that have no passion for cooking but need the cash. But others will be drawn in so deep it’s impossible to imagine doing anything else, its this group of people who will become Chefs.