I have some new thoughts re: my last post. I indicated previously that there is supposedly a “path” for cooks to take. You start as a new cook -> cooking school and/or stage at great restaurants. -> work your way through the stations, eventually you become chef de cuisine or whatever.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles on Wikipedia about artists like Marvin Gaye and Jaco Pastorius. Both brilliant artists, but with their share of troubles. I’ve decided I am not going to worry about making my “career path” perfect. Even after he had a string of hits in Motown, Marvin Gaye worked as a janitor to make ends meet. Jaco Pastorius basically lived on the street for a time even after he had smash hits during his time in Weather Report.
Everyone is going to judge you, no matter what you do. You could have worked in Robuchon or French Laundry or whatever, but it doesn’t really matter. You are not your previous jobs. You are you. You take from anything what you put in. A lazy slacker could have staged at El Bulli and put that on his resume and it would look really impressive, but they’d still be lazy.
Even Marco Pierre White, widely regarded as one of the greatest chefs alive, had multiple periods of unemployment and general degeneracy.
Last week I read two very interesting articles. There was an excerpt from Anthony Bourdain’s new book “Medium Raw” on Michael Ruhlman’s blog. In typical Bourdain style it’s very dramatic, claiming “What limited me forever were the decisions I made immediately after leaving culinary school.” Thanks a lot Mr. Bourdain, now I am a stress case because I’m not working in fucking Robuchon.
The other was slightly different, from Urban Diner’s Jacob Galbraith. He made a rather convincing argument that the French Laundry cookbook presented an unrealistic view of kitchen life: “From then on, nothing I’ve done has been able to equal or better the standards laid out in his manuscript. I could look at this one of two ways: 1) I’m a failure, or 2) I was lied to. I’m going with the latter. And for the record, I count withholding the truth as lying.” I think this is a little more realistic. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, the pressures put on a young cook, especially if they want to be a successful chef one day, are immense. If you’re not working in the “best” restaurant, or whatever, you basically are a failure.
But that brings me back to my original point: cooking is in you, or it’s not. Just like musical ability. I keep trying to play the guitar but the RAW TALENT is not in me. It’s not. I will never be a rock and roll guitarist. But I can cook. I may not be successful yet, and I might be working a shitty job, but I still believe I have the raw ability to succeed. And that, my friends, regardless of what restaurant I do or have worked in, is the important thing.
Listening: Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear