Monday, March 1, 2010

Cooking vs. Chefing

Some people have asked me why I'm not a chef or why I don't go back to school for a culinary degree. I love food, I like to cook, so it should be a great fit, right?

For a while, I thought it would be (or rather I tried to convince myself it would be). I spent a bunch of time researching culinary professions and looking at different culinary schools. I even got as far as almost applying to a couple (although the hefty tuition price tags helped slow me down). But the truth is, I have no interest in being a chef of any kind and here's why.

The term "chef" implies you have paid money for someone to teach you the desirable skills and techniques necessary for making a career out of preparing food for pay. The term chef implies you are using food as a means to money - rather than approaching food as an expression of my favorite word in this blog.............love.


I'm not saying paid chefs are only interested in money - far from it. I'm sure plenty of chefs are passionate about food for the sake of food. But think about this:

How many chefs can you think of who just give away their cookbooks? How many chefs work in restaurants out of their sincere love for preparing food for the clientele? How many chefs honestly leave kitchens looking forward to another day of enriching others lives through food? And how many culinary schools offer courses designed to train chefs to become devoted to cooking with love?

Sound ridiculous? Sound naive? I'm sure most chefs would agree with you. I'm also sure most chefs will want to be paid for their services. Sure, they love food, but they're not making your chocolate soufflé with grand marnier sauce because they love you. They're making it because at the end of the meal you'll hand your server a credit card and sign your name under an appreciative tip. Voila! Food has become a commodity and cooking has become a paid service.

And that's my problem with becoming a chef. I have no interest in cooking for nameless masses - all because they're willing help fund my paycheck. Cooking shouldn't be about finding the fastest way to make the exact same omelet a thousand (or million!) times. Cooking shouldn't result in cheese-skewer nightmares. Cooking should have nothing to do with profit margins. In fact, cooking should never be about selling - it should be about loving.

Yet we flock to restaurants like they're something special. Are they really? What's so special about eating mass-produced food lacking nutrition? Is it special because we didn't have to make it (and what does that say about us)? Or is it special because of the people we're with? I can kinda see that, but if I want to spend quality time with my family, friends or partner, it's not going to be in a big, dingy room crammed with lots of tables and chairs, surrounded by groups of strangers and eating food prepared by someone who doesn't give a crap about me.

Simply put, I've grown opposed to restaurants and the entire food industry built up around them. Thus, I am opposed to cooking for money and thus opposed to becoming a chef.

So there you have it. I've probably managed to piss off most of the food industry at this point and branded myself as a complete food snob who's too good to eat at restaurants. To be honest, Boyfriend Javelin and I still sometimes eat out (we've cut way back and continue to cut back). Now we go because we're quasi-friends with some of the waitstaff and really enjoy seeing them. I couldn't care less about the mass-produced food made by god-knows-who out of god-knows-what. Food snob? Probably.



1 comment:

  1. I can't join you in hating on restaurants. Now, don't get me wrong: chain restaurants are an abomination and a blight upon the American landscape. There is nothing sadder than when some poor sot extolls the "delicious" meal they just had at (shudder) Olive Garden.

    But I love to go out to eat at the right places. There IS a convenience element, of course -- I don't have to make the food, Ted doesn't have to clean up afterwards -- but I also like the atmosphere: I like the SERVICE. And try as I might, there's just some shit I can't seem to make. I have tried to make curry -- Indian and Thai -- more times than I can remember, and it NEVER comes out as well as the little Thai place down the street from me's (Pusadee's Garden) green curry, or the little Indian place up on Penn's (Taste of India) chana paneer.

    So, consider this my defense of restaurants. It's nice to have someone to pour the wine for you sometimes, just like it's impossible (for me, anyway) to master all cooking styles. Mmm ... chana paneer.

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