By: Gord Disley
Stardom. We’re fascinated with it. Even the most reclusive of us will occasionally take a quick peek at ETV or peruse the latest geyser of pop culture gossip flooding the minds of the public at large. Those among us not merely content to linger in obscurity may go as far as to seek out some avenue or other that will lead to the Summit Of Human Existence itself, Mount Celebrity, and what a view! Here one can linger in the sunshine beaming warmly out from between the buttocks of mass acceptance while being gently led to the best table in the house, signing autographs all along the white way. Your money for nothing, your chicks for free.
I remember vividly my reaction to the news that something called “The Food Network” was about to go on air. “Squawk?!?” I squawked. “Could there be that many cooking shows in the world, enough to fill a broadcast day? Do enough people cook to warrant this? It can’t possibly last! A joke, surely!” I clearly didn’t have my finger on the Pulse.
As we have seen, reality television has taken food instruction and shot it through with enough manufactured human “drama” to spawn the phenomenon known as the celebrity chef and its bastard child, the competitive cooking show. With this comes the wave of people heading off to chef school in pursuit of, not just chef’s papers, but of a ticket that will hopefully lead to a lucrative television deal and the subsequent joy of publicly torturing your underlings.
This feeds into one of the most common misconceptions about professional cooking: There’s no grunt work involved. A chef just calls the orders, yells at people about their mistakes and leaves early. Not quite. Many new recruits in food work are gunning to get to the main courses as soon as possible while bypassing appetizers and desserts altogether. In some cases these are harder stations to work in and many newcomers get their asses handed to them during their first very busy rush, causing a serious career re-think. It also fosters the entirely false notion that aggression in the kitchen inspires the best results.
Yes, it can be a very stressful job, thus the last thing you want as a chef is to abruptly lose a cook for any reason, let alone because you flipped out on them for making an honest mistake. Even eyesores like Gordon Ramsay have to settle the f*** down and get to work and leading by example is the way to go. It’s hard not to watch a show like “Hell’s Kitchen” and marvel at how far we’ve come since Julia Child first graced the airwaves. If anything, a guy like Ramsay may convince a new cooking student that a less stressful job might be in order.
Like air traffic controller.
Gord Disley is a writer, comic and garde-manger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org