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    EOL Coverage of Chefs Championships at IHMRS

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    Preparing Lobster for Competition

Workaholism in the food service industry
Originally Posted by Glenn Messick-

Once upon a time I worked 90 hour work weeks. I fully appreciate the need for dedicated culinarians at all levels of the cooking game, from the under paid line cook at the seasonal seafood restaurant on the coast of NJ, to the highly regarded 4 star executive chefs in the big hotels in New York City. One aspect of our business I refuse to accept is the belief that a chef has to be in the kitchen every waking hour or he isn’t dedicated, or is somehow inferior. I’ve done the "no day off for 14 straight weeks, and I'm gonna stab someone soon” circuit, and it is not for me. I love this business, and I wouldn’t leave it for anything, its just that there is more to my life than food costs, scheduling, finding a qualified saucier, the canceled reservations for the Johnson reception, or the broken infra-red bricks in the broiler. I have a life outside this game, and I'll be damned if I'll give it up!!! I hunt, I fish, I play music, I read. I've had stretches where I haven’t even left the restaurant for 3 whole days, sleeping on piles of linens on a prep table. I think that the days of the chef as an example of how to burn yourself out is over. The place I run now, I have 2 days off and work an average of 60 hours a week. We (2 cooks, 2 prep guys, and myself, plus 2 dishwashers) put out beautiful food for 200 on an average night, 250 weekends, with not a container of base in sight. I work a 10 burner sauté station, a cook to my right does broiled entrees and the guy to my left does apps, and two entree items. Its all natural classical stocks, with a premium placed on freshness of product. I am VERY proud of the product we put out, and I don’t have to kill myself to do it. I think chefs (some folks I've read here talking about 100 hour weeks, please) everywhere need to rethink their stand on the whole "iron man” chef mentality. I for one refuse to kill myself for a matter of labor cost. I'd like to here your thoughts on this subject.

Posted by Andrea

You gotta do what you gotta do.
In the summer and at Christmas I work over 100 hours a week.
In January- March I Have a life!
Try kick boxing-it's awesome!

Posted by Francois

It’s not just an adventure, it's a way of life


I happy that you found the proper balance in your life. The key words being "your". In the early days of my short cooking career I would say "you can't hate it, you can't like it, you gotta love it". You sound a little burnt out. We all get to that point sooner or later. I have considerably reduced my hours since my last post. But I still fill my time around food related pasttimes (i.e. starting an 80 acre organic farm that someday will include a dairy, poultry, grist mill, foie gras production, etc.; collecting rare 19th and 20th century French cook books; menu collecting; eating in restaurants; cooking dinner parties in other states; etc.). But food is my reason for living. My outlook is different from yours. I do not look down upon people, such as yourself, who have a different passion. I also believe you get out what you put in. I think the term "workaholism" reflects when someone has a problem with something they truly don't love. I compare it to alcoholism in that the work starts to destroy your life. BUT I hardly consider the person that imbibes upon too much 1985 La Tache and 1967 Chateau d'Yquem an alcoholic. They are wine geeks.

To paraphrase Rudolph Chelminski in his excellent book entitled "The French at Table": The men and women who compose the industry of the stomach today, are an extraordinary bunch of people, as endearing as they are admirable. "That I find them commendable far, very far, beyond the common range of mortals - how infinitely more estimable is a man with a reputation for a special touch with green beans than a senior vice president of Megalo Motors or Imperial Toilet Tissue (ITT) - is not just for their constantly bubbling inventiveness, which has carried French cuisine to an apogee of creation probably unmatched at any other time in history; not just for their instinctive intelligence, which, with the best of them, matches that of any company director, politician or scientist I have met; and not just for the astonishing professionalism that allows them to keep from sinking with enterprises that any business analyst would qualify as pure folly: labor intensive, unmechanized, inefficient, agonizingly subject to public whim, low in profit margin, generally mistrusted by the tax authorities and demanding work hours that are so absurd that any other trade would reject them out of hand." What separates Chefs from almost all other people is the conviction and passion and joy with which we conduct our profession. As Alain Senderens once said "You've got to have le feu sacre to succeed in this business"

I hope I die the way my grandfather's best friend died. He hunted deer in the morning; came home for a wonderful lunch; and did a face plant into his foie gras. What a way to go!!! Please lord let me go that way...

Francois de Melogue

Posted by Nice Chef

It is just plain ridiculous to kill your self by living in a kitchen
You have to keep balance in your life or you work will suffer along with everthing else.
I have a wife and 3