The push.

Everything hurts. Your hands creak. Your knee has a nasty kink in it, and when your boss asks you why you've been taking so much advil, you don't know how to respond. Your days off are spent under a fog of fatigue and trying to re-coop some sort of energy to push into the coming week. Things aren't breaking...yet. But after doing this for a while, you can see how things might end up shaking down.

You know the deal. Cooking professionally means to sacrifice. Everything. Your free time. Personal relationships. Daily habits. And at times, your sanity. But what about your health?

The rules say to work as much as you can. Hurt yourself. Push until you can't see straight. Take all the overtime you can get. Never, ever say no. And for the most part I agree with this ethos. But the truth is that cooks are for shit when it comes to taking care of themselves. Stand on your feet, running around for 12 hours a day, sweating through your shirt. Tear your body down...then reward it by filling it with beers, whiskey, burgers, and cigarettes. When was the last time you saw your grill guy eating a salad at the end of the shift? How many cokes does your fry guy suck down on a Friday? When was the last time you actually ate 3 normal meals in a day? Shit, when was the last time you exercised?

The whole "never trust a skinny chef" cliche is well known; what's not well known is the amount of energy and level of fitness needed to work on the hot line. Cooking professionally means being drive yourself to excess...the job demands it. Day after day, you will be surrounded by addicts and fiends...even if their only craving is a duck liver pate. There is little balance in the life of a cook, which makes no sense. Cooking is all about balance. It's about finding that place between punishing and rewarding yourself. Most cooks take the reward portion too far.

I don't want to preach about health, and taking care of yourself like i'm an expert on the matter--i'm not. But I think it's an important thing to consider. If you fatigue halfway through your shift, have you ever asked yourself why? Did you eat enough? Did you sleep at all? Are you on your third hangover this week? How many ways are you shooting yourself in the foot?

I like the cooking game. I want to stay in it...for a long time. Beyond that, I want to be there for my family....and moreover, I dont want to die before my time. I'm going to push, no matter what...but not without at least attempting to take care of myself. I'm a cook for life...but I refuse to become a sterotype of one. Fuck that. This is far too important.


quotes and conversations.

"I was never a fat kid. A fat teenager maybe."

"My personality's not dull. My knife might be."
-Maritess. Bubbly.

"Al can be El Guapo."
-Ponder. Likes the Three Amigos.

(There is a guest wearing a t-shirt that has an outline of the Great Lakes on it.)
Me: Tell me what's on that guys shirt, and i'll stop making fun of you.
Merrell: The Michigan rivers.
Me: What did...
Merrell: The Lake Michigans! I got it right!

Me: Ponder told me he loves me tonight. And I think he really meant it.
Speez: Yeah dude, he probably did. He says it all the time. I say "I love you" and he says "I love Richie."

"I heard slurping. I rolled over, and she was drinking coffee in bed. Drinking. Coffee. In. Bed. I almost strangled her."

"I hate ribs."

Me: Paulie, get some duck fat. I want you to rub Mer-Mer down.
Paulie. Alight.

Me: Looks like a pigs foot.
Eddie: (Nods)
Merrell. What? Did you say it looks like a penis?

Eddie: I went to prom four times in high school. Because I had a tuxedo. I was in orchestra.
Me: And you boned down zero times.
Eddie. Yeah.

"After we boned down, i'd be like "Where's my BLT at bitch?"

"I hate peaches."

Me: Eddie, if I had to pick anyone in the kitchen to lose my virginity to, it would be you.
Eddie: Really!?

"I'd rather have sweaty boobs than sweaty balls."

from top: chervil flowers, godzilla dog, death metal, meth deatal, halibut, rabbit, ladybug, line up, nardello peppers, hi!, cake, start of service


Scott Sebastian said...

Wait until you get carpal tunnel in your knife hand. All the fingers except for my pinky are numb. The good news is that it kicked in after 35 years of cooking and I can use a knife without feeling it.

Although I tend to cut myself more these days.

You can also expect:

Hearing loss (Kitchens are loud)
Arthritic knees (The floors are hard)
Arthritic hips (Same as above)
High blood pressue (No explanation needed)
High Cholesterol (Bunch of reasons)
Loss of feeling in fingertips (cooks hands)
Bad back (From carrying a big chip on my shoulder for years)

Adam said...

i always enjoy reading your blogs. many of the things you say in this particular post can also go for the retail sales industry as well.

doulos said...

Sounds like it's time to run your own kitchen, but only after a between jobs "vacation"

jb said...

LOVE it! thanks for this blog!

Frank Mitchell said...

So if I wanted to ask for a stage what time should I show up?

nootsmaak said...

I didn't know about the beer! We would have bought a round for the kitchen had I known! I didn't know! See what you can get for that Canadian $10 I gave you. Maybe half a beer, but that's better than none, right?

Roberto N. said...

I usually ponder about this health issue and where it's going to lead me. But I haven't really done much about it. Just keep on going.

don't touch my knife said...

man your blog is so damn relevant man. its like reading my life. my grillman is in a messed up relationship and consoles himself with weed, saute girls officially a coke fiend and the garde guys a masocist. ive probably had 3 liters of fullsugar ginger ale today.

OneChefInAMillion said...

The strange thing is, I probably take the least care of myself of anyone in my kitchen, and yet still manage never having to call in sick.....

Chef David E said...

Dude, you just gave all the reasons I am no longer a (working) line cook. But some part of me will always remain in the kitchen - actually, I think it's still under the pot sink.

Jeffery said...

yo dude, "the push".... You took all the words out of my mouth. Im printing this and posting it on the wall of our kitchen. These are rules to live by as a line cook. Most "green" cooks need to read this to realize what we allready know.