A good sin?

"You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride." -Cesar Chavez
"In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes." -John Ruskin
"The truly proud man knows neither superiors nor inferiors. The first he does not admit of; the last he does not concern himself about." -William Hazlitt
"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us." -Jane Austen
"There is this paradox in pride; it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from becoming so." -Charles Caleb Colton
"Pride comes before a fall." -Proverbs

The last five minutes of a thirty plate pickup on a busy night happen in a time warp. The momentum of four or five different stations slowly building together into an all out sprint while everyone rushes to plate, garnish, and clean plates before they head to the pass is one of the most dangerously beautiful things you could ever see. It's where finesse shows it's true face; elegant swipes of sauce, and garnishes placed like they were made of the most delicate material on earth. An efficient cook will take an extra moment right before the plate goes up to give the plate a quarter turn, adjust their gaze, then say goodbye forever. It's a picture of impermanence. Make it beautiful, wipe it clean, send it on its way. Until this happens:

Randy is on hot apps, and is behind on the pickup. He blasts his soup, scorching the bottom a bit, and when he goes to plate, the soup splatters and hisses on the edge of the pot. His plates end up with spots all over them, and he forgets to wipe his fingers off, leaving little fingerprints everywhere. The plates come back to be cleaned, and at the end of it all Randy is left getting shredded by the Chef de Cuisine as he stares at the floor.
"Are you giving up? It seems like you're just giving up. If you don't care anymore just tell me."
"I still care chef."
"Because seriously, I can get someone else. That was fucked."
"No chef, I can do it."
"Look, just care more. Take a little pride you motherfucker."

Pride. It's complicated. A cook that takes pride in their work will put out food that's elegant and delicious. They take the extra time to do things correctly the first time. They taste, and obsess, and relish in the glow of a happy guest. Every now and then, amidst the scowls and glares, you'll see a brief, soft smile flash across their face. You might not realize it, but they're enjoying themselves. Ego has almost nothing to do with their cooking. Instead you get a perfect blend of confidence tempered by humility. They respect tradition, and their fellow cooks. The idea of failing is almost as scary as getting into a fight for the first time. So they ball up their fists, puff out their chests, and go in swinging.

A cook that's prideful is a different thing altogether. They spend all their time in past (the last place I worked did this blahblah) or in the future (when I have my own place im gonna go in the dining room and tell the guest to fuck off!) and little to no time in the actual moment. A prideful cook feels a sense of entitlement, and believes they are the standard bearer when it comes to sanitation, mise, and life in general. They believe that they should be sous chef, or chef de cuisine, and will do anything to undermine those above them. They have a hard time believing that they could have made a mistake. (but I made it, how could it be wrong?) When things get busy an aura of hatred surrounds them. Care and love go out the window--if it was even there to begin with. At the end of service, theirs is the loudest voice; quick to point others failures and their own triumphs. In their own mind they are the image of what a cook should be. And this is just the tip of where the problems lie.

Throughout your career you're going to work with an unusual cross section of people. Social deviants, trust fund kids, and registered green party voters. Pride won't come easily to all of them. There will be too many distractions and pressures for them to focus in and just cook. They will forget why they got into restaurant life in the first place--if the even knew in the first place at all. In time, as they find their place in the kitchen, and their own style, pride will start to show its face. And as long as this person's goals stay in place, and their successes are coupled with humbling failure, there will be a beautiful, natural balance. And there is no other way.


quotes and conversations. extended sexy tv pop culture science fiction folsom street fair edition.

"Never trust a cook that wear cologne."
-Corey. Prefers a natural musk.

Ponder: Fuckin' Stand By Me. Makes me cry every time.
Me: You are the corniest tattooed punk guy I know.
Ponder: His boy gets stabbed in the throat and dies.
Me, to Merrell: Will you dab that up for him?
(Long pause)
Merrell: Oh. Did you mean his vagina?

Gerardo: I was trying to be gentile.
Me: Gerardo, gentile and gentle are not the same thing.

"Usually you give me four more inches and I don't have to bend over as much."
-Ponder. Likes a taller prep table and cutting board.

Me: So there's this show called Moonlighting. And it starred Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard. They ran a detective agency, and got into adventures, and it was great because they never slept together. It was just platonic with this sexual tension. Until the third season where they fucked it all up. So why am I telling you this? Because sometimes its better to have the platonic friendship. Sometimes it's better not to sleep with the girl. Got it?
Camaal: (Nods)
Me: Paulie, you catch all that?
Paulie: Bruce Willis with hair?
(45 Minutes pass)
Me: It's like Scully and Mulder on the X-Files.
Camaal: Si, claro.

Eddie: Dude, you didn't tell me boning down with 400 people would hurt so much.
Me: Well have you ever boned down two times in a row? It hurts.
Goose: Yeah, but sometimes you just gotta push through.

Me: It's like Bosom Buddies. Only you guys hate each other. But im not sure who's Tom Hanks, and who's the other guy.
Corey: Peter Scolari. Don't ask me how I knew that.

Merrell: I just don't like that they think they can act any way they want because they're pretty.
Me: But look at Ponder.
Goose: Look at me!
Ponder: I'm not sure if we just made our point or lost the argument.

Me: Don't you feel like you have more energy now that you're eating better?
Merrell: About the same.
Me: Don't you feel like you have more energy now that you're drinking less?
Merrell: I'm not really drinking less.

"What kind of dom are you? You're not into leather??"
-Eddie. A good leather loving dom.

Eddie: Next time I want to see you pound that cheese like you fuckin' mean it.
Me: Who's being the dom now?
Eddie: Tables are turned huh?
Me: Yeah. I will slap you right in the face.
Eddie: On my giant chin.

Me: Did you just say sci-fi fantasies?
Eddie: Yeah, sci-fi.
Me: Well, I did write that erotic fan fiction centered around Princess Leia's copper bikini.
Eddie: Did you really?
Me: Yes. That's what I did yesterday.
Eddie: Well? You are a writer...
Me: Go cut a flatbread you whore.

Ponder: Where's Stevie Wonder? I don't wanna get caught staring.
Me: Dude, he's blind.
Ponder: I know he's blind!!

"You're looking a little yellow. No, not racially."
-Merrell. Racially sensitive.

from top: eddie's 28th, sauerkraut, alinea style, merrell's dumb ass nachos, menu writing, black cod, dinner, family menu, safe word, pray 4 dylan


Todd X. said...

Truly, I mean this: your blog rocks. I love the content, the format, and your voice. Kudos.

Paul L. said...

Love this weeks entry, as usual. However, the comments this week were especially priceless. Ponder and Stevie Wonder...man oh man...

FMG said...

My new mole skin is falling apart to, WTF!

Pavlov said...

Jesus Christ on a scooter! I love it when I miss a week or two of Linecook... it's like fucking Christmas, my birthday and halloween all rolled into one!

dwmyers said...

This is an awesome essay. The paragraph on being prideful, I suggest the following: replace cook with Senator, chef de cuisine with President, and sous chef with, oh, Secretary of State. It still works, which speaks to Richie's words being true of humanity, no matter what the organization or condition.