It is not a secret that nowadays most of the people feel a certain level of stress in their workplace. Upcoming project deadlines, unsatisfied customers, needy boss….
You name it…
It is also not a secret that chefs experience a ton of stress on daily basis. So, let me tell you what the day to day life in the kitchen is, how it changes you and what can you learn from it. Maybe it will change the way you deal with the next stressful situation and maybe it will make you look at the things from a different perspective.
When I first started working in the kitchen,I knew it was going to be stressful, but I really did not know where exactly I was getting myself into. As pretty much every rookie, I only said ‘yes, chef’ and didn’t talk back. I had to take the blame for other people’s mistakes, because if you are the last person at ‘the crime scene’, you are the criminal.
If someone else left a dirty station the night before and you didn’t have time to clean it properly when you showed up, it’s just a matter of time when the chef is going to give you a speech of what your station looks like (usually very uncomfortable).
Once I spent one and a half hours in the freezer (-25 degrees Celsius) doing the inventory, only in my chef whites. I was handed 13 pages with approximately 30 products on every single one of them and I was told to count them. Most of the products weren’t even in the freezer, because the list wasn’t updated for a long time. It was my 3rdday in the new job, so obviously I didn’t know most of the products. Chef told me only to come back when everything was counted.
After 1.5 hours in the freezer he came to me and said ‘I mentioned to you, that most of the stuff in the freezer is repetitive. You should have asked me the sheets from the last month and just double check everything. Ask more questions!’
Of course, I was sick after that, but I learned to ask more questions…
There was another chef, who took out the spoon out of the boiling water, put it in my palm, closed it and squeezed it, just to teach me not to use spoon with short handles to stir boiling stuff. The fun thing about it is that it wasn’t me who put it there. I was burnt intentionally many times, but you know what, after some time you stop feeling the pain of the burns.
One of my colleagues used to work with a chef, who would tell them to stock their stations so well, so they wouldn’t have to go to the walk-in-fridge during the whole service. Whoever was the first to go to the walk-in fridge, had to clean it with a tooth brush. The lesson of organization and preparation here….
I worked with chefs who would bark at me like mad dogs throughout the whole day and pushed me to do everything perfectly. Every small mistake would cause even more barking. Trust me, it is not a very pleasant sound when you work 15-16 hours a day.
When working in this kind of environment, you have to grow a thick skin. One of the chefs told me, that this kind of pressure creates character and that one day I will thank him for it.
When I started working in the new kitchen, where people were talking that mental pressure was insane and it is very hard to work there, it was like a walk in the park for me. I felt a lot stronger, much more disciplined and solid. I am not sure, if I would recommend anyone going through this kind of stuff, but I can now say that it was worth it.
Next time you feel stressed, think of it as a challenge which will make you stronger. Or, if you really had enough of it, then maybe it is time to move on.
And don’t forget that stressed spelled backwards is desserts. So, enjoy it!
At least a little bit…
Put your head down and work hard. Never wait for things to happen, make them happen for yourself through hard graft and not giving up.Gordon Ramsay