My advice to budding chefs
By: Chef Cristian Feher
You want to know how to become a chef. Maybe you’re already a chef and you want to be better.
You probably found this article after asking Google that same question. Maybe you’re not even a chef, and have no interest in being one, but you’re asking that Shakespearean question - “To be”. How to be, what to be.
Whether you know what you’re doing in life, or not, that fortunately is not a mystery - the fact that you’re being (something, someone). So you want to be a...
I’m going to ask you to do something. I’m going to ask you to put your hands out and grab the world. Go it? Ok, now shift it slightly and look again. Same world - different view. I’m going to present a little paradigm shift. I actually had to look that word up in a dictionary today.
Paradigm: A typical example or pattern of something; a model. (what most of us agree to be true).
Joe wants to be a chef. He wants to be the greatest chef in the world. Instead of putting on a hat and throwing down a hot pan of crepes, he steps out of the door and there are no trumpets blaring. He walks into a local restaurant and no one ushers him into the kitchen. His parents frown and ask him to be “reasonable”. After all, he should be a lawyer or a doctor, or an accountant. Even the restaurants he applies to want him to start by washing dishes. He faces the daunting task of having to find the time and money to put himself through culinary arts school. If he still wants to be a chef at this point, I give him credit for his perseverance!
The point is that society is made to try to dissuade you from being what you want to be. You set out to do something in life, and you find yourself having to ask for permission to be. You have to make excuses for why you want to be. You have to explain to people what you want to be. You have to prove that you are. And you end up having to pay money to an establishment (like a university or authority) so they can finally tell people that you are something.
Before you get the wrong idea, I want to clearly state that I am not some hippie that wants to occupy a park, or tear down any establishment. I’m not against learning, or schools. I myself went through the gauntlet of schools, restaurant kitchens, apprenticeships, certifications, etc. I have brass on my jacket! But my best advise to you, is this:
It’s all in your mind. Anything you’ve ever done, you thought it up first. Before you opened the door, you thought of opening the door. Before you told someone who you were, you thought of telling them who you were. If you really want to be something, just pretend that you’re it and keep pretending that you’re it until you’re it, man. If you can pretend to be something, you’re already it. I’m not talking half-pretend. I’m not talking “try”. I’m talking about going all out. Be it. Own it. You have to believe it.
Pretend: To cause (what is not so) to seem so.
I’m not talking about being a fraud. That’s a completely different understanding of the word “pretend”. You, or someone that reads this article may find what I’m saying to be ridiculous. But that’s because they probably have never tried it, and wouldn’t have the guts to. The world is full of people that tell you things can’t be done, simply because they can’t do them. And you can’t even blame those people - they’ve been told what they can and cannot do all their lives.
Whether you’re good at something, or bad at something, or great at something, is up to your natural talent and ability to learn. You can be a good chef, or you can be a crappy chef. But my point is that if you really convinced yourself that you are a really good chef, you’re probably going to come up with some pretty tasty dishes. Anything I do in life I approach this way. I become it, and I do it. This also includes educating myself, all the time, constantly. I very rarely ask for permission to be something once I’ve decided to be it. Do not underestimate the power of your mind.
Yes, you may have to go to school and get certifications, etc. But know that you’re not doing these things to become a chef, you’re doing them to become a better chef and to establish an agreement with the society that you live in. You were a chef way back, the moment you decided to be a chef - and if someone that day had put you in charge of a kitchen, I guarantee you that you would have done good job, and you would have kept on getting better from that day forward.
How often have you looked at someone driving a fancy car, or in a big office, and said to yourself “Man, I could do that guys’ job.” Well you know what? It’s true. If you really decided so, and were given the guys’ job, you actually, probably could (with a little orientation) do it, and do it well! So remember, that it’s these strange paradigms in society you’re up against, not your natural ability and decision to be something.
You can’t practice medicine or law without a license - not because you couldn’t, but because it would put you in jail. Just know that the only thing stopping you would be a law. You could very well become a good doctor or lawyer if you decided you wanted to be one (if that was really your passion). Luckily, there is a lot more freedom in the arts. You can be an artist, an actor, a sculptor, a painter, a musician, a chef, etc - and just get better by doing. It’s just a decision.
Do not seek to work your way up to becoming something some day. Decide to be it today, totally, 100%, and then do what you have to do in order to communicate it to the society in a way that it can understand. This is the correct order of things - That’s the actual picture of the world. You’ll be much happier, better at what you do, and more successful in anything that you choose to be if you look at it this way.
You want to be something? Start doing it now in whatever capacity you can, as often as you can - don't read about it, or start asking for permission - do, do, do, and you'll soon realize that you became it the moment you started doing it. Prove me wrong.