For Fiddlesticks CC’s Executive Chef, Ryan Daniels, being a chef comes with awesome responsibility and opportunity.
I write this article with some bias, but only because I have had the great honor of experiencing the magic chefs create. As with every craft, there are outliers who give the profession a tainted perspective. But all in all, club and resort chefs are truly a different breed.
Here are 5 reasons why I think chefs are the most amazing humans on the planet:
1. Could this be Witchcraft?
Some cultures make celebrities of their chefs. They are highly respected for their work and their chosen profession. And their sole purpose is to nourish and care for those they cook for.
Even in our culture, chefs wield great power. We can manipulate our members’ palates while also eliciting feelings, memories, and emotions with every meal.
Take a moment and let it sink in. It’s a pretty awesome responsibility.
Whether we are serving someone the most well-balanced soup on a frigid day or delivering a perfectly executed mulit-course meal at their wedding, the food—and the hands that prepare it—play an important role in how our guests feel and what they remember.
2. The Conductor
I once heard Charlie Trotter say being a chef is like being the Director of an orchestra.
Those of us who have had the opportunity to be part of many dinner services and have watched the brigade move with grace know this to be true. We say very few words on the line beyond, “Oui, chef,” and “Two minutes to the window.”
Even so, the food is perfectly plated and brought to the pass with precise timing and pride. The expo chef ensures the plate is free of any smudge marks. He or she garnishes the dish to enhance it not only visually but to round out the flavors.
To watch this go on for hours at a time with seemingly zero effort or words is like watching a dance or a play that has been rehearsed thousands of times. It is truly flawlessness.
To bear witness to this day-in and day-out never gets old, especially as the team grows in unison.
The overall goal—to deliver a memorable experience with each and every dish—runs through our heads as each ticket comes in. Through teamwork and unity, we grow and develop. Young culinarians move up the ranks to become successful, respected, and even-tempered chefs like the ones who mentored them. They then lead and its what they learned up to that point that will give them the confidence and knowledge to shine in the spotlight.
3. It’s not about how much you can bear, but how much you can endure.
A chef’s normal day is the furthest thing from “normal.”
There is no schedule, only an idea of what needs to get done. There are constant changes, callouts, and purveyors mispicking product. I could go on and on about the challenges we face daily. But instead of complaining, we turn curveballs into opportunities. We reevaluate our resources, collaborate with our cooks and make the best decision possible for the club, the member, and the team.
To say we always make the best decision would be a lie. But what makes us so unique is that every mistake is a chance to get better. We have the unique ability to “fail” and go back to analyze what went wrong, how can we improve, and then face the next day with the same amount of passion and perseverance, but with a little more experience and insight.
4. Family is not an important thing. It is everything.
Another remarkable trait of a chef is that we truly care about our brigade. Most good chefs will have a following of culinarians that trust him or her. If they were to leave, these culinarians would follow the chef, knowing it would lead to an opportunity to further their own career.
Most of us spend more time with each other in hot, stressful, cramped environments—and then still want to hang out after work. Being in a professional kitchen is like being with your family. These people will have your back no matter what. They will let you know when you let them down. They will call you out when somethings not right. And they will hold you to the very highest standard. These people will be beside you and know what you need without a word spoken.
It is truly spectacular to watch a team hold each other to such a high standard, to have shouting matches because a dish was returned to the kitchen, and then go out after working next to each other for ten or more hours and still be the best of friends.
Club chefs have an awesome responsibility to create this type of culture within their team.
5. Life is a journey, not a destination
One of the most important traits of a chef is that we are always learning.
Going out to dinner is not a relaxing dining experience. Our heads are on constant swivel seeing what the restaurant is doing well and figuring out if we can adopt any of its practices into our culture.
We write menus then sit and overanalyze each dish until we think it is balanced and cohesive. Then we go back and analyze it ten or more times.
Simply put, we are perfectionists always looking to improve.
We will never reach perfection in our craft because, in my opinion, perfection does not exist. We are ever-evolving and exploring. Not only with food techniques, preparations, trends, and presentations, but also how can we engage the senses.
Our goal is to take the member on a journey and let our food and the atmosphere we create transform their experience to allow them to forget about the real world for a while and allow them to feel true euphoria.
There are many professions that allow you to explore your passion, work with others, be creative, and leave a lasting mark. For some, it includes walking onto a stage, tuning an instrument, and waiting for the curtain to rise. For me, it includes walking into a kitchen, sharpening my knives and letting the tickets roll in.