Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Want To Be Great

The reason I am not a chef / blogger that writes about line cooking is because, well, I don't really care about line cooking. The lessons I have learned in life have not come from a busy Saturday night's service, watching cooks cut themselves or chefs scream at the top of their lungs when a plate is less than perfect. Line cooking is like any other job except for a different set of tools. The pressure to excel and succeed is still the same. The initial pay is awful and the work is often unfulfilling. And in the end, there are only a few successful line cooks that will go on to truly matter, to make a significant difference in the fabric of food. The only reason I ever took on food as a serious part in my life in the first place was for the same reason I have always strived to be a writer--to make a lasting impression.

Before I committed to cooking full time just four years ago, I had spent my time reading books by authors like Henry Miller, Knut Hamsun, Ferdinand Celine. I found comfort, answers and motivation in their words, their sometimes depressing ideas and the overall message that both conveyed. When I reverted back to cooking as a means of income (and perhaps a committed profession) I hoped to take what I had learned from books, education and life and make the same impression that those whom I looked up to had, while at the same time still earning a functional income. I wanted my dedicated two hours to pay off.

Jump forward to just under a year ago when I left the job that I had hoped would be the kickstart to my career. If I had stayed with that job last year, the possibilities would be virtually endless this year. But I quit, and life is different now. I haven't stopped wanting to be great, though.

To read this, a bystander would probably think that I'm just another confused guy without enough balls to make a solid decision regarding what I want to do. No staying power. Non-committal. After all, I've spent the last 11 months doing odd jobs here and there, exploring parts of myself, my personality and food at large looking for some sort of definitive answer to the question I'm always asking, "What do I want to be?" Realistically, there are no answers to those sorts of vague questions, but what I've come to discover since I quit my "real" job and started doing only what felt absolutely right is that by having more free time at my disposal I increase my chances to make deeper, more lasting impressions on those with whom I come in contact.

By not simply being Patrick the chef, the line cook or even Patrick the writer, I've had the chance to be for so many people just what they need me to be. As cliche as it may sound, it's not drastically different from an individual reading their favorite author--while the author's intent for his words may have been different than the reader's impression of them, the effect need not be any less important. Every time I've cooked for someone in the last year, they haven't always been bowled over by my food, but they certainly left the meal talking about it. This is the same reason I don't think I can go back to line cooking or "cheffing" in the traditional sense--if I'm not the one responsible for what I'm feeding people, if I give it to line cooks and trust that they taste or see how I do, then I give up my message entirely and the effort then, at least for me, was all for naught.


My original intent for this post was to call it, "I'm Available," because I wanted to create a sort of personal ad that said I'm passionate about what I do and I'd like to imbue others with that same verve. By being unimpeded or tied unequivocally by or to one place, yet still excited about what I do, I create the opportunity for myself to give something to others so that they may benefit from what I have to offer, just as the books I read have given to me. After all, I don't just sit around reading books about money written by bankers. I learn from what others have experienced, and I hope others can learn from me.


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