What a weekend I had. It was so full of events, incidents and encounters, some planned, some not, that I would need alone ten different posts to cover everything. I'll try to describe them one by one over the next days and weeks (if I find the energy after or between my shifts.)
One of the most touching and inspiring encounters of my weekend was the one with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. They are the authors of "Becoming a Chef", a book that I read back and forth several times a couple of years ago, when I was still dreaming (and hesitating) about changing careers. I can indeed recommend it to anybody who is thinking about moving into that profession.
I met Karen and Andrew during a round table discussion at the Festival "Gastronomy by the Seine" (in which I was a little bit involved, but that will be one of the other 10 posts). After the round table I introduced myself to Karen and Andrew, told them my story and thanked them for writing this book. I was very touched by the warm reaction and interest I received from both of them.
After this encounter I was inspired to pull out the book again, and I found that now, that I am at a different step of my career move, it is worth reading it again. Now the stories and insights have a new meaning to me, and different chapters than a couple of years ago are becoming important. I can relate now much more to some recommendations and experiences described, and feel that reading the book again will help me in my current confusion and sometimes frustration about the transition I am in, and give me new motivation to move on as planned.
A lot of testimonies in the book remind me that I need to refocus on learning about products and food, and get less hung up and upset about the social environment and very difficult style of communication in this profession.
The book is now my Metro literature, (4 times 10 minutes a day), and the one phrase that I read today, that suggested to me that I am maybe sometimes expecting too much from my colleagues and chefs, and need to complement my restaurant experience with more homework, is the following from the chapter APPRENTICING:
"Although starting at the bottom, you may learn very good technique and speed, you must seek out on your own the how's and why's of what you are doing. Chefs and coworkers do not always have the time to explain more than the minimum a cook needs to know in order to accomplish a particular task. Much of my own on-the fly learning came with the caveat, "... and I don't have the time to tell you why it works best this way - just trust me that it does and do it that way." I learned the techniques, but I didn't learn the theory behind them until I weant home and did some reading on my own."
Good advice that reaches me at the right moment....
Becoming a Chef
Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Wiley; Revised edition (October 10, 2003)