Being a chef isn’t easy, and never has been. Long hours and lots of standing, very few breaks, pay that can be incredibly low…. But in the end, if cooking is your calling, few things are more rewarding.
We reached out to 10 of the country’s most well-regarded chefs ask asked them to answer the question, “What are some things they don’t tell you about being a chef?" Plenty of people have learned everything they know about chefs by watching Food Network or Top Chef, we proposed, but in reality it must be very different than it looks on television. To begin with, if you’re the executive chef of a restaurant, you don’t just cook the food; you’re devising recipes, keeping track of inventory, and most importantly, leading a team of cooks who look to you for guidance and inspiration. If a kitchen is a ship the chef is the captain.
What, we asked, are some aspects of being a chef that would take non-chefs by surprise? The chefs who responded were Lettuce Entertain You’s Doug Psaltis, Stella Barra's Jeff Mahin, Blue Ribbon’s Eric Bromberg, Scampo’s Lydia Shire, Vetri’s Marc Vetri, the forthcoming Loi Estiatorio’s Maria Loi, Delicatessen’s Michael Ferraro, Norman’s Norman Van Aken, Avec’s Paul Kahan, and Lonesome Dove’s Tim Love.
All of these chefs have spent decades in the kitchen and many years heading kitchens of their own; some, like Tim Love, have parlayed that success into several restaurants as well as TV shows. And while all of these chefs’ careers have taken them on different paths, their responses are strikingly similar: It’s a lot of work, it’s not glamorous, and it’s just as much about being a leader as it is about being a good cook.