When I was a full-time chef, there were brief moments of the day in which a profound sense of inner happiness would sweep over me. It's often these fleeting, seemingly random instants that are most meaningful; they remind those of us in the culinary world why we do what we do.
As a restaurant chef, one of my favorite moments was watching the arrival of the kitchen staff first-thing in the morning before their shift. These cooks look like they rolled right out of bed and into the train, because, well, that's what you do. The early arrivers are those who treasure those few minutes of silence, the only time you actually notice the hum of the lowboy coolers, or the whine of the exhaust hoods as they're turned on. They like to have the first pick of their mis en place—everything they need for the day—grabbed in one efficient pass and crammed into a hotel pan to take back to their station. Their timeliness earns them the right to flat sheet pans, a fresh stack of towels, that favorite whisk or ladle. While I only got to witness this daily ritual once or twice a month (when I happened to find myself at work by 6:00 am), I always got quite a kick out of being first in the kitchen to watch it unfold.