The Chef’s Table: You Gotta Love Those Temperamental Chefs

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rsz_mark_doe_1Our food columnist, ‘Just Cooking’s’ Mark Doe, on how different chefs have their ways in the kitchen…

WE all know that some chefs have a reputation of being temperamental, and to a degree it is true.

I know when I ran kitchens I sometimes had my moments, so I have decided to try to explain why chefs can be like this, and to a degree defend them!

There is two types of chefs that I have worked with. The first being extremely passionate about what they do, extremely talented and at the top of their game.

These guys are what make the catering industry such a great industry. 
They develop young chefs into great chefs and any telling off you get from these guys is always justified and never personal! When you go into these chefs’ kitchens you know what to expect – they demand perfection and nothing but 100% is good enough!

If there are 80 covers (or more!) in the restaurant and the kitchen isn’t performing, they are going to turn up the pressure. There is no point going over to the chef preparing the starters and saying “now come on mate, you need to move a little bit tonight, people are waiting for ages now!”

What he is more likely to say is; “Table 2 have been waiting 20 minutes now. If you don’t move it you are going to have to reconsider your career and find another job!”

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What this will do is get the guy moving and if he is as passionate as the head chef, he will rise to it and become a better chef.

The other type of chef is the opposite!

They don’t have any passion, cannot cook and are not happy with their chosen career choice! In fact many of them hate it and would do anything to get out of it!

They often have a huge ego to mask their lack of talent and passion and when they kick off, they really kick off.
 This normally creates chaos in the kitchen and makes the situation worse!

These are the worst chefs to work with by far! And if you want a career in cooking, avoid them!

One guy I have the utmost respect for is David Nicholls, formerly the Executive Chef of The Ritz Hotel, London, now director of food and beverage at Mandarin Oriental.

I worked at The Ritz in London for three years, and loved it!
 He was a hard man to work for, a real perfectionist who didn’t suffer fools! But nothing was ever personal, and I learnt more from him than any other chef I have worked for.

I am not ashamed to say that he had me in tears on a couple of occasions, but I had messed up on busy nights and had put the whole kitchen in the, you know whats!

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Even after these bad days. I would still be in the kitchen at 7am the following day for another 12-14 hour day! I believe that a certain amount of discipline is required in a kitchen, particularly at the higher level and it certainly never did me any harm.

So I hope this has shed a little like on cranky chefs and has not put any young people off from considering becoming a chef, because I can honestly say it is the best industry in the world.

Happy cooking!


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