Bon après-midi mon Escoffiers désireux.
For centuries, Chefs' have been concocting, inventing, creating and toiling over food. Developing dish after exquisite dish and even re-inventing timeless classics to move with society's ever-evolving quirks and quibbles. When a young naive boy begins his quest for the knowledge of the culinary ancestors, Careme, Larousse and Escoffier spring to mind, he begins a journey of learning and fulfilment. From the moment he steps out of the changing room looking like a badly dressed clown in over sized clogs and a skull cap, he feels complete. From the first cheese souffle that hasn't suffered brewers droop to his final Chateaubriand with Sauce Bernaise that could give the Roux Bothers a run for their money he will still remember how, when and who got him there. He will reminisce over the path he has walked as his mentally tortured brain and battered torso slowly work their way toward the Holy Grail......Retirement!
It's like an esoteric passion. It flows through the veins of most Chefs' I have had the pleasure of knowing, even working with, and even though this passion may be hidden to begin with it is drawn from your very soul to the surface by the colleagues and masters you learn from.
All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, all your toil, training and tears have paid off. You rise like that first light and airy cheese souffle and you've cracked it, Head Chef! Now things are different. Now, you have reached your pinnacle. You can now spend time at home with family and friends knowing your kitchen will run with military precision. Your staff well trained, hand picked by you personally, will continue working to your style and consistancy. A well oiled machine roaring away to serve eager clientele. Unfortunately, this is where the dream begins to fade. Not so much fade as collapse, dare i say implode.
If this were 10 to 20 years ago, I would have stopped writing now. My story would be over, but it is just beginning. These days, Head Chefs' are no longer creating or developing dishes as much as you are led to believe. The real Chefs', the ones in hotels and restaurants, might be becoming a bit tetchy. The impression you may get from the television is of Celebrity Chefs' teaching the general public how to cook pasta or presenting T.V shows for the descerning house buyer. Meanwhile the real unsung heroes of this Industry are sitting at home or in their sub-level offices trying to write a report on why they do actually need a Kitchen Porter to wash dishes at the weekend. Why 4 Chefs' are better than 3 or trying to justify the reason why they are using Beef and not Quorn because the EU have decided to shut off imports from Brazil, which is the largest importer for Beef in the country, and in-turn has pushed the price of UK Beef up so much that fillet steak will soon become a thing of the past. It is a puzzlement that at the moment in the media we are being bombarded with words like 'free-range', 'organic' and 'local because, although it is grown in this country, it is more expensive than importing it from third world countries. How can that be? I can buy a lettuce from France and it will cost almost half the price of a British lettuce that came from 5 miles away!
Because of large companies, most high level Chefs' have become pencil pushers and now do very little cooking at all. Though it is possible that Chef is doing a large amount of cooking (lack of staff due to cutbacks), but still trying to get the masses of paperwork for numerous governing bodies finished so he might be able to have some family time on his day off! Let's put the cards on the table. I don't know of one Chef that moved into this Industry to sit behind a tiny desk in a small, cramped office while being pounded by the bosses for using one too many onions in the Ratatouille! Its crazy to think that it could happen, but its so very true.
Chefs' no longer have the freedom they used to. In my opinion, the media have a lot to answer for, as do the Celebrity Chefs'. The Catering Industry has changed and at the moment it has changed for the worst. Corporations and conglomerates own this game we call cooking. Money men with too much time playing golf than actually seeing what goes on within a working kitchen. Discussing how many movements a person has to make to chop a carrot or open a fridge door, is it feasible this way or that and why dont' we just buy the vegetables in prepared so we can sack another Commis, save a bit of cash and then we can all buy new BMWs'.
It is a war my friends and the battlelines will soon be drawn. Who knows who will win. I will be standing proud on the side of the Sabatier, where will you be?
Before I go though, something caught my eye in the news this week. Gordon Ramsay is set to open his first Culinary School in Surrey. Nice to see your keeping to your Scottish roots Gordon. As we all know, Surrey is the ideal place for a culinary school due to its need to get youngsters off the streets and into a promising career. Or could it be that it is due to the Range Rovers, million pound houses and the fact that he wouldn't have to face two of his biggest failures, Amaryllis at One Devonshire Gardens and Glasgow Rangers!
I am now off to wash my mouth out with carbolic soap so I bid a fond farewell to you all.
Au revoir et peut la force être avec vous