Sunday, 8 June 2008

"Is It Really Worth It ?"

Bonsoir mes lapins légèrement rôtis !

Let me start at the beginning as that is the best position, I believe, that will make the most sense. I am completely exhausted. Drained and depleted of all energy, enthusiasm and stimulus. Since returning from my Fathers' bedside, which resided in one of Glasgow's' finest hospitals, I have been working like a Trojan for seven days now. Twelve hours a day. Which, for all you non-mathematical people out there, equates to 84 hours of hard graft in the space of one week. Now that is not including time in my less than comfortable office preparing specials, rotas or placing orders with various suppliers.

Unfortunately, and with great reluctance, I must work tomorrow also. Finishing my total hours worked at a phenomenal 96 hours in eight days. Had I been pimping my skills at previous establishments, then that figure would have been greatly higher. Going back, say 5 years, that total would rise to approximately 108 hours (not including breakfast shifts!) possibly even more. Go back even further in my mediocre career and I don't think my calculator could handle the equation!

It raises many questions and I'm sure a minority of Chefs would agree that once a month or even just every now and again, we wonder to ourselves, "Is it really worth it?"

So, is it worth it? Well...... Yes and no. That may sound slightly ignorant as everyone has to work, except students, and everyone has too make a living (except students) and everyone......except students and those on the dole.....has to earn to survive! We all strive for the better things in life but do we actually get there? Do those material possessions make us who we are? Of course not. Time is precious to us all. Time with family and friends is paramount to our existence. Without it we would be lost. Time and money provides us with our extra curricular activities and yet I would not change my days off during the week for anything. They are sacred.

And so to my point as to why I would not give up my days off that are usually in the week. People! People is the sole reason I enjoy my weekdays off and the answer to the reason is that if you enjoy the privilege, and it is a privilege, of having the weekends to party with friends, hold barbeque's at your home, embark on mass shopping sprees and generally have great merriment on these days then you will notice one thing. Its damn busy! Queues upon queues. People falling over themselves for the latest bargain or sale, acquaintances descending on your home for a taste of your adequately cooked ribeye or T-bone with that nice Cajun spice you bought from Sainsburys and served with a mache salad. Even going to the local supermarket or shop to purchase your groceries becomes a survival of the fittest. It is like watching marauding hyenas devouring an antelope. A 'get out of my way' attitude that seems to have engulfed our society.

I can take my daughter out for the day and not have to push through large amounts of shoppers, chavs or old age pensioners to get to where I'm going. We can enjoy a delightful visit to a park without footballs being kicked in the general direction of the children's' play area or dogs running around you trying to nip at your heels or take a chunk from your quadriceps. There are no baseball capped braggarts yelling obscenities at each other or those annoying scooters buzzing around like demented wasps.

So, is the work worth it? This is where it can become a bit of a conundrum. I love what I do and on an exceptionally busy night, it can become almost euphoric. An adrenalin buzz that is very hard to describe. After a monumental night of catering for a large number of people you feel elated, proud of yourself and your crew and that kind of high is very difficult to come down from. It is also extremely hard to give it up. There is a flip side though, as there is with everything. The hours are long. Not as long as other types of jobs but long enough to cause chaos in your personal life. Missed Birthday parties, weddings, christenings and other events of this nature, that are usually reserved for the weekends, plague my past years.

Moaners and groaners calling in sick from some airborne disease. I even once had a young Commis call in sick as he had Glandular Fever. He is back in the next day looking and feeling fine. I have to admit, he wasn't the brightest when it came to skiving off work. These are the ones who will not last. They will give up. It's inevitable. They don't feel that accomplishment at the end of a busy weekend. More often than not, they were probably pulling a sickie and were out with their mates or watching the football at the pub.

When you are in your kitchen, nothing else really matters. It can't. you take your mind off the job and your eye from what you are doing and you could lose a finger, literally! Yet your life is full of all these missed appointments, barbeque's and parties that you wanted to go to, but couldn't find the time.

Finally, with out going into more detail about the pros and cons of the Industry......IS IT WORTH IT?

I don't know. I will have to think about it some more......

We are at the end my gently poached parrot fish. I bid you 'Adieu' once more and leave you with the news that the hospitality industry must stop ignoring front-of-house staff and start giving waiters as much credit as chefs. WHY???. Also, according to the fifth annual City & Guilds Happiness Index, Chefs' are some of the happiest employees in the country. The research shows that nearly half of the Chefs' interviewed put their happiness down to a better work / life balance. What a load of cobblers! Show me a Chef that is truly happy with his work/life balance and it will either be a catering student or a pub company cook. Finally, the UK has won the right to opt-out of the European Working Time Directive for the next eight years meaning that Hospitality employees can work More than 48 hours a week. Well thank you very much! I was getting a bit worried there. I thought to myself the other day, 'I am really not doing the amount of hours I should be. I hope we do not have to get in line with Europe and only work 48 hours a week, that would never do'.

On that bombshell, I will leave you with a new addition to my 'Beyond The Hotplate' Section. An amazing blog with some fantastic recipes and info on healthier eating, additives and preservatives, the list goes on. If you enjoy it that much, scroll to the bottom of Sher's blog and vote for her in the Blogger Choice Awards. Just click the link! I will update my other pages within the next few days, so keep checking back. Until next time......

Le Chef Grincheux

1 comment:

SheR. said...

Gee thanks Chef.
I am like you in so many ways. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job. Unfortunately, I had to stop working as a chef since Dec 2006 due to my burnt injury. Now I'm waiting for my visa to get a job over here in Croatia.
When my fiance and me were living in London, I usually do 7 shifts a week. I think I clocked a total of 61 hours. It's really hard hard job especially for a girl. That's why most chefs are men not because they cook better but chef work is physically really straining.. All the heavy pots. Speed, accuracy, attentiveness, dedication, etc.. the list goes on as to how many qualities a good chef needs to possess.
My fiance used to complain about lack of time spent together. I mean I love him but it's hard to explain that I love my job just as much :P Strange but true.
When my mates told me my two head chefs have started their own restaurants in London, I'm so dying to get back there to work again.
Job or Family? Ah... it's tough choice.