Working in catering holds more obstacles than I imagined it would.
I wished someone would have explained it to me instead of telling me about uniform policy and stipend and course duration and entry qualifications at the air-conditioned assembly hall of the so called Institute of Tourism Studies. Especially since you’re forced to work in the industry if you wish to continue your studies at said school. Now I wouldn’t say it’s traumatizing but it’s pretty goddamn stressful. But too bad you’re too busy thinking about how all of the other schools lack air-conditioning and comfortable seating.
“Her will spick in English” the heavy southern-Mediterranean, quasi-Arabian, accent exclaimed. Fair enough, I thought. I have O-levels in English language and English literature as well as an Advanced level pass grade in English as well. But I came here determined to become a chef, whatever it takes.
So, firstly, why become a chef? Drugs, women, salary, fame, fine dining, internships abroad, banging hot air-hostesses and doing lines in first class with some of the best chefs in the country all whilst hackling airline food and wondering how they let your friend pass through customs with his carbon-fiber knives, undetected, and at the same time wondering what on earth he’s planning on cooking with them as he shouts at the attendants, demanding they get him some fresh produce. Ah, how the mind wonders. But no, women become objects to feed your job induced sex-addiction, anything above five euros an hour (if not a head-chef, or a sous-chef, which almost nobody is) is a god-send, and drugs are – when not used recreationally, but rather; as medication for in between dual-shifts – extremely hazardous to say the least. There were weekends where all I slept and ate were two hours and two slices of pizza, respectively. I am thoroughly ashamed to say. But enough about me. Why do you want to become a chef?
Because you’re passionate about food, is that right? I’d imagine, it is. That’s what I thought it was as well. But being passionate about food, well, fuck that. For the most part, you are not plating for kings but rather; vigilant of shit simple, costing-monitored, five minute recipes that are engineered specifically for busy service hours without the need to commit the cardinal sin of pre-prep as much as possible.
And I went to I.T.S only to learn how to cook – which I did, quite successfully and in a short period of time as well. Too bad you have to learn how to work, also. Which are two, severely, separate things: being a chef in the industry, and being a culinary student. I enjoyed being a student, I dreaded my very existence as a chef.
A little something about myself: I’m a mellow person. Was, a mellow person. But the amount of fucking shit you have to deal with, though, if you want to thrive in this world “full of sharks” (as Tony put it), I am not even being sensational when I say that it changes you. I thought it did, when I heard them speak about Gordon Ramsey’s anger management issues in dealing with stressful situations, but it’s not just that. Your testosterone levels increase with stress, and adrenaline and a bunch of other hormones which help you face all the fucking cursing going on when you’re deep in the shit during service.
Here’s how I’ll put it: I was a feminist before I was a chef. I started in this industry by looking down on the apparent norm of sexual harassment which is quite blatantly present. Then I started hitting on waitresses and occasionally trying to guess which way they liked to get banged; aloud and in their presence. It’s not that I discovered some refutation of feminism that turned me sexist because there isn’t one. It’s because my hormones started to get the better of me and I just didn’t want to be called a hypocrite.
As for personality-shifts: when it comes to my base male-role model personality developmental issues, I must admit, I am quite a bit more confident in being male. Really, I’m quite good at being a bastard now, no problems. When it comes to matters of self-esteem, achieving goals in the workplace has really helped me to overcome my timidity. But the rest, I’m uncomfortable with. I have to get up in the morning and recite my three commandments just to make sure that I am still human and not a filthy fucking animal with no values whatsoever:
One. Just because I know all women like sex, I know I have to stop assuming they want to do it with me, all the time.
Two. At least abide by the legal laws relating to sexual harassment even though no one else does in the kitchen at your place of work.
Three. You need to stop shoving your wrist into girls’ faces and demanding they have sex with you just because you bought a Rolex.
More obstacles to think about when choosing your career as a chef:
Well, most importantly, do NOT do it because of how easy it is to find employment, being that you practically don’t need any qualifications and that there are so many businesses opening almost daily, practically.
I mean, you’d think – and be somewhat justified in doing so – that finding a job is easy when you look at all these fucking restaurants lying around. But truth is, getting an interview is hard, getting a trial is harder, getting a job is insanely difficult, and keeping it is even more so. Trust me, I have been to at least half a dozen interviews this summer, three trials, and I only ended up with a part-time gig – no thanks to I.T.S – which is also not good enough for the school, which also threatens the continuation of my studies in a diploma in the culinary arts, therefore.
Also, you’d think the placement office will find work for you, that’s what they’re for, right? So it’s easy to get a job once getting into I.T.S, right? Well, surprisingly, you would be wrong to assume that. Even as a distinguished student, the placement office – dedicated solely to the allocation of students within the catering industry – WILL and SHALL tell you to fuck off.
They’ll just make you send more CVs, the same thing you were fucking doing anyway, and blame everything on your personality and make out a case where you have personality disorders hence your inability to find a job. Either you’re to talkative or too quiet or too confident or under confident or too upright or lack posture or whatever “bullshit” else (in Tony’s own words) they can try to dirty your case with just so they don’t have to address claims of incompetence. If you aren’t capable of fulfilling your duty (of finding work for students, hence the name ‘placement office’) it stands to reason, you are quite clearly, incompetent.
Oh, who’s Tony? He’s the man I just had an interview with this morning, the very inspiration for my writing this rant-like article, if you will. “The industry will swallow you up and shit you back out.” And oh was he right. It was more of a pep talk from chef to chef, after appreciating that I fully trust him with my career, he just gave me some hint to stay alive in the industry. When he asked about a wage:
“Anything really.” I replied.
“Don’t.” he said.
I was confused. He elaborated: “I’ll give you minimum wage if you say that. Five euros an hour. Twelve thousand annually. At least do that for yourself.”
Truly, the industry has gone a long way since the days of Marco Pierre White – my main inspiration for getting into catering.
“In my days you never asked two things: how many hours and how much pay?” he says, admirably. I get the appeal in having the value of just going there, doing your job, leaning and going home with the satisfaction of having an honest living. But most of the talk was about pay. Trust me, loyal employees do not exist as all business owners are fucking thieves and shady low life scum, the equivalent of what I find admirable is what experienced chefs – working in the industry today – call: being a push-over.
And all the more when considering that most interviews are done by HR representatives, instead. And now having mentioned it, here’s a tip about HR: you need to make up a story where you’re the greatest fucking person on earth. I usually relate some shit about my passion for studying anthropology and dropping out of school to pursue better cultural understanding though the medium of food (instead of that of education). When a chef does an interview, all you need to tell him is about all the places you’ve worked in. He’s just interested in whether or not you can fucking cook. He knows that it’s neither here nor there if you were indeed the person to cure cancer and save African children from tigers and lions and shit during your last philanthropic visit to Kenya. All you need to convince him of is your ability to prepare an insane amount of bruschetta’s/salads/Maltese platters in an insanely short period of time.
Coming back from an interview is the absolute worst, however. Especially when you’re in between jobs. It’s a cock tease with a boner that lasts all day. It increases your testosterone levels just by talking about getting back in the kitchen and handling pressure during service. I usually come back and either sleep or masturbate/cook all day for the entirety of my extended family (as I am currently temporarily living in the same household as them for some irrelevant reason). Today, I wrote this, and all the rest of that too.
It’s like being a marine. The ones that don’t get post-traumatic stress disorders get anxiety disorders related to their psychological need to get back into the desert. Rather: the ones that don’t get scarred emotionally by the bullying often become so accustomed to it that they become incapable of maintaining intimate relationships with anyone. Either way, you’re fucked. And trust me, don’t just decide to become a chef.
I, myself, am dealing with the emotional scars of bullying inflicted on me back when I was in school, by embracing all of the bullying that comes my way in the catering world, in order to help me achieve new skills and learn, and furthermore establish insane goals that require a certain amount of mental strength to achieve. In other words, I keep telling myself everyday: “I’ve been through worse” which helps me deal with fresh adversity, daily, with ease.
As for my emotional development: it’s currently on hold. Just like a balloon that will inflate until it’ll burst. Being in a relationship with someone I loved and losing that person, I deal with it now by acting like an animal and fucking pretty much everything that moves and comes my way after work hours. That’s my therapy, I pretend to be less human each and every day. You must think I’m bluffing, but it’s not hard to spot girls with low self-esteems, really. And on the nights when I remember what it was to feel something for someone, it gets worse and worse and worse and worse and sometimes just makes me want to die.
I know, someday, the chickens are coming home to roost. And I will be in immense emotional turmoil and it shall definitely be my undoing.