Passion amidst the crisis
By Christophe Prud’homme
Keep your passion for cooking and keep on smiling in the kitchen — because you never know who your attitude could be influencing
It has become all too clear over the past few months that everyone is feeling the effects of this sensational global crisis. The question is: what do we do about it?
Do we bury our heads in the sand and wait for things to get better? Or do we choose to hold our heads up high and infuse more passion into what we are doing? I would go for the second option, though it’s by no means the easier choice.
I vividly remember my younger years, when I was doing my apprenticeship in Paris. My head chef back then used to regularly complain about the price increase of raw products in Rungis, the renowned Parisian marketplace where he went every morning.
He would come back to the restaurant in a distressed state and proclaim pessimistically: ‘We’ll not make it this year’ or ‘Things were so much better in the old days — the job was easier, the staff were more professional’ and so on.
With all this negative energy coming from the head of the kitchen, it obviously affected the staff, creating a fairly dismal atmosphere to work in. As a result, I promised myself I would never be like him so my staff would not feel what I had felt.
These days, this scenario plays over and over again in my head.
In these difficult times, people cannot help but express their discontentment about things — and we chefs cannot help but be part of this economic climate where complaints and negativity are in season.
OK, so things are not as we might like them to be — but just take look around. In our roles as more experienced culinary people, we have to realise there are young chefs around who take their cue from us.
We bear the responsibility of demonstrating passion and love for the craft we have chosen. We, as more seasoned chefs, are role models for them; chances are, these younger chefs will behave and react in a similar way to us in future.
We may not be fully aware of it, but our influence on this next generation of kitchen experts is significant.
We need to remember that our job as chefs is driven by passion and we have to pass that enthusiasm on.
Here’s a helpful hint: a smiling face instead of a frown is an easy and effective step. And if you think about it, there are some pretty good reasons for us chefs to be happy, in spite of current adversities.
In our role, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our skills and talents — and there will always be guests sending compliments after enjoying a meal we’ve so passionately prepared, which I must say is a natural high that gives me a boost and fuels my morale every time.
There are also countless things to look forward to, if we just stop whining and look around the corner for a moment.
Now, it’s Ramadan; then it’s Christmas and New Year; then Valentine’s Day — the list of food-centric occasions just goes on.
So let us all not worry too much about business right now.
Crises will come and go and there will always be countless reasons to be down, de-motivated and dissatisfied for those who go looking for them.
But there is no better way to survive than to continue being passionate, share those smiles, hold your heads up high — and of course, stop complaining and keep cooking.
Remember, the future world’s greatest chef may be watching and observing his boss as an apprentice right now: and that boss might be you.