By Chris Steele, Executive Chef ~ Stamford Marriott
As chefs we spend our careers working nonstop 14 hour shifts on our feet most nights and weekends foregoing family reunions, concerts and birthdays. It can be challenging to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, in an environment that rewards working crazy hours under the high stress of constantly needing to create, put up with an oven that worked up until today, broken mop buckets, leaking faucets and my personal favorite last minute call outs. Let’s not forget the craziness of a dinner rush that keeps us on a “flight or fight” state for most of the night. Kitchen life is not easy, but every job has its ups and downs, it all depends on which sacrifices you want to make.
My first night in the restaurant business as a dishwasher, the owner of the restaurant approached me red faced using a language I won’t repeat, explaining the importance of not mixing up the dinner plates with the pasta bowls, which at the time looked exactly the same to me. I thought to myself this is nuts, what’s the big deal?
The life of a chef is now one I can’t imagine living without. For those considering this life, I have to say that the energy, the people, the team work, and of course the food makes it a working environment that is fun to work in. The people I’ve met are now friends I’ve acquired and the heart connections made are still holding. What draws me to being the chef in a hotel and what changed all that for me was I found out I was going to be a dad. Out of all my chef friends who are still in the kitchen, since many have left the business altogether, I’m probably the only one who has a consistent paycheck, health insurance and a semi “normal” personal life. I still get that rush of working on the line, platting large banquet functions and of course creating and interacting with guests at our unique chef’s tables.
The love of food is both universal and unconditional since everyone eats and has a favorite food that can be related to. Think about it, a chef can go out anywhere, talk to anyone from anywhere and always find a common ground in food. Despite people’s backgrounds, upbringing, personal tastes and/or ethnicities, food transcends all our differences and brings people together.