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« June Taylor Opens The Still Room To The Public | Main | winter. »

05 December 2006


You hit this one right out of the park. Brava, Shuna!

I swear, every time I read your blog I weep. And I'm at work, for the love of god! I'm not sure what it is, but your words constantly break me wide open. Thank you. Beautiful.

I like to cook, and I'm a pretty good home cook. But, there's no way I'd want to be a professional chef. I admire the sheer lunacy and fortitude of you professional cooks. Your inventiveness inspires me at home.

Do what you do? Never! Read about? All the time! BTW, thanks for that post about book recs. I'm now reading Bill Buford's "Heat". Madhur Jaffrey is next.

ps: I find chef coats to be hawt.

What makes a chef a 'chef'? I cook, I create. I slave away in the kitchen one night a week, but I do it for love, not money. Actually I do it for TWO loves: my wife and the cooking.

So am I a chef or a cook? ;-)

It's refreshing to hear someone in the industry say it like it is. I can't tell you how many times people tell me: "Oh, you're so lucky to be a chef. That must be so much FUN!" Well, it IS fun, but it is also everything else that you mentioned above.
I've worked in lots of kitchens with externs straight from culinary school coming to work with us. I always know they are doomed once I hear the words come out of their mouths: "This is so much FUN!" Yes, it's fun the first day on the job, when you're still learning the ropes and your chef isn't expecting anything from you. But once that stops, you are expected to perform - exellently and consistently - every day at work. Those people who claim that "It's fun" inevitably end up in tears and/or collecting unemployment from the restaurant.
I don't mean to discourage anyone from persuing this line of work. It is very rewarding in its own ways, but please, please, PLEASE give professional chefs/cooks the respect they deserve by recognizing that this is an extremely stressful and low-paying industry.
TV celebrity chefs have given the public a twisted, completely false sense of what this industry is truly about. This is HARD WORK, and a lot of people do not realize this.

damn hell ass well said!

you're so right on about this:

"We both have a hard time feeling normal when we're not doing our work."

i resigned from my job last week (i'm about to move to Las Vegas) and i called my chef and he asked how i was doing and i said "this feels weird" and he said "yeah, i expected you'd say that." aside from packing, i don't know what to do with myself and i am very anxious to get on with my life when i get to the desert.

as long as the FN is polluting the idiot box, the fantasy will continue and the Average Joe 9-5 on the street will never understand what we do. but is that such a big deal? i don't think so. i dig this tribal element of this industry. the ignorance of the outsiders entertains me to no end. doing something that a "regular" person can't handle is hot to me. yeah, it's fun but that isn't why i'm into this and it's not why i got into it. so why did i? it seemed like what i should be doing and i was going to do it no matter what. nothing else had worked out for me and this at least seemed rewarding to me on an elemental level.

i remember a phrase from one of the actors during the show Kitchen Confidential (pity about that show): "we do this for the food, money and sex and if you screw up the first one, the other two vanish." at this moment in my career (and i fully live in the moment), that phrase exemplifies this field for me. as i get older and more experienced, that feeling will change. but for now, it's dead on. it's been two years. the honeymoon is over for me and i'm still here.

gotta go deal with my sciatica pain.

thank you.

I gave up cooking for a living once I could no longer deny that my knees were completely shot and wouldn't support me through another season... I don't always miss it, the early mornings, the late nights, second degree burns and lacerations from chicken bones... But there are days when I would sell my soul to be back in a cramped and steaming kitchen, whipping egg whites and stirring soup while the kitchen fills with delicious smells... So I come here, to live vicariously through your lovely photos and eloquent descriptions of what it means to love food as much as you love your own life's blood...

I am surprised given your recent assault on bad grammar, that you chose not to correct the google referrals before publishing them ;)

I would be interested to see you make the same arguments about art. Do you consider yourself an artist, for example? Would those artists who dedicate their lives to and struggle to make a living from art agree that anyone artistic should be allowed to call themseves an artist too?


In the grammarian post I merely copy and pasted varioys "Style Guide" suggestions. I would not call that an assault. Style Guides are used by all publications-- and every publication has a different take on how the written word should flow.

In the case of blogs I have not told anyone how to do things, I stated that "un-edited" blog writing is sometimes incredibly hard to read, but I did not attack anyone.

In the case of the word artist I can barely comment. My upbringing made it veritably impossible to own the word writer, and even with 20 years of applied art background, I find artist a difficult word to own as well.

But, as many know, I am harder on myself than most.

I say that a cook is not a chef because they are not. I am addressing the professional world only-- and that is all I can speak to-- because it is a term I proudly own: cook/pastry chef. A word I worked hard for. I have earned the stripes.

But, like all art, the journey is life long. I'll die before I know all I want to, all I'd like to.

And my hope? Is that I'll leave behind some of what I've learned and have been given.

The above paragraphs say that I tip my hat to this profession, not that I am the g-d or despot of it. I'm sorry you are taking it this way, it is not who I am, nor is it my intention.

the Pogue reference alone in this one did it for me
you rule!

Someone got to my blog by asking Google "How do I write my own will?" Huh?

I agree that working in restaurants is seldom boring (except, unfortunately, my current job) but I think you have worked in much more interesting places!

If readers believe that, they'll believe anything.

As a chef, I agree - there are bad days, interesting days, bloody good days but 90% of what you describe you have probably read in a Bourdain book because having been in this line of work for 16 years, what I'm reading in this post is the stuff of fantasy.

Or only in America.


I work hard to insure that my posts are truthful. I have been working for 14+ years in NYC, Yountville and SF-- I do not steal words from Bourdain, I have merely lived them to tell my own tale.

I also know cooks who have been hit, spit on, burned on purpose etc. who have worked in England and Italy-- so my experiences, and the experiences of my colleagues in America can, in all honesty, be shared with my non-American comrades.

Just because you haven't seen or experienced these things, doesn't mean no one has & therefore it's fantasy.

Finally, someone is out there in neverland to gather real-life experiences on 'the cooking profession'. First of all, it aint like medicine or law. Anyone can make a nice pate aux choux, or creme anglaise, or chili. It only takes a bit of guidance and practicefor those who don't know what it means to sautee something. You don't need a license to sell your expertice on sorbet making! So for God's sake, stop with the suggestions that chefs are like teachers or dentists! Anyone can make a brownie. Not all can do surgery.

Orange, CA

Thank god!Tell it as it is.Straight in your face!Im another Chef..(a woman as well.)and its so well said.
Talking bout many to count on my arms/hands from fryer/steamer etc.Chopped my left tip of thumb off-continued to finish my shift.
:)This isnt a place for fluffy bunnies and dainty butterflies!
Thanks girl!

All of that is how we feel and why we do it. We will always take the abuse and keep coming back

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