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« How To Make Homemade Ice Cream. Class & Flavor Notes | Main | Show & Tell: Photos & Snacks {Sunday} 4.13.08 SF »

10 April 2008


Wow... that was something!! You brought back so many good and terrible memories, let me tell you! And I'm with you 100%. When I meet young kids in culinary school that say they want to open their own restaurant... it saddens me because I know that 90% of them, wait 99% of them will never do it or they will fail at it. The nature of this business made me leave it. Like you said, I didn't want to be a single parent and I was headed that way for sure.

Shuna, I'm sending this post to a couple of chef-owners I know. It's a wonderful reminder of how, and why, to be the best you can be.

Fucking brilliant post! Needs to be printed out on pamphlets and passed out on the street. Blown up and put on billboards. Doled out with every pair of elastic waist pizza/tomato/mushroom etc. chef pants.
You know my thoughts on the industry too well already. Far too much EGO and not enough elbow grease to back it up. There's more to being a chef than having your name embroidered on an expensive jacket. I could go on and on....THANK YOU FOR THIS ONE!

It's funny for me to read this post because I have just become a chef/owner who DOESN'T work the line. I hired a new guy last Saturday and for the first time in nearly 10 years as an owner, I don't need to work a shift.

I did spend all day in the kitchen Tuesday, but playing, experimenting, training and watching.

This is not to say I plan on giving up working the line entirely. After all, it's part of the fun. But it's liberating for me to know that things WILL get done, without me doing them.

the power and emotion of this post was truly awesome. i got choked up and i am just a hobbyist cook. but i know chefs. and i'm on a project where a restaurant is involved. this post was just what i needed.


speechless, I am f***ing speechless! This is such an engaging post. I am now in love with Eric Ziebold. Swoon. Didn't know TK can be quite like Gordon Ramsay.

Hmmmm, I wouldn't say TK & GR are that similar, but they both are chefs who demand absolute perfection at all times.

Having known a few people who've worked for and staged at GR's restaurants, I would say what he does on TV is much lighter than what he does in his kitchens. That's fine that TV is showing a chef like him but not all chefs are like him, in Europe or beyond.

Thomas was much more psychological than physical, although the kitchen is a very physical environment. If you don't want to be touched at work than you should pick another profession... ~ Shuna

Just look what happened to Rob Feenie of Lumiere and Feenie's in Vancouver...being a chef is not enough if you cannot monitor your finances which are just as important...where does a cook learn that?

panna cotta is an eggless custard! Creme brulee is made with egg love!

Did I pass the test? :)

Just a note to say that it is always refreshing to read something by a good writer who is also very passionate about what they're writing about. There's a bit of piss and vinegar here, and I really appreciate it. Stick with your integrity, Shuna. I'm proud to know you, even just a little.

Wow! What a powerful commentary. You really have the ability to put into words what everyone in the food business knows, but often goes unsaid. Thank you.

Dang! Amazing post! Might it make your "Definitive Pieces" list?

Yes Evan-- thanks for the reminder. ~ Shuna

Excellent. Bravo. Everything that should be said and the emotion it takes to say it.

Sometimes you make me hate myself for being the type fo chef that I have become. And I hate you for it.

Hello Rich,
I very much appreciate your honesty here. Thank you. ~ Shuna

But I thank you for every thought provoking comment about us chefs, and I love you for everything that you are and stand for. You are one of my heroes. And I hope to become better for it.

This is a great post -- I really can feel your energy, and your passion. I also read that NYorker profile and thought it was really well-written and inspiring.

Incredibly GREAT post. Brava!

Thank you for posting this. What a great take on the 'day to day' that we all experience. I hope you will check out my blog, I am a chef on the East Coast.

Hope to hear more and more of your interesting stories.

Normally, I skim blog entries to get the gist of what someone is saying, and then return later when I have some free time.

But, for this entry, I really dropped everything. I had some music playing, some ichat conversations open, a few other blogs on my tab bar. But, for this entry, I really took it all in.

I'm glad I did.

This entry was so insightful, passionate, funny, and truly interesting, something I wish I could say about more food blogs that continue to write about the perfunctory "What I had for Dinner Tonight" pablum.

This post really spoke to me in many ways.

First of all, I’m a huge Thomas Keller fan, so any anecdote really piques my interest.

Secondly, I remember meeting Chef Ziebold when I was looking for places to do my externship and I definitely remember his soft-spoken yet very intense manner. He had a directness in the questions that he asked me that showed me how serious he was in going about his business.

Thirdly, speaking as a culinary school dropout, I’ve learned to appreciate the dedication it takes to cook professionally or run a restaurant, although I’ve never experienced the (I assume) more stressful process of opening a new restaurant.

I’m definitely still obsessed with the restaurant culture, and I know it’s because I will always admire those cooks and chefs who make that commitment to excellence and perfection that I could never make.

Thank you for taking the time to write this great post. I’ll definitely be a frequent visitor after reading this one.

Made me actually miss the sweat, blood, and tears. The anxiety and the anger and the glory of a good service.
Much prefer sitting at my desk crunching numbers these days.



Oh, btw, panna cotta is thickened with gelatin and creme brulee is thickened with egg yolk.

Well, yes, I KNOW this and I know some savoury chefs know it to but can that salty chef make any desserts? Can that person have a dessert menu that looks a little different than all the other places? Can that person be able to taste and critique (=problem solve & so forth) their Pastry Chef's work?

My point in the post was to address the fact that so many savoury chefs do not know and do not have the chutzpah to get into the sweet kitchen and learn. ~ Shuna

Also, I'm curious to know if you were at TFL when Duff Goldman walked out? (I just watched his "Chefography" on the Food Network and I can clearly see how he wouldn't be a good fit at the cheese station there.)

Yes, but he was with Stephen and I, he did not work cheese. He was a stagiere, not an employee. ~ Shuna

I may have had to take a moment to cry in the walk-in before, but I've never walked out. Not even when a crazy chef was screaming (and spitting) in my face so loud it made my ear drums quiver. I have to admit that I did quit that job, though. Turned in my two week notice the next day, but I finished my two weeks.

Great post!

Amazing post, I feel like people never really understand what it means to be in a kitchen and what it means to be a chef or even a cook. Being self trained in real kitchen environments, I feel there are too many younger disillusioned chefs that think they are entitled before they earn anything. I love that you pinpointed the need to be humble because what people don't understand is that praise may last a good 15 minutes, but it only takes a second to be humbled in the kitchen. Its always refreshing to hear someone trying to enlighten the fact that we should not be cooking because we have to, but because we want to. Thanks again.

My oh my. What a powerful, powerful and personally timely post. Thank you.


Thank you

As a current chef, owner who works the line or rather helps each station and does everyone's day off plus be the owner- I think the cooking schools and job --career counselors should hand them this post. The more successfull places in terms of loyalty and competent staff turning out consistently good food have everything in this post. But it also brings out the reality of the situation- it is not an easy job to do or love. And if you do love it- it's alot of hard work and just the work itself has to be satisfying, not the profit. You have to want to train and inspire people to do their jobs close 100% all the time and that is very hard to do. I hope this will become a definitive piece. What about a series of definitive pieces that become a book like a few other food writers out there?

Beautiful! I consider myself lucky to work with a chef who is actually on the line 5-7 days a week & is also a partner in the business as well. He works his ass off & he takes the time to make sure that everyone is doing ok. I've never worked with a chef who comes to me & asks if I'm hungry & then proceeds to make me something to eat!
And yes..he can throw together some sweets if he has to & he has. When my assistant walked out on me he & some of the cooks assumed pastry duties so I could have at least 1 day off.
Doing what a Chef does is NOT easy & not every chef can make it look easy either.

Well done, I felt like I was standing in the kitchen witnessing the scene. Brillant...

you're on point with that one, my friend.

This is a very powerful post. Everything you said rings so true. The back of a restaurant, the kitchen, is a whole other world that most don't get a glimpse of. There's a different code of conduct, a different language, it's not a normal functioning place. I've had a chance to be in Per Se's kitchen and it is a military boot camp kitchen. Working in the kitchen is not all fun and games, fame and fortune like the foodnetwork makes it out to be unless you are absolutely cut my finger off crazy about being a cook.

I wish culinary schools would explain this to students before taking their 5 figure checks. When I realized all of this, fresh out of school, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just had no idea.

Hello EMOH,

I agree with you that culinary schools should spend a little more time telling the truth, but your comment begs the question: Why did you not do your own research before writing a five figure check?

Culinary schools, also known as Trade Schools, used to have minimum requirements for months or years spent in the field of that schools' study. If schools no longer require anything of their future students, doesn't that raise anyone's, including your, suspicion?

I watch Grey's Anatomy which I hear from my doctor and nurse friends is just pure entertainment. I would never go to medical school because I wanted to find my Mc. Dreamy. I have spent time in enough hospitals to know that they're not pleasant.

TV makes everything look appealing, that's why it sells ads. But I'm getting tired of people not doing any research before signing their life away for an education that is not the be all, end all, it is merely a step. When I started cooking professionally I was told I had choices but that's because I sought out a chef who had been in the business for a long time. Had I gone to a for-profit for advice i would have known exactly what sort of lies they would tell me to write them another check.

No matter what the field, there are sharks. What has happened to us all that we think there aren't? ~ Shuna

I just wanna know how many comments it takes before a book appears. A little book...a teeny, tiny book???

Great post! One question for you -- I've read elsewhere that Ron Siegel was the first sous chef at TFL, actually helping to open the restaurant. Is that incorrect?

Hello NS,

This is where things get a bit tricky. The opening crew was extremely small. I am not at will to speak about Ron's career as I was not there when he was, although many Ron-isms and particular ways of Ron-speak were. For official Sous Chef duties, EZ was the first title holder. And he later became the Chef de Cuisine, so it's safe to say his role was quite a bit more large, all in all. Out of the original team that I met I would say that Ron was probably the most skilled.

My favorite Ron quote about working at TFL was when he said there were only a few saute pans for the first couple of months. Remember that where the host stand is now is where the kitchen was at that time. it was, literally, the size of a closet. ~ Shuna

thank you for that; want to meet you and buy you a drink. up from the trenches we climb to the top of the pastry mountain. I'm from Eugene, OR and come up to Ptown often. when are you back?

well hello. ahem.

I'm not sure when PDX will next be on my agenda, but eggbeater is the best way to find out. I don't do much stealth traveling... thanks for the offer. ~sfl

Wow. Great writing and super on point about the business. I'm still learning a lot but this piece hardens my resolve to do what I need to do, and do it right.

Shuna, I am speechless and reassured at the same time. Your words make me realise I do trully want to have a CAP patissier/chocolatier. I do'nt mind working hard; I know how tiring it can get; but I'm in. The intensity of your post, well, I have that same intensity, here in me. I don't know what I'll do next.

xx fanny

When I go to an expensive restaurant I expect the chef to be cooking not walking around basking in his glory.

WOW. Amazing. While training to be a psychologist, I worked my way through grad school "on the line," often for 12 hours a day. I have fond memories of ducking when the Chef (yes, capital C) threw knives because we were too slow, too chatty and/or useless. I still carry the battle scars with me—missing fingertips, knife wounds and burns. To this day, I miss the camaraderie and search for perfection. Your story brought back many memories.

OMG, I wish I could figure out a way to send this post to my boss. I work for a chef - one who has probably the best education money can buy - and yet, I rarely see them in the kitchen. Ever. Even when there are issues going on the kitchen that needs their attention and direction - they are rarely there. The person that is hired to oversee the kitchen staff really has no idea how to cook. About the only consistent thing that comes out of this kitchen is "inconsistency". And sadly, that's never what anyone wants! :) It's very difficult to work for someone whose level of professionalism and expectations are so below yours.

I have to agree.Too many owners do not work the line and haven't got a clue what is going down.

I have been cooking for a living for 25 years and you have hit the nail on the head. you have to love it or else you will never make it in this industry.

The biggest problem I have is wages. No one wants to pay their cooks a decent living wage. This is tough, demanding work, but unless you have worked in a kitchen before, it doesn't seem so stressful.

Right on...right on. Everyones quick to blame the schools and food networks (and they're right), but truth is not enough people have the passion and the heart. Great F*@#ing post!!!!

Shuna excellent post. I have to say I'm lucky enough to work in a restaurant where the chef regularly jumps behind the line to work a station...even if it's just GM (of course as a GM / Pasty cook I would never consider it JUST garde manger). Great, great post. I am in awe of you for the time you spent at TFL. I can only dream of being able to step foot in there someday.

Man I stumbled upon this blog and fell in love with you cause of this article.
Thanks for keeping it greasy!

by the way my chef was a dude from Boston named Gordon Hamersley

excellent humor :) I cant fry an egg without it burning there is hope out there !!

Greetings to Shuna and her many friends ! I just came across your blog, quite by accident, but I'm so happy I did=) I cook for a hobby and to survive =) I'm a retired firefighter who did mostly fire station cooking and cooking for some organization meetings.

I can't even imagine life in a busy kitchen...I always thought firefighting was stressful but I think you chefs and line people have us beat. I guess the only thing we do truely get to share is the HEAT !!!

You blog on TFL was very enlightning and a joy to read. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your writing skills and experiences make it no wonder that I see so many people visit and are active in your blog. I'm looking forward to browsing some more and reading past post.

I did read you're in London..I have a few friends in the London Fire Brigade ! great people.

Best Regards Andy

I work the line. It's like breathing, I can't stop. How can you stop being what you are? If I'm not cooking I'm nothing?

Unfortunately I have to own the place to do what I really love. That's if I want to do it my way anyway.

love your blog, this entry was amazing, i am a 30 year old not sure what to do with my life, i love cooking and thought about it as a profession, after reading this blog its definitely for me, im in new york and have no formal training, just a lot of reading and trying, could you list a few amazing chefs and their restaurants in ny so i can try to contact them to begin my career, f-- culinary school, i like your advice of gaining my experience in the kitchen, i want to work with the best, thanks for your time

and Anon, where do you work i will send this article to your boss no problem,


i am as humble and passionate as they come

I know this was posted a year ago, but I stumbled upon this website and am quite glad. I love your posts, I think like you do about this business.

I work as a cake decorator at a very busy and doing-well bakery. I have previous experience working in catering, I've also done hostessing, serving (and an old school one at that)and line cook, now I'm honing my skills in pastry. I have honed my skills in Italian, and some BBQ/Southern cuisine. I am studying a little Creole ever since I went to NOLA. I love cooking and food over the point of obsession. I love learning new ways to cook, I'd like to own my own banquet hall someday.

this is nothing short of a masterpiece...seriously, beautiful and correct..

Simply, amen. Beautifully done.

THIS. You are the reason I even considered making the jump from working in a full-service hotel to owning one. Your no-nonsense, straight to the point posts are the reason I have spent the last several months wondering if I really knew what the hell I was getting into. Your posts are the reason I am approaching this full speed ahead and ready to make mistakes and learn from them.

When the hotel is ready to open and I'm ready to hire my staff, my F&B director had better have a shade of you or I'm tossing him or her to the wind.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

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