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« 10 Downing Street Food & Wine Restaurant, NYC | Main | Tasting Table NYC loves dessert. »

24 February 2010


'behind you' two of the most important words uttered in the kitchen, so many disasters could have been averted if only those words had been used.

Shuna! You have completely blown me away this morning. This post is inspiring and inspired. Thank you for the peek into your world. I would so love to see you in action. Wait, I think I just did.

An essential read for any aspiring chef. Thank you!

Yikes. For a person who cooks at home - granted with great passion - this sounds sooooooo different. I get to cook slowly, with great deliberation, for people who always cheer me on.

I'm leaving town for two weeks, but when I get back after spending five days cooking for a bunch of skiers - breakfast, packed lunches, and dinners - I'm heading to 10 Downing Street first chance I get.

Glad to have you back writing a little more regularly. As Michael Ruhlman said, you are the amazing Eggbeater.

Thank you for taking the time to write this—many, many people will read, ponder, and come back to this post again and again.

Shuna, this is a recipe for success in LIFE, not just kitchens.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


WOW! I have not tasted your food, so I cannot attest to your skill as a chef;but you sure can write and teach and inspire. Saturday will find me in my kitchen cleaning and organizing then trying a new recipe.

Keep writing - I'll keep reading.

"Attempt to see yourself as part of the whole." You're right about this being nearly impossible for new cooks.

Will print this out and read it at the end of those especially hard shifts.

Un-f---ing believable. Much more inspiring than
hear your meat guy say, "My day off is never
long enough."

I totally agree with Yogi, just insert the appropriate words for whichever industry or just life, and this is the best advice ever. Regarding how to answer the chef: I was watching a show on the UK food network and a Chef had given a group of culinary students a bunch of things to do very quickly. One of them was being particularly slow, mostly because he visibly wasn't into it, and when the chef told him he was making his (the chef's) life miserable, the student answered "I could say the same about you chef." I had to look around for my jaw on the floor after that. He was told off in no uncertain terms (and the chef was a really big guy too, muscularly big) and I'm sure the only reason he wasn't just kicked out of the kitchen was because they had to get a lot of food ready really fast. But I don't have the first clue what that guy is doing in culinary school. He is going to get his ass handed to him in a trash can next time.

I think I am speechless. Just like from a waterfall, this is how your words have hit me. It's the first time I see somebody so passionate about cooking and sharing. Sharing is a great word that to me is synonymous of humility and reciprocity.
Don't really know why, but my eyes got wet at the end of the post... Might it be because of all the energy you have just transmitted us?
I wanted just to say thanks!
BTW I'd love to learn to break down those whole animals.

A stunning and inspiring piece of writing. Thank you.

Here I am waiting for a party, and I can't finish this post but I will, maybe at home durnig the storm while baking some bread?
But it's like memory lane!


Heh, this is my life right now. I am quickly learning to be faster, more first week in a real kitchen has taught me so much more than six months in school did. Lucky for me I work alongside a very encouraging pastry chef, and even though I mucked up a few things and got yelled at for each of them the other night, she still said I was doing better than the previous nights.

If you'll excuse me, I have to practice my quenelles. AGAIN.

The number of people I could show this to in the classes I'm taking, and have it mean something, is astounding. Like Yogi said, this is so much more than just the kitchen.

Thank you again and again for sharing.

yes, chef.

I agree with Yogi and Brooke, this is for life. Hugely inspirational and directly applicable to my software career.

I chose programming over cooking and went to college. For the past 10 years I've regretted not trying harder to pursue life in the kitchen instead of life in front of a computer. I am now motivated to see what I can do about that. Thanks.

I've worked in the restaurant industry since I was a teenager. Usually I'm in the front of the house as a server but have often been in the kitchen to run food or expedite and have helped with small things behind the line. Whether you're in the back of the house or in front of it the language of kitchen is essential and I love how much emphasis you put on it here. A good employee of any restaurant should know it so that they can jump in and lend a hand in the kitchen when needed. Whether to be able to grab a quickly diminishing ingredient from the walk-in to help out a line chef in the weeds or to help organize and expeditite tickets if you're short staffed and have no permanent person doing so for the night. Whether you're in there all night or running in and out from the dining room a high functioning kitchen is a thing to marvel at, a well oiled machine. I am amazed every night I am there that more disasters and collisions don't occur and I often marvel at our collective ability to become almost psychic when maneuvering around each other and assisting another colleague in need. That being said I ABSOLUTELY agree with Carri's post and the incredible importance of the phrase "behind you". I find myself saying it wherever I am... and you can always tell the ones who know its origin from the ones who don't.

Shuna...You're a fucking rockstar. I love your outlook and interpretation and straight-forwardness in your writing. You're writing things every cook worth their salt should be reading. Kudos.

"Watch, listen, learn. TASTE." that translates to Pay Attention with all your senses.
I'll say it ONCE and before the sentence is complete, the brain has skipped ahead to the next 1000 things to do. My work kitchen is not a playground.
I am focused and I am abrupt. The teaching kitchen is demonstration and another realm. Shuna, I am lol and loving this post.

This is great. If I still had a knife box, I would print this out and keep it in there. Now I have an iphone and will keep it there.

I work in a hospital kitchen in KC and apprentice under the chef there. It is great to read so much stuff that it takes years to learn in just one scroll down your blog- you are a cool chef. Lou

Thank you. You have captured the heart of a very important lesson that some chefs never learn.

Thank you for the lesson. And thank you for showing the emotion/pace/feel of a kitchen through your writing.

I thought this was a great post. These are all things I try to get through to my crew, I just haven't been eloquent enough to put it into words. I have already had all of my kitchen staff read it, and got a nice response. That's for the motivating, and inspiring thoughts.

Yes! I've been in a restaurant kitchen nine months now, and I found myself nodding along to your points. I'm going to send this post to our new GM, fresh from culinary school, who's having a really hard time figuring out the language of the kitchen. The tao of the kitchen, maybe.

Also, I just read on TastingTable that you're at 10 Downing. After reading your blog for a couple of years now, I can't wait to try your desserts!

i needed this.
thank you.

Here are a couple emails I received from a couple of my younger kitchen guys after I forwarded your last post to them. I thought you may like to know that your writing is not falling on deaf ears.

#1, a guy that used to work for me and wants to come back:

Hey man,
that is some deep and very true shit. reading this makes me think about some much and how awsome it is to work in a kitchen. Your team in a kitchen is like a family and you all need to work together to make it a succes. There is so much to learn and i feel like i have learned so little. That is y i want to work under u again, Like it said in the blog, if you arent learning than find a kitchen where u can learn. I mad a mistake wheni left there. I know that under you i will learn some thing new every day and that every day u will make sure i learn something because you love teaching. Reading this makes me think about how much better i can be. Thanks for sending me this i will call you tomorrow or the next day and talk to you bout it. keep sending me things if you find any other cool things i will send you stuff to if i find things. k i will talk to you later man.

#2, a guy that is my brightest young star:

This was a great e mail one of the best you have sent me thank you chef

Shuna, thank you for putting into words, what I have been trying to convey to these guys. I appreciate it. Keep up the good work.

Thank you for posting this!! I have moved to a new city and am having a hard time finding a job. I have been feeling like giving up on the industry but your post gives me new hope that people like you exist.



Thanks you very much-great Blog

It is good to see you share a part of yourself

I very much apprecite the comment: "you can only keep what we have, by giving it away"

Thank you for this. I have recently found myself struggling with trying to be "part of the whole" after 6 months, and I feel a little burned out but still enjoy what I do very much. I will come back to your words again and again.

"If you're cooking in the kitchen of some famous chef's empire, but you are not learning, get the fuck out of there. You have no time to waste." - Thank you, that's cleared up any doubt I've had about leaving a job, and not feel bad about leaving (since there never is a good time to quit, in the eyes of the chef). And thank you also for the other article, how to give notice.
And thank you for all the things female cooks need to hear from another female cook, but there are rarely any around to look up to.

Thanks for this. I found it from a link someone posted at the Natural Gourmet Institute's blog. I'm considering going there in a few months. I've never worked in a restaurant or with food and was wondering if I could hack it.

Your post was a shock to the system—a much-needed dose of reality about how hard it will be.

But, it was also inspiring and made me realize how much satisfaction can come from learning and doing with skill, intention, and a desire to constantly grow and improve. After working for many years in the unrewarding, uninspiring world of advertising, I am tantalized by the idea of being in a place, a field, an industry, a kitchen that motivates me to push forward and be better everyday. I have no illusions now about it being easy. But despite the slight terror I feel, I feel oddly excited, more intent on following through and making certain I learn the language of kitchen so I can be more than just proficient in the kitchen.

Your post makes me want to start working out daily so I can be both mentally and physically strong when I embark on this adventure. It makes me want to get some practice with mindfulness so I can be focused, clear, and in the moment when I'm in a fast-paced, balls-out kitchen. It makes me want to scrub my own kitchen from top to bottom. It makes me want to be a better person, so I can be a team member my kitchen-mates will be glad to have around.

Thanks for all the words. Thanks for all the inspiration. Thanks for the reality.

Chris-- thanks for finding, for reading, for commenting & for seeing. Really seeing. Now it's time for the doing. Are you sure you need to go to culinary school? ~ shuna

Finesse is the word that I am most drawn to. Not because I am drawn to it in any way, but because its probably hardest to achieve, but when you do....its something magical

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