shuna lydon

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« Chef Advice. or, when cooks say " ." chefs hear " ." | Main | postcard poems. »

23 March 2010


I love this article because you are so right....and I went to culinary school. Please don't Bash catering cooks as not as hard working or ghaving to pull those same grueling hours for love of craft that restaurant cooks pull....Because I have pulled harder catering days than I ever did on a line.

Hear hear.

I've had the job, and I still don't feel like I've earned it; maybe I never will.

Passion has been crowded out by pomp. I'm not a fan. I want to move to New Zealand and open the tiniest little pizzeria.

hi fish. you know what is so CRAZEE about this comment?! I know a fabulous bread baking goddess from my time at Citizen Cake, Chicalena Rose who is now a pizzaiolo IN NEW ZEALAND with a NEW YORK STYLE PIZZERIA called Epolito's!!!!! You amaze me sometimes... I touching nose, pointing at you. ~ fish

This is all so true and if you think about it actually applies to so many other aspects in life. I love how you say becoming a chef is a verb. I think it also applies to becoming a person. Growing and respecting. Celebrity chef culture is killing the trade. I had some interns in my day who had never even tasted a ripe strawberry or they said they didn't like eggs or this or that.. Whining... So much to learn and they didn't even know it. I wish I had this to show them back then. You are on a roll!

As some one who is just starting down this path you scare the shit out of me, but in the most inspiring way. Thank you

hello Frank, thank you for this comment-- quite brave of you to step forward and say it. ~ Shuna

I don't want to be a chef but I would quite like to work as a caterer in the future... I think it can be blinkered and short sighted how some folk see being a restaurant chef as the be all and end all.

Your views on culinary school are sound, it is no concidence to me how many of the top chefs in the UK are self taught.

"most savoury cooks/chefs do not like dessert, and think the making of it is below them " i've felt this even when i was in the culinary school.
proud to be a pastry chef...and sure wont hurry..

You should be asked to give this speech at every culinary school just before registration begins...after reading this, if I were a wannabe cook in my early twenties it would scare the shit out of me to enter a kitchen based on this post; on the other hand if this is inspiring to me; then it is a field I am meant for....this post could do one or the other...

This assessment applies if you swap out chef/cook for other lines of work and for life.

The hurry is disrespectful.
It disrespects every person who has come before you.
It disrespects those who have taken their whole life to learn
It disrespects those who are attempting to teach you.
It disrespects the industry as a whole.
It disrespects the craft.
It disrespects every piece of food you touch, every animal you butcher, every service you try and set up for.
It disrespects diner, owner, dishwasher, waiter, busser.
It disrespects the finesse, the knife, the ingredients, the process, the uniform.

"It disrespects those who have taken their whole life to learn."
--what about marco pierre white- who worked is way up very young in the restaurant industry and earned his first michelin start at 26. I truly am not trying to rebuttle here, merely offer another viewpoint.

Could it be that working with a sense of urgency because you're eager to learn what's next is being confused for rushing? I know that there are sloppy cooks out there that rush through things just to get it done-- but just as it used to take you 10 hours to travel to one place that now only takes 5 hours with a new highway- isn't it possible that new teaching methods or new ways of learning could advance budding chefs earlier than those who came before?

I guess what I'm trying to say is- why do we all look down on each other when we work in the same industry and really should be helping each other grow and learn-- regardless of age, years experience, etc.

I know I'm a dreamer to hope that one day the culinary world could be one big happy family, but a girl can dream can't she!

I think what you've said here can apply to much more than becoming a chef.

Don't forget the awesome non existent retirement plans.

Nice post Shuna!

As a consumer (not a professional chef) I feel that the kitchen isn't ever valued enough. As someone who eats, you can tell the difference between art (you can taste the time it took to learn how to make the plate perfect) and mere learned skill (sure, it may be perfectly executed, but where is the depth, the soul, the play, the dissonance and resolution?).
As a home cook, I worry about the proliferation of TV celebrity cooking: it both devalues the true artisan nature of professional cooking (achieve all this in one episode!) and implies that home cooking should be the same as restaurant meals.

Shuna, Having worked as a pastry chef for four years in Manhattan's starred kitchens - and having left it because I am a painter first and a cook second and knew that I was doing both myself and the profession a disservice by being one foot out the door - and still emerging loving the craft of baking and all it means as you describe so perfectly, I really and truly and fully and deeply appreciate this post of yours, and know, by experience, all of it to be painfully and beautifully true. Thank you.

oh, excuse the multiple comments, but I had to come back to say that the same tenets are also true for painters and writers, just add those two professions to your list . . .painters look down on illustrators, etc., and your last paragraph pretty much sums up the mindset of any artist, culinary or otherwise. lead in a world where true leadership is sorely lead in a world where the followers are in such need of leadership, to know what true leadership is in a world where the craft of leadership has long since reached the point of effective extinction.... keep on keeping on.... i'll feed this machine as every machine needs fuel to run...

I totally feel rushed. I cant even sit down at home to eat breakfast. You think I dont want to be a successful chef, like yesterday?! WHY are we all in this fucking crippling hurry to -get there-?
Im 28 and there are 5 chefs I can think of who are in published food magazines, in michelin starred restaurants, who are younger than me. (How much michelin status matters is another topic...)
Point is: this industry, now, is pushing people to that mentality. Culinary schools subbing as real college, etc...
What happened to the Pierre Gagnaires, and the Ferdinand Points, old dudes standing at the helm. Years and years of experience built up, teaching, showing, actually LEADING.
Its great that people have success in life, but fuck, what's the bloody hurry?!

Thank you, Shuna, for another ass-kicking post, and for clarifying the last one a bit.

I admit I was a little irritated by the line about using cooking as a stepping stone to something else. I work as a pâtissière now, and have for the last 6 years or so, but I don't plan on or want to do it my whole life. I hope someday to segue into professional food writing, specifically cookbooks. I think it's important to have actual kitchen experience if I want people to take my books seriously. Does that mean I should leave the kitchen now? No. I'm still learning, and still want to learn, and hopefully will never stop learning, no matter what arena my professional life happens to be in.

I think you're absolutely right about the rush. And the unhealthy obsession with it. And I wish that they spent more time in culinary schools talking about the other ways to make a living (such as it is) cooking other than Being a Chef. I know when I finished culinary school, I was under the impression that restaurant cooking was really the only respectable thing to do. After 6 miserable months in a restaurant kitchen, I quit and began working in a production bakery. It turned out that the "here's an enormous list of things you must produce before you can go home" approach worked much better for me than the "Shuck me 12 oysters right now! Never mind the oysters, I need three cheese plates! And a chocolate dessert with will you marry me written on the plate! 5 minutes ago!" approach. But it takes all kinds.

All I can say is "Wow". Your posts are incredible, and quite frankly, could and should be applied to all professions. You must give before you can receive. One question - to be good, it sounds like it is all or nothing. Does it have to be? What if you want a family?

Your words...they are perfect.

So much of this can be applied to other areas of life and other professions.

People forget that the process of getting somewhere holds all the keys necessary to staying somewhere.

Helene. I love you so much! I hope you don't mind, but I have taken the liberty to slightly edit your words by making my favourite set of them bold. Thank you for summing it up!! ~ Shuna

Wow woman! you got some good points and experience :) Good job and thank you for letting us know what is going on behind those kitchen doors at restaurants.

•most cooks can not afford to pay off their culinary school loans on the wages they make in the industry
•most cooks who went to culinary school said it wasn't worth as much as they thought it would be once they began working 'for real'

Education has become an industry in itself - it is a business now.
Churning out graduates with limited chance of jobs or of paying off their loans.

The UK has decided to follow the American model. Kids are graduating from University with £30-40K loans! What do you know about the world or what you want to do at 17 or 18?

There are only some degrees that are worth doing.

As long as higher education is seen as a money making industry, student's lives will continue to be ruined by organisations more interested in getting the numbers to fill their courses, and keep themselves in jobs, rather than providing students with an education with real long-term career prospects.

as a culinary school graduate, I completely respect where you are coming from. The reality of the kitchen is much different than that of culinary school. I knew from the start that going to school would not make my career any easier, but the way the industry is changing it's been hard to find a job without a school education. No one would take me on when I was trying to learn more about breads and pastries. Do you think the industry has changed so drastically that schooling outweighs experience to some degree?

You're my culinary therapist. Thank you

Beautiful and true, as always. You've reminded me of something Keith Floyd said in what turned out to be his last interview: "This ill-conceived idea that all these wankers who turn up on television are chefs, is just a failure of anybody to understand the language. Chef is chief! Chef du train, chef de la cuisine. The people that cook are cooks."

It baffles me a bit that some (most) cooks don't like or even disdain pastry. If you love to cook, you had better know how to make pastry or bake bread. If you love cooking, you should have the passion to learn to make all those things, desserts and all.

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