shuna lydon

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« How Many Restaurants {choose to} Butcher Whole Animals In House? | Main | Becoming a Chef. What's the hurry? »

22 March 2010


Shuna, this is great advice, and not just for cooks. One of these days I'm going to make a T-shirt that just says "whining" with a big red circle and a diagonal line through it.

I feel like your generation's set of rhetoric, rules and standards come from an era where this industry had no means of defining 'modus'. --'Frenchie' yelled and commis moved. In turn the line cook became aware that in order to succeed he/she needed to cover all his/her bases.

I'm all for working hard, following through, integrity, honesty, thoroughness. et. all.

However, I'm not into this industry harboring the ideals that the young line-cooks of today still needing to bend over to make it in for themselves. It's 2010, the transfer of information, technique and style is in serious need of updating. Are things still so prehistoric that we can't achieve 'good food' without having some sort of emotional/mental breakdown of the individual (to build them back up in the vision of a badass Chef)? I would hope by now we might be able to get results without this sort of melodramatic outlook.

(And no seriously -- i hate it when someone asks the boss IF they 'want that re-plated?')

And what's wrong with line cooking as a means of moving on with life? Let's not pretend like line-cooking is somehow good for our health and will no doubt lead to improved longevity, relationships and a bright bright future. That stuff is downright dangerous. I like a badass, name-taking line cook just as much as the other guy, but cmon'. For $12/hr. No benefits, no health insurance, no sick time off, no holidays, no weekends. please.

I'm just saying: things don't have to be black and white.

The wise chef -today- will adjust and remain malleable to all situations above all else.

This post is powerful. It kind of touches on some problems I've been experiencing recently, which I initially thought to talk to you about.

LOL. Like the psychic one! I do find it's good to have a psychic on the staff...

Sound advice for ANY profession!

These people no longer anger me, at least as much as they used to. Now I feel sorry for them. They will never know what I know, feel what I feel. They will never know what it feels like to truly give of yourself, to make sacrifices of your time, energy, sanity,or even health.

They will never understand that feeling of joy after a job well done, when you came in early to set up your station, helped your fellow cook who was weeded beyond belief, actually listened to your chef, and most importantly made the guest happy.

They will never understand the joy of pure exhaustion after busting your ass for 12 hours, knowing that you did it the right way. Fuck these people, I would rather be in the weeds and work like a dog than deal with their bullshit.

Somewhere along the way they might learn what it means to be a chef. It means putting other people before yourself, whether they are the customer or your team.

The most rewarding moments of my career have been engaging with customers after a brutal day that you thought would never end. They tell you how wonderful their experience was and you forget all that bullshit, and understand.

Most of these kinds of cooks don't truly understand one basic thing: hard work will get you where you want to be faster than anything else. Hard work is what it is all about and many will never understand that, fuck em.

The thing that got me the most when I was working under a super lazy pastry sous chef was her game of blaming others. Whenever the pastry chef asked why things weren't done the night before she would always blame others or the busy night. My intolerance for her got so bad that when she was moved to the mornings I had to quit because I knew I had no patience for her and sooner or later I would have exploded in her face, which would have meant my firing.

I know your frustration, I have been there few times.

Sadly, that kind of lazy-ass entitled self-centered crap is pervasive in our working world these days. Scratch the surface of any business, and you'll find dead weight, right beside individuals of great integrity. You'd think that with the economy still limping along and jobs in short supply, people would start to get a clue. But it doesn't seem to be the case.

that's good advice, Shuna--and should be followed even outside the food industry. those excuses aren't acceptable in high tech, either, esp at startups. they probably aren't acceptable anywhere in this economy.

theres nothing to do = please fire me !!

love it .. that made me laugh very hard ... i needed that .. thank you !

sometimes i forget that teaching people is an investment ...

I would go beyond that and say those are inappropriate words in almost any work situation. heck, I'm an architect, and if any of my team had said those things to me, I probably would have said, "if you can't do these things you are in the wrong industry." I paid my dues and in the process learned a lot. I don't have time for prima donnas.

I was going to thank you for brunch on sunday, but now i need to say THANK YOU. I wish every cook i know could read this.

Ms. Lydon,
I have had a delicious night of beer,food, and friends. Worked up enough guff to comment and say to you... that your blog helps me get through my days in the beautiful hot muckin mess we call kitchen. I love my job, no questions asked. I just wanted to say your words and thoughts inspire. Thank you for sharing and making me realize that it is truly worth it.

yes mam,

First off, great advice. Everyone in any profession should read and take note!

Secondly, I wanted to let all my fellow foodies know about a promotion I recently heard about. I work for a company that does restaurant reviews and through the grapevine heard about a promotion that is to appear in the Metro THIS Wed. March 24th. The Metro is running a special Celebrate the City promotion that is wine and food lead! Dine at one of the participating restaurants and recieve a free glass of wine, champagne, or a cocktail! There are many local restaurants included and can be found all over the city. I hope all of my fellow foodies out there can find the time to take advantage of this promotion!

If all employees were only like Ben. Then, we could go into any store in the nation and be treated like we were a terrible inconvenience, because the employees are just "getting by", "on their way up."

Oh, wait.

I always love it when you write these little "cold, hard facts" kitchen post!

All the "microwave" instant chefs(?) want to be treated with a stress buffer and "dont make me fell like I am a failure because it will stunt my growth". The same ones who would not understand why their order was not on time, great quality and correct, making a fuss in the dining room giving the server crap and wanting to see the chef.

I am not going to be the chef who lets the cook just get by, that does not care if it is right, just almost right. Who could not grasp "right, correct" if it was tatooed on his bottom.

Sorry to go on but this post is spot on.

But there is always a spot for Ben and the other "floaters" at the chains and dennys. Most people dont know what a "FULL CONTACT" kitchen is and the requirements needed to pump out the best quailty food in a timely fashion AND make cost.

Thank for all your work in translating the REAL WORLD KITCHEN feeling of the best kitchens in the world. "If you cant stand the heat, get the hell out of here."

Yeah right man,

I work to live, not the other way around. On top of that, I keep it smarter, not harder.

I met an awesome cook who had hot duck-fat spilt on his arms, and then through freak accident had himself paralyzed from the waist down. You think in the end being a dedicated and selfless line-cook matters when the shit's raining down on you that hard?

Get a grip, start enjoying life outside the 5x4 box.


"But if you want to be a better cook one day. If you don't just want to be a shiny happy tv chef. If you want to learn from the good ones. If you don't want to be fired. If you like your job/kitchen/crew/paycheck/menu."

I ASPIRE to be a happy shiny tv chef, and i resent your insinuation that you cannot be both a great chef and a shiny tv chef. Food is my life. It is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about when i go to bed. I think chefs that work in the restaurant business become bitter because you are overworked, underpaid, and deal with slop that doesn't care about their dishes because its a JOB not a career.

YOU are the chef. YOU hired them. YOU call the shots. YOU shut them up or fire them. DONT BITCH IN YOUR BLOG ABOUT REALITIES OF THE LIFE YOU CHOSE. RESTUARANT CHEF WORK IS HARD! Thats no secret. Who are you to talk less of "happy tv chefs" when they are not the rubbish giving you grief in the kitchen!? You sound pompous and uneducated when you genearlize like that.

Perhaps you're upset that they make a hell of a lot more money than you do and deal with a hell of a lot less bullshit?

hello Julie, I am posting your comment because you & I have already had an exchange about it in email. And because I know your email link in your name to be valid.

I think it's important to speak for chefs & cooks all over the world who will never be represented in mainstream media. I am not ' "bitching" about the realities of the life I chose,' because 1. I am not a dog, 2. I manifest positive actions, not merely complain about them, 3. have always taken full responsibility for the craft I chose to learn, including all leadership/mentorship/managerial responsibilities with growing in my field/industry.

I'm sorry I struck a nerve referencing "shiny tv chefs." What I was attempting to imply {I'm sorry I botched the job} was the rush many cooks these days appear to have in 'becoming a chef,' which, in my book takes a lot longer than some people appear to have the patience for. Honing a craft takes years of study, and I'm barely the first person to say this.

My remark was sarcastic, but referenced a recent phenomenon of tv chefs who have never been chefs, but are made-up products to advertise a lifestyle which is neither clean nor glamorous, as mainstream media would like everyone to believe.

Good for you for getting out of [a] situation[s] which you have felt mostly oppressed by, and going forth into a new chapter of being a chef. May you be an exception to the rule thus far/most recently, and show millions of viewers that a female chef can maintain the integrity of both, inspiring new cooks everywhere to be as good as they can be.

I will finish here by quoting what I said at the end of my last email, in our exchange

"I am not your enemy.

and if it's possible for you to take a moment to step back and see that attacking me, shuna lydon, does nothing but make you feel satisfied for a minute, you'll see that we are the same, in the same dilemma, caught in the same trap, feeling the same way."

yours, in the struggles of all kitchens everywhere, to keep one's integrity and to learn and teach this complex craft in the best way we know how,

Shuna Lydon

The real challenge is in working with people vs. things, which I've found is an almost unescapable part of life as we live in a world with people who are so very very different. Sometimes the differences, between us and whomever, are simple and other times very complex. But one thing I believe at the moment is that these differences and dealing with these differences are the penultimate, or possibly the ultimate, challenge. A challenge so awesome, filled with twists and turns, as the people in both our professional and personal lives are not static, but so very very dynamic (and we are also not static). We also can have so many variables, e.g., large overlaps between our lives and our careers, how viewpoints, our clarity of vision, etc. I would challenge you to paint the picture, your vision, etc. to this person and redirect them if you can. Show them in detail your perception and that they are misdirected. The conversion and a subordinate who succeeds will be your trophy. This of course assumes you are up to that challenge and it is one that is worthy. Alternatively, you can conclude and humbly state that it is too much for you, and move on by simply asking them to leave.

Bravo! you said it all; and my students, to whom I read the post, sat rapt, mesmerized by the power of your words, inspired by your honesty and devotion to craft.

Keep it up; don't relent in your pursuit of honest, fair treatment in the work place and helping raise consciousness about the nobility of the pastry chef's profession.

I'm sorry but in reading that e-mail comment:

what in the world does being a tv chef have to do with food?

Just a thought there.

Most chefs I know could care less about being on television, they just want to cook for people whether there is a camera in their face or not.

Great post... full of truth and humbling

This industry, this career, this craft is borne from loyalty, apprenticeship, a lifetime of education. It's really not for the meek. It's for the humble, the teachable.

What we do, day in and day out, involves a kind of stamina few people understand.

Totally breathtaking post Shuna!!

"What we do, day in and day out, involves a kind of stamina few people understand."

So true, so true! Thank you for your post, as a young cook, I sometimes need to be reminded that I chose this life for a reason and that although this work can be brutally hard, it is well worth it.

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