Friday, September 16, 2011

Can you cook for a living and have fun?

Lauren Shockey says... meh, probably not. At least that's what I took from Shockey's recently released food memoir, Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris.

When Shockey begins her tale, she's graduated from college and reveals to her parents that she wants to pursue a culinary degree. After finishing culinary school, she decides to basically cook her way around the world -- and the industry -- by being a stage (cooking intern, basically) at four very different restaurants in four very different locales. She begins at Wylie Dufresne's wd-50 in New York where she details life in the molecular gastronomy kitchen. From there, she moves to Hanoi in Vietnam to work for Didier Corlou's La Verticale. In Vietnam, she learns much more than tedious kitchen work. Her eyes are opened to another culture and new flavors. Her third stage is in Tel-Aviv where she works for Carmella Bistro. We see less of her kitchen experience here -- less of the restaurant kitchen, anyway. She does spend time cooking with friends throughout this section of the book, leading one to suspect exactly what she's learning from this whole experience. Once in Paris, working at Senderens, she's back to the gruelingly long kitchen days, the tedium of perfection, and focusing on skill in a kitchen that seems to lack real passion. From all of this, Shockey seems to have decided that in professional cooking, there is not time for enjoying the food or for sharing it with your loved ones, friends, and family.

To be honest, Shockey's revelation is one that I've long suspected -- at least for certain personality types (like my own). It is different to cook for friends. I would imagine cooking professionally would be incredibly hard and stressful and just not the right fit for someone who really cooks for pleasure and enjoyment. And like any other job, if you are one of those people who loves to cook for fun, imagine how much fun it would be to return home and start doing what you do at work. Shockey also points out that the professional restaurant biz is not a great one for relationships either.

Having never worked beyond wait staff at a minimally busy country club, the actual kitchen environment is one that I have zero experience with. And I don't think I ever will. I like cooking for friends and family. I love trying new things. I just don't think that I could do it day in and day out as a job -- worst would be the criticism from the public. At least your friends are always going to pretend to like what you put before them! I'll leave it to people like Shockey to experience it and then tell me all about it in their books.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

I think if it were my place and on my terms, I'd enjoy cooking or at least sharing in the cooking, for the public.
But the day after day of cooking for the public and all that it could entail like health and safety as much as the cooking for a crowd of possibly critical peeps......that could grind.