A Happy Kind of Crazy


  1. The kitchen is an open stage to act like a complete ass. Seriously. You can throw things, aggressively sexually harass the guy standing next to you, work entirely too hung-over, be an actual nutcase, and still maintain a job. Hell, you may be even be the guy in charge. It is a stage, yes. But, an act? No way. Cooks love what they do. They have to. You must really like what you do if working under immense pressure in horrid conditions, with the constant threat of injury proves not to sway you from returning the next night. And the night after. And, yeah, the night after that. No king’s ransom is paid to you for this effort, either. It surely isn’t for the money. It is deft creationism. The rebel in you screeches in the face of conventional thinking. There is no work in doing what you love, so the saying goes. But it isn’t love that keeps us in the kitchen. It isn’t sacrifice or determination or skill or experience. Don’t you have to enjoy what you do to continue doing it? If you constantly complain about being the mouse in the cubicle, scavenging for your piece of cheese, it makes no sense to keep scurrying.

    More waking hours are spent at work than anywhere else. Enjoying what you do only makes sense. But it often isn’t part of the 40-Hour Work Week Equation. It starts with 9 to 5, stir in 2 psuedo-happy hours, kick out a 401(k) divide by 2 weeks in Jamaica pretending to enjoy yourself and return to the first variable: you don’t like what you do. Make something delicious and the day melts away under the smile of the eyelash moon. The malady disarmed, the excitement of good food can mambo unleashed of what once ailed you.

    Kitchen therapy is far from free. Most cooks are damaged people, already slightly unhinged, their social skills are the cost of admission to the kitchen freak show. A cook, a chef, a kitchen grunt must love what they do. There are certainly other ways to cover rent. The idea is to live large during working hours, not just living on the weekends. Since cooks’ weekends are usually spent recuperating, it can’t be socializing at Iron Hill Brewery. It has to be happy time when playing with the toys in the kitchen. It has be to seeing the change of the seasons…. or even better… being part of that change by ushering in whatever just got dug, plucked, picked and filleted. It is playing with new flavors or perfecting classic ones. It is exploring, during working hours, with anticipating how customers will react with something you create rather than anguishing over the next call, the next paper across your miserable desk as you lay forlorn upon a dreary existence of hugging the time outside of work as your only salvation. A cook gets to jam something down your throat that you want to experience, either to continue living your miserable existence, or to celebrate as a diversion in your daily grind. The pleasure may simply be a quiet contentedness; a little, internal belly hug. After all, that’s why it is called happy hour, right? You survived another turn of hanging up on people, or floating through the vacuousness of office space as your lifeblood’s vital energy was drained while propped up at yet another pointless meeting. You have to do what you enjoy. You have to. You will be 41 and standing in front of a mirror pulling the gray hairs out of your chest and tweezing those little bastards out of your ears as you wonder where the time went from the playful days of Sesame Street, to looking for the best broken sidewalk to jump with your bicycle, to fearing the prom, to getting lucky in some random park to stewing about retirement. No more cursing out shoppers as they leave the store and disrupting your creeping through Instagram to see just how cool everybody else's life is versus your own dogged existence. Alas, we get to create, stir, set stuff on fire, bond with our brothers in butter-fueled tirades of the best way to plate-up the kick-ass swordfish that came in this morning while you drive home and ruminate about tomorrow’s rush hour to return to a job you hate. Keep your weekend. Keep your pool party. Keep your daily dread. I’ll cook. I’m a little crazy. But it’s a happy kind of crazy.

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  1. cheffred
    Yes we are wired in a different sort of way. Otherwise we would not be gluttons for punishment...
  2. jim berman
  3. jim berman
    @Pete - You said it right... Insanity! Some days, that twisted spirit twists me. It is a daily battle to keep sane at the same time, it is a rush. The jury is still out as to whether it is worth it or not. Thanks for your feedback!
  4. karnaf
    beautiflu ! ! ! 
  5. pete
    Jim, reading your posts makes me really miss being in restaurant kitchens.  It's just not the same doing it in an institutional setting.  I miss the insanity of it all, the twisted people I used to work with, the intense pressure, the dark, sick humor; I miss it all!!!