Personality Plus

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Hello!
My name is Chelsea and I am a student at a UC school. I am currently researching restaurant chefs, and I am wondering what personality traits you think are essential in order to be successful? I am open to all ideas!! Thankyou for your input.

Chelsea
 
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for me, it's always been a really sick, warped sense of humor. it kind of helps relieve the stress. :eek: :D :)
kat
 
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Hello, Chelsea, and welcome to Chef Talk.

I encourage you to browse through all of the forums, and to check the archives and older posts for some of the information you are seeking. We have a great search function on this board; just type in your topic, and you'll be whisked to some great conversations.

Please stop by in the Welcome Forum to tell us a bit more about yourself. Then visit the other forums to enjoy the threads and post as you like.

Mezzaluna
welcome forum moderator
 
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I think what Kat says is true, while I don't find myself all that funny, I think I do posess that "sick" kind of humor that most people do not. We laugh at some pretty weird things. I think it's just a matter of looking at things in a different light.
Also, with chefs,
there always seems to be some sort of deep emotional dysfunction, or at least a difficulty in expressing themselves via the normal channels. I know that when I started out, I was an introverted, insecure. wannabe artist type. In cooking, I found I could create without a lot of people bothering me,besides the chef, who was always viewed as a sort of ranting alcoholic/lunatic/genious, but also mentor. All the chefs I saw at the time all seemed a bit crazy and obtuse, and strangely, that was desirable if not necessarily admirable.
As my skills progressed, I simply followed that thing inside that tells you to create. My confidence grew, suddenly people were asking my opinion, there was lots of babes, and though I always said to myself "this isn't really me, it's just part of the job," I found myself whipping teams of cooks through service after service with the primary focus of creating a work of beauty.
Soon, this WAS me, and it's how I solved all my problems, and I was no longer afraid of expressing myself in the kitchen AND in real life. Many a time I found myself standing up to some moron of a manager/owner/scrub chef
and championing the cause of quality. We HAVE to, there is no choice.
Chefs cope with the world by digging deep into their twisted souls and coming up with things like guts, determination, a strong sense of loyalty, a responsibility to create "quality." The finished plate is the way we put things in order, a way of coping with the swirling chaos either in our heads or in our environment.:)
Weak chefs seem to lack the dedication to quality, whether because they're in it just for the money or they just managed to slip through the cracks. They buy boullian cubes to make stock. They cave under slight pressure either from their masters or from the people they are supposed to lead. Even during the worst adversity, a good chef will produce that beautiful plate. We MUST.
So...I hope this helps.
 
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Wow, do they make that last post in "snow globe"? I don't mean to be rude, but the reality is that many different people work in this profession possessing many different personalities cooking many different types of food. We are as varied as our consumers. Quality is important, yes. Very important. But quality is a relative term. You do the best with what you have to work with sometimes - your market, your boss, whatever. I, for one, resent the implication that, because I don't create 3 star quality food for a bunch of elites who wouldn't know where they sh** last if they didn't have some working class "underling" keeping up with it all, I am somehow "weak" (but then I never considered myself a "chef". Is there a definiton for that?). I still work 14 hours a day. I care about what I do. And I give my market what they want. Yes, I have a huge case of "real chef" syndrome. I cringe a bit each time I use a "boullian cube" (sic). But consider this. If everyone turned a nose up at bouillon cube, most of us would be out of work. There just isn't enough of the un-bouillon consumer to keep us all going.

Truffles on the menu is not a personality trait. It isn't what makes people stay in the business At least, not most people. If you mean, really, what it is to be a "chef", as opposed to a person who goes to work every day, relentlessly cooking for people who like what they are getting even though they CAN pronounce it, I'd say "megalomania" describes a "chef" pretty well. "A form of mental disorder characterized by extreme overestimation of one's abilities or importance. An obsession for grandiose action" (Webter's Dictionary). People like that want to be "chefs". The rest of us just cook food.
 
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Yikes! I didn't know we were supposed to use a dictionary here. Please forgive my mispelling of bouillon. And here I've been mispelling it my whole life! I could not find "snow globe" in Websters, so you have me at a disadvantage there, and I simply love the alternate definition of "megalomania":
"a delusional mental disorder that is marked by infantile feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur." I think this defines a lot of chefs perfectly!!!
Rita, I was not implying that you must have truffles on the menu or make "3 star" food to achieve quality. In fact, you help define what I mean by quality when you say you do your "best" with what you have to work with and that you "care" about what you do. However, I don't think it's such a relative term; "quality" in your Websters "is a general term applicable to any trait or characteristic whether individual or generic, " and actually, I was thinking of the term "quality" in a more metaphysical way, as it is explored in a book like "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
I resent the implication that I don't remember where I last sh** or that I work with "underlings," as an elitist. You certainly do have some kind of syndrome and if you use bouillon cubes by choice and you simply "just cook food," I don't have any respect for you as a "chef." If you endure these conditions and work 14 hours a day I hope you make a lot of money. Otherwise, I would suggest a new career.
The question is: "what personality traits make a successful chef"
and I firmly believe it's not the desire to "just cook food...."
I consider myself "successful" even though I am unemployed after serving the same master for 10 years straight. I am currently housing 2 of my co-workers free of charge, and I'm about $20,000 in debt. They are both illegal immiagrants and I don't pity or feel sorry for them. I feel bound by a loyalty to them and feel responsible for their well being. Soon enough, because of their determination and dedication to quality, they will be employed. Am I too proud or an elitist because I do not want to work in fast food or corporate dining? No. If I had to, I would, and I would make the best dam french fries you've ever had. I've volunteered at an organization that delivers food to AIDS patients where I happily peel potatoes and sweep the floor. I do this not out of a feeling of charity, but because I want to utilize my skills and experience to benefit others. I don't worry about becoming employed because I know there is someone out there who wants to hire me.
These are the kinds of "personality traits" I believe are being sought in the question. I admit that sometimes I am "delusional" and have "infantile feelings of omnipotence." and then I wake up and do whatever it is I'm doing to the best of my ability. That, Rita Fajita, is what "quality" is about.
 

kuan

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Coupla comments.

First, on boullion.

Look, so what if you use boullion cubes? Name one of us who has not used blocks of demi before. Using boullion cubes or provimi demiglace does not make you a bad person.

On reading between the lines.

Reading between the lines is one thing, making what you read public is a sure sign of some kind of insecurity. While some of us may feel secure in exposing our neuroses to the world, others may not be as comfortable reading about them. Not everyone needs to read the results of your inkless inkblot test. Me, I don't care either way.

Which brings us back to boullion. So what if you use boullion? Who cares what people think. It's your kitchen. Do what you want, be OK with it.

Kuan
 
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Huuuhh?

I'm only trying to stick to the topic: personality traits of a successful chef. What are they?

Perhaps you would care to answer that question yourself, Kuan, instead of offering a over-simplified analysis of the dialog.

I'm sorry if you don't care to read my thoughts. No one is forcing any one to. This is an open forum is it not?

As has been pointed out to me, the correct spelling is "bouillon," and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one to mispell it.:)

Personally, I don't use bouillon cubes, (I think this should be a part of a different thread!) nor do I think you are a "bad" person if you do. I am only using it as a small example of what I personally think constitutes "quality." I do not wish to put down or ridicule anyone that uses cubes. I used to use them at home for a while and decided I didn't like them, just a matter of taste I suppose.

Let's rephrase the example: What would you say, if any, are the differences in "personality traits" between "chefs" who use bouillon cubes exclusively and those who prefer to make their own stock or demi? We're not talking good, bad or ugly, right or wrong. Just traits. Do you sharpen your own knife or do you send it to a grinder?
 

kuan

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Ya know, last time I looked at the Knorr box... well, maybe one day I'll learn to spell that bouillon word correctly. You know what? You're right. It's an unmoderated forum. But if you think I don't care about your thoughts you're wrong. I think your reply to the original question bordered upon the profound. Very insightful.

It's a tough question for me. Perhaps a better way to go about it is by pointing out "chefs generally regarded as successful. " Say perhaps yourself, capechef, Thomas Keller, Paul Bocuse, James Beard... etc. If someone were to ask me the question I'd ask them to go read what James Beard has to say on cooking, or I'd suggest they watch my friend Jean-Pierre in action on a busy Friday night.

Did I get bouillon right? :)

Kuan
 
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LOL:)

Yes Kuan, of course you are right.

I am only speaking in general terms as that is how I interpreted the question. It's a very subjective question with no single answer, and I was only offering a personal view and experience. I would never compare myself to the chefs you mentioned, and I'm sure you mean no offense by suggesting that I do, but why not strive to emulate them????
We could further digress by discussing what is a "chef" and what is "success?" (as I'm sure has been done on these boards)But I don't think that is really the question. I have respect for anyone who survives in this business, and I myself am proud that I have. That doesn't mean I have to agree with everone's personal method and style of cooking.
Who is Jean-Pierre?
I once had a day with Andre Soltner. James Beard is one of my heroes. I toiled under a chef named Jim Gallo. I saw Jaques Pepin stumble into a kitchen half drunk and decorate a cake in 2 seconds with perfection. I can only whisper their names, and I did my best to observe them. I can honestly say that they posess some of the traits I speak of. I have also seen a kid fresh from high school make the transition from garde manger to accomplished line cook in the matter of two weeks with little guidence. I studied him closely to figure out how he did it. He didn't even want to become a line cook, nor did he even "care" that much about food, but he was disciplined, respectful, attentive and was determined to advance and learn, possibly for the sake of improving his life? In my mind I could see him becoming a chef. There are many such examples on every level that transcend class, race, gender and religion.

And of course when I speak of bouillon cubes, I am talking about the Knorrs that you find in every supermarket that my hack-of-a-cook mother used. Maybe that's why I abhor them.

Chelsea, I hope you're getting this.

Someone else please enlighten us as well.
 
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Chelsea,
Picking up any special traits or personalities of of chefs???
Take Kuan and Chef1x, multiply by 36, divide by 9 and add 2 and you should come up with a pretty good idea of what chefs are like.:chef: :lol:
 
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Hi Chelsea,

First,don't worry to much about spelling unless you are a spelling teacher.

Second, (to Kuan) To be named with Bocuse and Keller? I love you :)

Third, You need a thick skin.

Fourth, you need to get off on being creative.

Fifth, you need to believe in yoursrlf.

Sixth, (also first) you need to pay your dues.

Seventh, Read,read, and then read some more.

Eight, don't get hung up with titles.

Ninth, if your not happy your food sucks ;)

Tenth, smile more then you frown.

Eleventh, do it for the right reasons!?!? :)

Twelth, Remember not to shave dessert truffles over your risotto:)

Thirtenth,as a chef, your only as good as the people you work with and have trained.

Fourteenth...........have a glass of wine.
 
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:) :chef:
Capechef, well said..
As always.
While I subcribe to all 14 of your commandments, I especially like the 8th,9th,13th and 14th.


Panini, I love the formula! You baker people are always good with those. I confess, I am not.

Kuan, please tell us, for example, what personality traits in Jean-Pierre do you find make him a "success" in your eyes? What about yourself? What traits in your self do you find make you a success. I'm curious for my own education....

Well, if Chelsea does not exist, I, for one, appreciate all the info I have gathered today, and I am indebted to all.

I would also like to hear more.......
 
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Wow!! I have enjoyed the responses very much, and I did not want to interfere with such a great discussion. Thankyou all so much for helping me, it's funny just reading what you all wrote gave me what I needed,and what I already suspected!!;) You are ALL amazing people to do what you do, like any aritstic occupation, being a chef is hard to do and it's even harder to successful. You have all made it into my paper based on an idea or a personality. Personally, I find it funny just how different, and yet how much the same you all are!! Again, I cannot thankyou enough, you have all been very helpful!!

Chelsea
 
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Chelsea,
When you're done with this paper you might want to consider researching the personalities and traits of a REAL chef , you know, a Pastry Chef. I've met many unsuccessful pastry chefs, most of whom are working on the hot side or in restaurants.:D

The hot siders know I'm kidding, but there is a saying in the industry that you can pull a pastry cook on to the hot side but the reverse is not possible.
( traits of a sweet chef) condesending, obnoxious, demanding, anal,perfectionist, unbelievable creativity to make the hot chef look good, etc.

:bounce: :cool: :beer: :crazy:
 
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Sorry, guys. Long day at the office yesterday. My place is on a college campus, and its finals right now. Everyone is eating to avoid studying, I guess. Its been crazy, and I've been working really hard (Five 14 hour days in a row - 2 more to go). I'm very proud of my menu, and my customers seem to like it, and I guess what I was getting at is that I don't feel any less a part of the restaurant business because my customers are college students and nurses and every day business people rather than elite big city types - and that I have to design my menu accordingly. I do value quality, and I think I have the best around if you compare mine to my direct competitors. Yes, there is chicken base in my sauce. But there is no mystery meat in anything I serve. Real stuff, all the way. My business is not fine dining. Its delivery/take out Southwestern. But I work every bit as hard making things from scratch every day, working the line when its totally slammed, and generally managing a kitchen as I did when I did work in a more upscale environment. That was my point (and it was not a neurotic one).

Speaking of elite big city types, when I said the thing about people who didn't know where they sh** last, I was referring to clientele, not anyone on this list. If you read the post again, I think you will see that. I do think there are a lot of megalomaniacs in the business, though (a spelling I looked up just after "bouillon". What can I say? I'm anal. And a very poor speller to boot). I can be rather megalomaniacal myself (I looked that one up, too). I try to keep it to a minimum, though. Three, four, times a day max.

But when I'm not busy with megalomaniacal issues, I can be found using a lot of words like "practical", "food cost", "bottom line", and (my personal favorite) "efficient". I'm not against words like "art", "profound", "creative", "expression". Those things are totally necessary. But I'm I wrong in saying that a successful chef must be both "profound" and "practical"? Whether you do it for the money or for the love, money is still involved, isn't it?
 

kuan

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Jean-Pierre? You don't know at least three Jean-Pierres? Tell me you know at least one Jean-Louis. :) Seriously, Jean-Pierre is an old friend who used to own a Bistro in the back of a bowling alley in central Illinois. He eventually sold it after about 15 years in the business to his sous chef, Jean-Louis!

The first thing you notice when you talk with these guys is that cooking is a way of life, and they want to live it well. Their lives are so intertwined with food that there's really no one place where food ends and the rest of their life begins. But you also notice that it's not about food, it's about the big picture, food fits into a siginificant part, but that's not all there is. It's about his family, and his wife, who helps out with the business.

He's driven. Driven to do things "just right" as he says. He's happy, confident in his abilities, and even more confident in his lack of ability. Here I think lies the key to being successful. You have to not just know your limits, but know that what you can't do does not make you a failure. JL is a fantastic saucier. In fact, I think he may be the best line cook who orders his own produce. But he doesn't really care that he can't make a buttercream rose. His sponge cake is perfect. His mousseline is smooth. Confidence to say this is what he's good at doing, and even more confidence to say that he can't decorate a cake that well.

This guy is no celebrity. He's a chef, and I'd say he has a happy life. A happy chef even.

Kuan
 
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