Since winning Next Iron Chef, the most common question I get asked is what does it feel like to be a celebrity chef ? I typically laugh, since to me these are two words that just don't jive.
The reason I say this is not to scoff at "celebrity" or to shrug off the responsability of being a well known chef but because being a chef to me is still a trade (and a very difficult one at that)
When I went off to culinary school in 1987, there was no food network, no internet and certainly not chef blogs. The chef world was not filled with the glamour it is today and most people in the dining room had no desire to meet the chef. Unless your name was Paul Bocuse!
It was considered one of the toughest gigs in the world. Filled with 80 hour workweeks in 100 degree kitchens and getting yelled at by a crazy person, who can barely speek english, that we respectfully called "chef". In fear that if we did not, he/she would beat us with a rolling pin! Ah...the good old days.
The craziest thing to me is that other than the "celebrity" part (and the occassional beating) nothing else has really changed. This is still one of the most physically demanding proffessions that there is. Working weekends and nights is a given and 60-80 hour weeks are common.
My biggest fear about this is that some of kids wanting to get into this bussiness may not be ready for what is ahead of them. Watching Mario and Bobby kick the shit out of people on Iron Chef is fun but what they had to go through to get to that point was nothing short of brutal. Hell, I've had my eyebrows burnt off by exploding broilers, been sucker punched by fired cooks(big mistake) and been chased with a knife by a crazy dishwasher. The craziest thing is that I've loved the entire ride!
Don't get me wrong, that chefs have the opportunities they have now is nothing short of wonderful and being a "celebrity" has opened doors for me that I never thought possible. My only hope is that the next generation of chefs realize what they are in for and that if they ever hope to be a "celebrity" they must first be a chef.
live to cook, ms