Discover more from Life According to D
A Culinary Journey of Determination
Triumphs and Teachable Moments in Pursuit of a Dream
Upon completing the chef course and in good standing, I had no desire to pursue a career as a chef. However, having graduated, I now had more time available and was ready for additional employment.
Fortunately, Chef Theo found me a cooking job owned by a Swiss chef specializing in milk-fed veal. He had a thriving lunch business and needed kitchen help.
I have two memories that stand out.
One, you were not allowed to use utensils when cooking at the stove in his kitchen. So, for example, turning the veal in the hot pan, you were only allowed to use your index and middle fingers.
This chef was extreme.
And if you did anything wrong in his kitchen, he would punch you in the arm. So I didn’t stay there very long; he was too intense.
Near the end of my two years, I achieved what I had set out to do.
I was standing beside the chef and cooking the dishes under his watch. To say I was a hyper-activated human while under the stress of preparing meals would be an understatement. I was like a ping pong ball filled with adrenaline.
His frustration with me one evening led to a teachable moment.
While he pointed at the floor, barking, “Stay there and don’t move,” he reached to his left and grabbed some white powder and proceeded to draw a line on either side of me with the powder and, in a strong German accent, said, “do your job and stay between those lines!”
The big night came when the chef asked me to take his spot and cook meat on the fiery cavernous grill.
It was a busy night, and orders kept coming quickly and furiously.
While cooking the butterflied filets and sirloin, the grill kept flaring up. I mentioned this to the chef, and he barked, “Baking soda,” I looked puzzled, and he pointed to a container filled with baking soda. So I figured this must be what he used on the floor to reign me in.
It worked for a minute, and I kept flipping the fast-cooking steaks. I kept putting more baking soda, trying to put out the flame, but it wasn’t working. I said, “Chef, it’s not working.”
He kept telling me to put more, and I did. I kept doing it until the flames started shooting out the front of the grill, and the alarm system kicked off the fire retardant system in the kitchen and dining room.
White powder everywhere. Bedlam ensued.
In what felt like only a few minutes, firefighters came rushing into the kitchen with hoses and axes.
The cooks stayed and watched.
I watched a fireman analyze the situation while looking for the source of the fire. Finally, he had a hunch and pulled a drawer from the grill. He carried the ignited grease-filled drawer outside.
Then another fireman took an axe to the walls by the grill.
I imagined customers standing in the cold at the front of the building while the coat check brought out their coats.
We were closed for a few weeks while the restaurant was cleaned and refreshed from top to bottom. Professionals repaired and painted the kitchen walls where firefighters’ axes had explored.
When I returned to work, I met my new chef, Klaus.
"Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember, all things are possible for those who believe." — Gail Devers.
Next week…Driven by Desire, Navigating Life's Twists Through Passion and Perseverance