Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Praise Your Fears

by The Foodist

Since receiving a copy of "The Devil in the Kitchen" two weeks ago I've been fighting to find time to read it. With the class load easing up some and very rare free time making itself present in the evenings I've been reading like a mad man.

I was sitting in the cafe at school reading a chapter (or four) while waiting for my meal when I stumbled across a quote that I've never seen in any of the "How I came to be" and "How to be" books I have read. It's a powerful statement, one that every cook should hear, think, and believe if they want to be great at what they want to do.

"Strange though it may seem, there are many chefs who suffer a fear of the stove. You will find them in the world's finest kitchens. They may be great cooks, with heads crammed full of culinary knowledge, but the minute they are thrown into a busy kitchen, they wobble, lose it and need bailing out. Until they conquer that fear, they are destined never to rise through the ranks and find a place in the kitchen hierarchy."-Marco Pierre White

There is more truth in that statement then any cook, chef, or wannabe of either will want to ever admit to themselves.

Each and every time I step into the kitchen there is a second that exists, choking me, making me sweat. It is a moment of fear that swells within me every time I walk in for a shift. The voice in your head echoes the daily mantra "Don't you dare screw up today!, don't you dare falter, fail, or even slid an inch backwards!"

It is that fear, and that voice that push the good cooks to be even greater. It's a feeling as though every second you are in a kitchen your being watched, evaluated, graded on how you act, what you do, and how well you do it.

I'll be the first to admit I have fallen prey to the darker side of the fear more then once. Its kept me from applying myself. Its kept me from giving it my all. And for what, the fear of failure?

It's almost like a shadow that follows the awakened cooks of the world. Until the day comes where you can control the beast that stalks you, it will hunt you. Its not something that can be taught in Culinary Schools or you can be born with. It comes by the baptism of fire in the kitchen. It comes from dusting yourself off when you fall, and hard work.

There's a quote I find myself repeating time and time again when I have doubts, when I question if I have what it takes to give it my all and do the best damn job I can do everyday.

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

Like White, it takes realizing that it is fear to know what you truly face each and every time you step foot into that kitchen. You fear failure, you fear disappointment, you fear screwing up, and most of all you fear not being good enough.

When it comes down to it, it's deciding not to rank with those poor spirits, but to realize that you will slip, you will fall, and you will screw up. Everyone does, everyone has, and everyone will. The difference is... are you going to let the fear consume you? or are you going to let it propel you?


tyronebcookin said...

Not to give anything I won't but later in the book, maybe towards the end...there are a few other quotes that struck me with a sense of, why couldn't I think to word it so well?

And one I really loved about critque/restaurant review politics and people.

Good Stuff.

Jennie/Tikka said...

Wow. And I thought I was the only one who got scared. Thanks for posting this!

The Foodist said...


I think everyone has that fear. If they tell you they dont then they're either lying or the most confident person youd ever meet.

Scotty said...

It's stage fright. Really. I get it for both, but once you start it gets better. I think maybe it is, in both cases, those quiet moments before everything gets going. The time your brain is active, wondering. . .

kristin said...

Is that his fear or just hubris? I dare say it is a mixture of both.