Why Would Anyone Want to be a Chef? Addicted to the Trade. Blog by Frank Davie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th May 2016

Cook, sleep, repeat. Are chefs addicted to, well…chefing? Is it the sketchy lifestyle, looping repetitiveness of the job, or merely the brightly coloured chopping boards that lure chefs back into the kitchen time and time again? One thing is for sure, cooking is insanely addictive and I’m not entirely sure why.

I discovered the great chasm that is the world of food two years ago, but I clung to the edge of the gaping abyss until around a year ago when I let go of the comfort of family and friends and put the goal of becoming a chef into the limelight of my ambitions. Basically, my mind has plunged into a seemingly bottomless crevasse of food, passion and intrigue. I’m now free-falling through this journey of captivation with no visible route of escape. Will I hit the bottom and splatter like a thick pea soup or will I land on a soft bed of fresh herbs, micro-cress and frisée endive? The uncertainty is killing me, but either way, I know I’m here for the long run.

Workaholicism might not be just a word I made up, but also the answer to the point I’m trying to raise here. The chef and a relaxed lifestyle are two things that just don’t agree with each other. To put it bluntly, it’s go hard or go home. There’s no happy middle. A chef spends the vast majority of their time between the same windowless grey walls of the kitchen, and the rest of the time under the pillow, desperately trying to shut out the sound of the cheque machine ringing in their ears. Spending such an abundance of time doing one thing results in either one of two things: running away or addiction. If dinosaur is on the menu, run.

But what are we addicted to? The kitchen is an environment pumped with adrenaline. A Saturday night in the kitchen is riveting to say the least. I remember working a 380 cover service and just freezing to absorb the scenes of an organised chaos of waiters, waitresses and chefs rushing around furiously in an explosive attempt to keep on top of the inexorable amount of cheques whizzing out of the ticket machine. Of course, this intake of pure thrill was quickly halted as I swiftly returned to the reality of my station. However, I struggle to contemplate a workplace on the planet that can compete with this blitzkrieg-styled rush.

In spite of the pressure and heat of the kitchen at these times, chefs thrive off this injection of fanaticism. For many, it’s why they thrust themselves into the industry in the first place. Adrenaline is a powerful substance that transforms the chef into something that could probably be characterised with a cross between Donald Trump and Rambo. Perhaps it’s this feeling of empowerment that keeps chefs pinned to the industry with no easy escape.

Satirical action movie comparisons aside, I’ve also realised that the clear hierarchical structure of the kitchen has personally amplified my motivation to succeed. All around me I can see what I could, should and must become to earn that marginally more glamorous title. And it’s not about the money. There’s an immense amount of pride and accomplishment to be achieved from grafting your way up the ladder. The race to the top is something that I find fascinatingly enslaving. I feel as if I can’t leave this industry because I always have a goal lingering on the horizon, waiting to be grabbed with both hands. Perhaps it’s this sense of raison d’être that makes a chef so absorbed by what they do.

The working hours are backbreaking, the stress is mind-crippling and the money is nothing short of abysmal – perhaps addiction is a necessity for survival in this cruel grind. But this is what makes being a chef harsh yet wonderful. Because the luxuries of a convenient lifestyle are stripped away, there’s only one thing for a chef to focus on – becoming a better chef.  Walking into a shift with no concern as to how long it will be before you’re walking back out again, the money you’ll be earning and what adversities you’re going to be up against, is the nature of the beast in this trade. It’s a genuine conundrum that makes this job a diamond in the rough – it’s a focal point for those who desire more than just a job, but those who crave drastic improvement within themselves.

There’s so much more to being a chef than much of the world realises. It is genuinely changing me as a human being. I find my addiction to this realm of food stretches much further than just cooking. I want to change. I want to become the ultimate version of me. It’s a personal campaign of self-discovery. Good day or bad day, I’m becoming  slightly stronger with every twenty-four hour passing. It’s a constant recycling of the same feeling. Self-progression.

My eyes are fixated on the art behind this craft and I can’t look away. Living the life of a chef isn’t easy, but perhaps it’s that sense of fulfilment and worthiness that fuels the chef’s passion to keep working in this volatile industry.

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th May 2016

Why Would Anyone Want to be a Chef? Addicted to the Trade. Blog by Frank Davie