CHEFS- BRANDING… BS? SELLOUT? GREEDY?…IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE

Something most people out there don’t know about chef’s, cooks or cooking , is that it’s crazy assed tough and thankless work. When you’re either just out of school “prima donna”, or starting out as a “prep bitch” with no experience in a decent restaurant, the one thing you can count on more than death or taxes, is that “they” are gonna work you like a rented mule. You’ll probably work upwards of sixteen plus hours a day six days a week, for what amounts to a shamefully small amount of money, in a cramped area that’s at times 130 degrees or more, you’re quite literally cooking yourself. Go ahead, ask any professional in the industry who has made their bones how easy the work is…Or better yet, just for funsies, tell them you, or someone you know is thinking of going to culinary school or getting into the food service industry. Then ask them their thoughts. If they’re being polite, they will tell you it’s tough. Or if they are being truthful, you will probably get something that starts with “Are you/they F’ING crazy!? and end with, If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to college and studied ancient dead languages and art history, and made more money than I am now!


By the time a cook becomes  Chef de cuisine (literally “chief of kitchen”), they have put in a serious amount of hours, probably have some health issues (back, legs, feet, etc…), make ok money, but still it is no cakewalk because the success or failure is typically planted squarely on that persons shoulders. So there is an incentive to spend as much time, if not more in that kitchen to keep your fingers on the pulse, as it were, of your restaurant, your patient. Your next step if you’re so blessed is to become known for your food. Be it in newspapers, magazines, TV interviews, etc. Today this is a common thing, but there was a time not too long ago when being a chef held no such prestige. Jacques Pepin was offered the position of executive chef for president Kennedy, and he turned it down in lieu of a job for Howard Johnson. When asked why he did such a crazy thing he said, “In France I was the Chef de cuisine for the French president and never received one interview, or had one picture taken….I thought the Howard Johnson job would be more interesting.”


So now you’re becoming well known and you may even be lucky enough to have a few restaurants with financial backers, and business partners, PR people etc… to take care of the nuts n bolts of operating such businesses, so you can be free to create the great food and maintain the standards of your blooming empire. Hey, there are things in the works to get you a TV show cause you’re a swell person and you make good food. This will finally be where you will start to achieve fame, but will undoubtedly work nearly as many hours…The problem is, you can’t do it for fame, or the money, because you’ll never become famous, or rich enough, and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to get those precious things. The fame, the money… must be a derivative of your sweat equity.


So now the TV show is going great, you’re rich, you’re famous, your business has grown by leaps and bounds, hell, you’ve opened four more places, in Rio, Las Vegas, Chicago and London….you’re an international superstar of cuisine! Here come the endorsements, alright, you’re finally into the big money. Don’t forget now, you have integrity, no sireebob, I have standards, I have integrity, nothing but the best, that’s what I’m gonna endorse….Ummmmm…..Here’s the problem. Yes you have integrity, you have standards, that’s what you’ve built your whole career on….But now, you have 10 restaurants, business partners, investors, employees, several hundred if not thousands of people are depending on you to keep maintaining, even growing your Name, your Brand. You can’t NOT do these commercials…. “Why yes, when I’m working in my kitchen all I ever wear are Doctor Schills Insole Cushy Thing’s….yes indeed…..comfy as a cloud!”


You have to do this, and you will do this, and sure you’ll make a lot more money, and those snobby bastard foodies will hate you for selling out, the cibo crowd will be fine with it because, well shit because they appreciate pretty much anything food related, the American people are already on board as they are the only people still left watching the Food Network or the Cooking Channel….so they’re scarfing this stuff up as fast as you can endorse it.


Would I ever buy “their stuff”….Not a shot in hell. Why?! “But Pav, that’s not being very cibo”… you’re saying, and you’re right….but right here on line 7 in my, “worked in professional kitchens/ cook contract” I am more or less obligated to consider myself a cook as opposed to cibo…which allows me the added benefit to also thumb my nose at things that I/The Industry Lifer Team deem as unadulterated bullshit. I wouldn’t use the spice mixes, because I have a tongue, I have spices, and I know what I like, I don’t need to be told “This is Steak Rub”… out of spite if I saw that in a kitchen, I would most definitely use it on fish. I won’t use the Stock as I have a stove, and something called a stockpot….guess what it’s used for? I won’t buy the pans because I know where the kitchen supply store is that isn’t interested in hawking kitchen ware for some celebrity, they’re interested in supplying kitchens with stuff that works, and at a competitive price. So it goes… with the toothpaste, the dog food, etc, etc, etc…ad nauseum…I don’t, and I won’t buy this stuff…but that’s just me. If you like any of these things, feel free to buy and use them, take no shame kind people…really, it isn’t all shit on a stick. I guess for me, it’s just principal.


Do I blame them?! Hell no, and I’ll tell you why dear readers. Because these men/women in most cases have worked their butts off, are from humble beginnings, are good people, and if they can sell lumps of dog shit that people will buy… all the power to them! They almost have to do this, because if they don’t… the empire starts to fold and people start to loose their jobs. The Chefs themselves would still do fine, but so many others depend on them. So they will keep doing what they do for the sake of the people who got them to the station they are at….and really, that’s what a good chef does. 

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6 thoughts on “CHEFS- BRANDING… BS? SELLOUT? GREEDY?…IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE

  1. It's a rush like no other. I always liked prep…. not as an everyday thing, but there was something almost relaxing about it. And you're welcome….Thank you!

  2. Thanks for this. I go back and forth about getting back into the industry. I always had a love hate relationship with being in the weeds during the busy hours. There's a certain something, maybe it's an adrenaline rush, about getting your ass kicked and trying to keep up and put out great food that I've always loved. Prep work, well, while boring, was also soothing. The hours, the pay, the griping are the reasons I got out of it. And yet, I still wonder if I might go back.

  3. I'm sure they don't Tupper…Thanks for sharing my man. You either have it in you, or you don't, you either can or you can't….cooking professionally is a very physical world with no room for excuses, because excuses are just that…"I'm sorry I didn't get the pâté en croûte done in time for service chef, what would you like me to do with it?" "How about you stick it up your ass!"….that's how things are, your food is either ready or it isn't…sorry isn't going to fix it, and for those that like showing up late, or calling in sick…cooking is not for you either….You're there, or you're not…and everybody there is needed for specific tasks, you're not just letting yourself down when you don't show up, you're letting everybody else down….Again, thanks for sharing Tupper. Sorry for your loss.

  4. My father owned his own restaurant, then cooked in my uncles steakhouse until the day he died at 49 years old. Never made any money, but it was his passion. The job literally killed him. It's a 24/7/365 deal. Not sure that the romantics get that.

  5. Yeah, like I said…in theory, I'd like to endorse things I love, or believe in….and in a perfect world it won't be Ruby Tuesdays…I guess that's why you see the big names with a lot of private "label goods" so there is no preconceived perception of a particular brand… then again, there are those with no shame… Scummo!

  6. I have a friend whom has been in kitchens forever. For the last decade, at least, he's been head chef. Taken at an hourly rate, I make twice what he does. His job is backbreaking work. His knees, feet, and back are shot. I sit in a comfy chair on a computer all day. I bitch when my office temp is over 75o. His place of work is an easy 125o. I have the major potential of getting a paper cut on any given day. His hands are a scarred mess. He'd sell out in a heartbeat, and I don't blame him. That said, sell out for something that doesn't completely suck. If you're flogging Bertoli frozen dinners, you've blown your cred for nothing.

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