Kitchen Confidential: The Secret Chef speaks from the heart

Despite the challenges that come with the territory, kitchens are special because of the people who work in them, says our incognito industry insider

Over the last few years I’ve essentially used these pages to lift the lid on the grease trap of restaurant life, exposing the swirling messy garbage that shimmers just out of sight, reflecting our own mad existence right back at us. I’ve whined and moaned about pretty much all aspects of hospitality; from aging industry dinosaurs holding back the march of progress to the staggering numbers concerning food waste and all things in between.

If I’ve come across as a voice of doom and gloom, brow-beaten and jaded, pulled apart by the stresses of kitchen-life and beaten into a submissive pulp by a profession that offers so much and then takes more than its fair share, I can only apologize. Like a scandal-clad politician, can I plead that I was quoted out of context? 

Because much like a burbling stockpot, the scum that rises to the top comprises a tiny fraction of the total mass, and underneath is a rich, nutritious, gentle broth, calmly simmering away for the majority of each day. It’s only by systematically and consistently skimming away the unusable froth that we can attain the sort of clarity we all strive for. Testament to that is the fact that, despite all the rallying and frustration, I’m still here, and I’m still here because – more than anything else – what I do brings me great joy. 

Foodservice: central to the human experience

Cooking and hospitality are at the very heart of the story of who we are. Food, and the creation and sharing of meals and experiences centered around the table, are all central to the human experience and I can’t think of another profession that offers such an immediate connection to the very core of what it means to be a person on this planet. Transforming raw ingredients into something that transcends their nature and being able to share that with a few people every day is a gift, and even during the most challenging of circumstances, that simple, single fact will always nudge the balance into net positive territory. 

I try to seek out small moments that strengthen this connection every day and it is a seam that runs through the very heart of my business. I think about the power of food, and service, and how they can work in conjunction to create moments that last just a few minutes in the sensory realm but are able to forge a memory that can endure a lifetime.

There is magic in this. There is an indescribable joy in the creation of a new thought or the rekindling of an old one. It is a pleasure and a privilege to
be able to work towards this every day through the medium of something as universal as food. 

Every day that stock pot gently simmers. The scum rises and we systematically remove it. We strain, we clarify, we reduce, we skim some more until we get to the very essence of what it is we are working towards. Something so simple that it takes a lifetime of work to actually achieve it.

The Secret Chef

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