Congrats to Zulma Brooks. She won a gift certificate to Restaurant.com for the following article. She gives some insignt on what goes on in the mind a chef.
Make sure you soul is in it, it will show through your food.
THE SOUL OF A CHEF - Cooking consciously pleasing all of the people, all of the time. By Zulma Brooks
I make a conscious effort to remember the taste points on my tongue that will distinguish me from a haphazard cook and a culinary maestro. --Zulma Brooks
Chefs have a passion first and foremost that can lead them to be adored or reviled. To master the culinary arts can take many life times but when you hone your craft and a particular cuisine from appetizer to dessert; you become not only well versed but emotionally connected to every dish you do.
With this emotion comes common sense. It's important to know not only technique and preparation but consciously know what is going in the mouths of your guests. The spices, herbs, textures, scents all play a role in your food play.
Your soul must also be tasted in the foods you prepare, the presentation and care as well as your personality. Why all the generosity? Some chefs do it for the prestige and ego of the art.
Just because you can prepare a seafood Gumbo, Osso Buco, a marbled souffle, cou au vin or a fantastic rustic true Mid-Atlantic Thanksgiving spread doesn't make you the best cook in the world. Chefs who are arrogantly intense about their craft are often detached from the goal of the meal. They expect people to love it instantly or go to hell if they don't. The proper attitude to have is humbleness, grace and dignity in what you do. Your not just cooking, you are creating a memorable dining experience.
The soul of a chef should also include wisdom, appreciation, love and a congeniality that carries over and has guest asking for more. This is the recipe for your personality and you should always remember that to be a Chef not only takes discipline but patience.
As a self taught home chef I get to take my time with recipes or create something completely off the cuff. I still have to remember who I'm cooking for which is mostly family but they are no different than the professional food critics that go to the big name restaurants expecting greatness from the kitchen.
Working on the menu development for a friends for a Pece - Vegetarian (with some fish) restaurant was definitely a challenge. Going from a meat included type of cook to a menu whittled down to vegetarian was going to take patience and research. As I got deeper into the foodie life style of healthier and organic foods I found my ideas change about what people ate randomly to how people ate using a healthier dietary education gave me a clearer perspective into discriminating pallets; this my soul was renewed with a different passion.
And with this passion comes patience in ones abilities to get it right.
I do my best cooking relaxed and not stressed. I hear kitchen nightmares about "burning water", chicken "hair" and half baked desserts and the frustrated cooks who threw it together without a plan.
You can please people without bending backwards because you don't have to when your an excellent cook. Think about your friends who may be supportive if your half way decent but don't be surprised if they don't come around too often because your cooking is lackluster. Pleasing the pallete is a lot like an artist perfecting the right tones for their painting, its never complete until they have it down to a science. The same goes for cooking. Practice makes perfect but perfection can be overdone if you think about it too much. Learn to be diverse because once you have mastered that dish, you can move on to more ambitions presentations.
Whether or not you want to be Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart is entirely up you your devotion to the culinary arts. Remember if its not in your soul, its not in the bowl.
My best advice is that if your serious about cooking, feel it first. Feel the passion to do something great or don't bother shopping for the latest trendy cookware. Find what it is your drawn to mastering someday and your soul will be reflected in all that you do.