I learned a craft at the Fairfield Golf and Country Club under "chef" Ryan Kutter. I learned how to cook. I'm pretty darned good at it too. I know I'm pretty darned good at it because I've been bad at it, and I know what bad is. Bad was me cooking that chicken breast of doom about 10 years ago. But, everyone starts out bad at everything. Legends like Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jordan, and even Michelangelo didn't start out laying down monster guitar licks, monster tongue-out dunks, and monster Sistine Chapel murals, respectively. They started out fumbling around with right handed guitars, basketballs, and paintbrushes, respectively. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way comparing myself to those dudes. I'm not nearly as good at cooking food as Michelangelo was at painting even though that is like comparing apples to the color wheel. My point is that learning is a process.
I've never called myself a chef although others have labeled me as such. It would probably be a nice promotional tool to go by Chef Weejy, because, let's face it, "Chef Weejy" has a nice ring to it. Sure, claiming the "chef" title has it's benefits, and if you've earned the title, and I mean really and truly earned the title with years of hard work and devotion, congratulations. Eat it up. But, a lot of "chefs" take advantage of the title and allow themselves to get away with the murder of food. The murder of food goes on unbeknownst to the customer because the customer is blinded by the fake "chef" title. That ain't fair. Putting out crap food under the title "organic grass-fed this" or "Wagyu that" doesn't mean you've done anything special other than rip people off who don't know any better. So, I don't know... My old boss never called himself a chef. I, in turn, have kind of adopted the rule: You're not a chef until someone who you respect as a chef introduces you to one of his chef buddies as a chef. That makes sense to me. The "chef" title gets tossed around like a bowl of over-saturated vinegar-ed and oiled mixed greens. To be given the title by others around you means more than just staking claim to something you think sounds nice. My boss, "Not-chef Ryan Kutter," was a killer with food. He knew more about food in his pinky finger than a lot of people I've known who've called themselves a chef. But, for all intents and purposes, no matter what he claimed or didn't claim, he was in fact the chef at the Fairfield Golf and Country Club and he deserved the title.
One thing that a chef actually does is put in extremely long hours. "Does 9am-5pm Monday through Friday constitute as extremely long hours?" You may ask. No. Not even close. Try 9am-10pm, sometimes more, sometimes less, Monday through every day of your life, sometimes more, sometimes less. Chefs don't complain about it either. They take pride in it. It's a physical and mental battle to be able to pull those kinds of hours off. On both a mental and physical level, working on the line in a kitchen is a lot like running track with serious competition: You step up to the starting line. For a moment you question how you got yourself into it. Your stomach is in knots because you know thatthe race will be challenging and at times painful (Tip: That's just a big ol' metaphorical bear trying to get inside your head and tell you that he will tear you apart. Don't listen to him.). The starting gun goes off and you just go. You just go. All out. When your legs start hurting, you ignore it. When you hit the finish line, you've either won or you've lost. If you've won, it feels great, but if you've lost, you feel like an idiot for a while, but you know that you could've done better so you lick your wounds, dust yourself off, and win the next race. To win the race is why chefs do it, and they do it every day for 10ish hours a day. Hours stacked on hours stacked on hours. And they love it. Pulling those hours and being good at it means bragging rights.
I got a good taste of the extremely long hours one night in December of 2012 at the Fairfield Golf and Country Club. The night remains as folklore in the legend of "Chef" or "Not Chef" Weejy. But first, there's a back story... A back story that will be continued...