If Your Name Is On The Door
You find these people in the slums of grimy chip shops in London, at local markets across Asia, or at the roadside taco stands in Mexico City. They operate a smashed burger food truck grill on a beach in New Zealand or the dessert station of a world-renowned hotel's kitchen. They mind the oven at the local pizza parlour or the pasta station at the Michelin Star restaurant in Downtown New York. I am referring to the ever-present culinary workforce that is responsible for much of our food every day.
The food industry is vast, and the opportunities are endless. There are possibilities for anyone, anywhere in the world. It was always, and still is a trusted way to earn a living. Cooking and food preparation is as old a profession as civilized man, itself.
We wanted to know from Julian Bond, the Vice-President & Chief Operating Officer at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Art (PICA), what determines the success of the individual that ventures in by choice or chance, in such a vast array of opportunity, locales, and roles.
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Sue Singer founded the Institue in 1997. The school is located in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada, at the entrance to Granville Island. It is an accredited, private and co-educational culinary training facility that provides students with world-class training in a setting filled with both cultural and recreational opportunities.
They provide an array of programs from casual classes to wine programs, their award-winning Bistro 101 Restaurant and Bakery 101 Café course. They cater for a wide range of corporate events. The flagship is their Professional Diploma Programs in Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry Arts.
What is considered success nowadays in the culinary world? Is it surviving the next paycheck as line-cook, obtaining the almighty Michelin star as a chef, gaining fame and celebrity on television, or having the fortune of owning your business? Maybe it is becoming a mentor and a teacher training the next generation of cooks and chefs like Julian is doing?
He had some choice words. Like most sages, much of what he had to say went beyond his profession. He shared some life lessons.
For example, some people enter the business through the dishwasher's door; others have the privilege of attending a prestigious culinary school and working with a renowned mentor. For everyone, their foundation, work ethic, focus and commitment determines their path in the culinary industry, as it does in any other business.
It helps to start with a good foundation. It makes it easier in the long run. For some, a sound basis is cutting their teeth on the hard work at the bottom rungs of a kitchen, learning the basics and work ethic that goes with the playing field. For others, the foundation is the chemistry of ingredients they discover in a structured certified cooking program like the ones at PICA. For all, it is ultimately their focus and commitment that determine the chances for success. More often, it is not the talent that makes it to the top. Instead, it is the person willing to put in the work, that becomes distinguished.
There is no substitute for experience and only two possibilities to get it. You can either make your own mistakes or surround yourself with the right people and use the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. A culinary school provides an ideal environment where you can learn from a lot of errors - your own, and those of your classmates.
It still left us with the big question. What is a success and how do you recognize it in the industry? Success is realizing the value of sitting down with your family for a home-cooked Sunday afternoon meal. It is the discovery of the transitional states of sugar and seeing the unfolding of a protein. It is tasting the burst of caviar, the perfume of truffle, the tingling of champagne bubbles and the fragrance of a freshly peeled orange. Ultimately, success in food is very much the same as it is for life. If you blink, you miss it. If you look away, it slips by you. Success is the realization that every moment counts, and it is only the moment that count.
If your name is on the door, you better be in the restaurant. If your bread is in the oven, you better watch it. If your steak is on the grill, you better keep an eye it. It happens fast in a kitchen as it does in life. If your students are in the class, you better teach them. If you've found your passion in life, you better live it.
Ultimately, success is being in the moment in all its glory. Before you know it the restaurant will be opened, entrees prepared, souffle done, stars awarded, desserts served, service completed, dishes washed, and goodbyes said, before all starts again in the morning.
It always starts again in the morning.
Hendrik van Wyk
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