Friday, August 27, 2010

On Professional Chefs and Home Cooks

Reading between the lines of an article in one of my favorite food magazines, there appears to be an increasingly common sentiment: a concerning level of snobitude directed towards home cooks. A great divide, between those paid to cook and those who are not. Even a division between those blessed with professional educations and those without. As to the question of who could run a restaurant better, the chef wins. But this discussion is not about running restaurants. It’s about creating good food. And as to the question of who produces good food, I maintain that pros and amateurs alike have an equal opportunity.

In my little town of meager dining options, it's a fair bet that I am a better cook than most that wear the apron. For cornstarch-heavy sauces straight from the bottle or deep-fried national menu items ordered frozen from the Sysco catalog, this is the place. Does the fact that somebody has glopped around pre-mixed orange sauce for five years give them more street cred than somebody that simply has the passion to produce great flavors? In the world of good food, I dare say no.

Home cooks aren't paid for their work, and most don’t have a culinary education. But this does not make their cooking any less noble. Home cooks create because they love to cook, and I would venture that in many cases, that makes their craft the most genuine.

I would hope there are a great many professionally trained chefs who see their job as work, just like those of us trained in business see it: as a chore that pays the bills. (Honestly, I find the notion of a chef letting his Hollandaise separate while dreaming about selling real estate a simply wonderful fantasy.) The reality is that we are all just people, and often people find themselves pigeonholed into jobs dictated by educations that were chosen in their infinitely wise teenage years. And once you’ve worked in a field for ten years, be it foodservice or front office, your earning potential supports your lifestyle. Dropping everything and changing careers might bring happiness, but it’s a scary road paved with financial disaster.

Perhaps we humble home cooks need to extend the olive branch to our foodservice cousins. To those that do not get all gushy at the feel of a balanced knife in their hands. To those that see ingredients as tasks. To those that must surrender their art to an army of dimwit malcontents who want the Pasta Florentine without the spinach, the corned beef hash without the crust, and the taco chips less crunchy. To those that feel about cutting boards the way that we feel about spreadsheets.

And perhaps our professional cousins could see in the humble home cook the same magic--that spark, that delight from something as simple as cooking--that they once might have had. Just as children remind us that the world used to be an amazing and beautiful place, perhaps chefs could stop seeing home cooks with food blogs as pompous intrusions into their earned territory, and instead as a means for one more person who loves cooking to show their respect for the craft. A craft, that maybe only in their own homes and the fantasy land of the internet, do they get to indulge.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...