Back when I was 13, I started working (illegally, I'm sure) for a small diner in New Hampshire for a crazy French Canadian woman named "Lorette" as a dish washer. She ALWAYS smoked Pall Mall filter-less cigarettes. Whether she was rolling out a pie dough or cooking bacon on the grill, her ash never fell. Weird and mysterious, lol. She had me doing all sorts of fun stuff! Cutting fries in the dank, dark basement, washing pots and pans, pouring coffee, buttering toast and frying bacon. I didn't know that the work sucked back then, I just knew I was COOKING! Like my idols on TV were doing all those years earlier. I can still smell the coffee/ cigarettes/ fried bacon smells of that place. I can still hear Lorette's growling/ raspy voice from behind her griddle screaming at me to "Hurry up and wash those coffee cups, we're almost out!", WOW, what a trip.
Fast forward 23 years and here I am. 1000 miles away from that nasty diner and that crazy woman. God knows I've been through a lot but here I am! Alive and kicking! After all that work and a lot of help along the way, it arrived. The document that separates the men from the boys (OK, or the girls from the woman :) ) And I have just one word to describe it:
"Beautiful." It's as beautiful as any piece of paper could ever be. It showed up in a filthy white card board envelope a couple days ago, kinda anti-climactic, to be honest. I was more excited to get the two cookbooks I ordered from Amazon.com that arrived at the same time than I was to open my "prize" from the ACF.
Was it worth the bullshit to get it? Well, maybe. Was it worth the money? Well, for what I spent, I kinda expected more than just a laminated card and a pretty piece of paper, maybe a bag of cookies or something? Could you guys have, perhaps, made the certificate from parchment like they do when you graduate high school? No kidding, my GED is printed on better quality stock than my CEC certificate and it was a LOT easier to achieve and shit tons less expensive than the latter as well. Ah, but it's still gorgeous :)
After it sank in for a couple days and after I stared at it a few times, the overwhelming desire to scream, "I DID IT!" came over me at least twice. Aside from the lack of pomp and circumstance the ACF puts forward for you, it's still pretty awesome to know that, after 23 years in this business, I can finally tell people I'm a chef and it mean something to both parties.
A good friend of mine, before we became good friends, told me once over the phone while I was sitting in the parking lot of a local Starbucks that I would never become anything in my life or career besides a "lousy sous chef". Oddly enough, at the time I was HIS sous chef!
Not sure what brought that up at the time besides his need for an ego boost, but it pissed me right off. Up to that point I defined myself by my work and WHO I worked for instead of WHY I worked and how I could better myself and MY OWN CAREER!
That statement brought me back to my senses a little. Instead of people pleasing for a bunch of self centered, self righteous wanna-be chefs, I began to focus on me and how I could become the best chef ever. I'm still working on that to this day but not for someone else, for me. It also made me realize how important a good team is for a chef to become successful. Those dudes, all into themselves and the "look what I can do" attitudes rarely mention who got them there. If it wasn't for my team and the people that have helped me through out my career to become successful, I would be, still, just a "lousy sous chef". Thanks for saying that to me that day bud, I guess I needed to hear it!
Now, the day has finally come where, oddly enough, I'm a CEC and the guys that have pissed on me along the way are either still working their same dead end jobs, have gone backwards in their careers or are dead. I have them all to thank for this great day! If I hadn't had my ass kicked by you all, well, my life would be very different, for sure.
Now I'm at the "now what" stage in my career. I reached this goal, now what? I guess I'll have to pray about it and wait for guidance. God is good and will always lead the way. He put people into my life knowing that I am only motivated by the people/ things in my life that try to get in the way. You know who you, lol.
Stay tuned for my next adventure!