“A Real Tiger King Doesn’t Wear a Stolen Crown.”
I can remember it clearly. The sweat pouring down my body; the heat in the air making my lungs feel heavier with each breath. My entire body feels like it’s on pins and needles. I'm about to crash. And I think to myself, is this where I'm going to die? Is this where my dedication and humility have led me? What about the sacrifices I've made to get here? I can't go out like this. Not on this line, not next to these people. I want to die at home in my bed, peacefully--preferably of old age. I always wanted to go out in the blaze of glory. But it would seem as though death would not have me that evening.
I know that this service is taking everything I have, but this is worth it. It becomes worth it when the passion outweighs all the other reasons a person could come up with not to do what we do. But where does that passion come from? And can it be bought? The passion comes from a feeling of doing the right thing. Though for some reason there are those people in this line of work that stray from this ideal, unfortunately. Have you ever noticed a so-called chef that seems like he is trying desperately to be loved, buying affection through outstanding flavors and a certain air in their demeanor? Those are the types of people who attempt to do this for the money. It's these types of people who always seem to bring more harm than help to those around them. But don't worry--after all, they know best right? They have been through so much shit in their lives, their lives and personalities have become exactly that. A shit-filled sandbox. One that is reminiscent of the one that you may or may not have had as a kid growing up. Only this one has a massive turd in it.
How such a person can fake their way through almost every aspect of a cook’s life is beyond my comprehension. That shit must be more exhausting than working a busy Saturday night line filled with nothing but modded tickets. Who would want to live like that? I guess I could maybe understand the appeal of the high you can get off of that kind of adrenaline--I know I always loved a good service high. Both the drug high and the high from a dinner rush combined are what cooks use to get by. Prepping for a shift, that's a form of freebasing if you think about it. Mix the two in just the right way, and you end up with a recipe for a temporary bliss. Mix them the wrong way and you become a person who just always wants to party. A person that has no real bed of their own and has to go around asking for places to sleep at night. How can a person claim to be successful and not have their own bed to collapse into at the end of the day? This seat-of-your-pants mentality would make it possible for some people to be perpetually stuck in this mode. Doing whatever they can to remain busy so that they can taste something similar to that dinner service high. While at the same time, trying to find a way to exploit something or someone to get to the top. Here's something that you may not know: you can't fake this kind of passion. Either you're driven or you're not.
Those driven by money in this game are about to have a very sad ending. This economy has shifted, and with it doing that, it's not left a lot of room for people trying to bleed others dry of hope. This is the type of industry where if you put in blood, sweat, and tears, you may only get one of those back, if you’re lucky. Most commonly it's the tears that come back around the most. But our sandbox turd doesn't give up here just yet. Not even in the slightest. Instead, they say that whatever remains from the fallout is because of them. How are you going to say that the only reason that a restaurant is doing well is because of you? You're not even the one cooking. You're just some sandbox turd that thinks they know this lifestyle. If that's the case, then tell me something that only a true cook would know. While I wait for you to come with some kind of half-assed statistic or some bullshit catchy one-liner, I'll be kicking out plates that are so pleasing that your girlfriend is about to have an orgasm in her mouth. And it won't be from you this time. It'll be something pleasurable for her, so mind-bendingly amazing that it’s making her question every decision she's ever made in her life leading up to the moments before consuming my Coq Au Vin.
That's what'll happen to assholes who think that this world of flavors revolves around them. I mean, just because you claim to be the best doesn't make you the best. It makes you the person to beat, the target for the hungry chefs beneath you looking to make their move. And any good misfit knows to make moves in silence. Your problem is that you brag and boast about every move you make, and for all the wrong reasons. It's a sad reality to try and comprehend when your actions can speak louder than your words spewing out of your mouth like a Vitamix on high with the lid left off. Try this as a new tactic for success: work hard at doing what you say you're capable of doing. Stop trying to test your limits with things that you know you can't handle. While on the thought of one of your seemingly prodigious ideas, make sure your mise en place is taken care of. That way no one can call you on your bullshit. You would think that someone with a silver tongue would already know this concept, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. How many people do you need to pretend to help for your ruse to work? How about we make that number go to zero? Have some fucking decency for the craft you claim to love. You owe it respect. Now bow down and show it. Do you think this is something you can cheat people out of? I don't think so. I feel that you will find a way to spin this and make others think that you came up with the idea. All the while, us OGs in the game know the real deal and will make sure that we can provide you with something to copy. Let me know how the view is from behind me at the finish line.
People like you give me a reason to push myself to the extreme. I assume this is where I can allow you a small bit of credit--giving me something to jump over. Though I should mention that accepting credit here would prove your guilt to the action. But you're smarter than me, so maybe you already knew that? I don't think so though. You've pointed out numerous times how restaurants and events are successful because of you. All while everyone else, including the workers at those said events and restaurants, would think so much differently. But good to know that this is all about money and fame for you. Step up on the line and let me tell you how it's done. Shit, you can hold my chef coat while I cook. That way I know you're out of my way. Though because you don't have any respect for anything, I may ask you to set it down somewhere off the line and watch instead. I'm still surprised I didn't have to fire you for not showing up. Your ego is almost as big as you are. Oh, and don't worry about name dropping any of your so-called famous or important friends. They can't and won't help you now.
Now listen up as I tell you how I've made my way in this thing we call life. Are you paying attention? Because if anyone needs to hear this, it's you, my friend. I've built my success by my own hands. With years of hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and discipline. You, on the other hand, can't even trust your own feet to get you to where you need to be. Do you expect this to be handed to you? I'm afraid that's not going to happen. This is something that you can't con your way into. Here's an idea: stop using other people's successes and struggles as your own. You’ve forgotten what it's like to fail over and over again only to succeed once and celebrate that one win. I won't even mention being able to learn from it. That concept has fled you faster than your sense of responsibility. You do seem like a rebel without any cause at all. Rather, I should use the term king turd without a crown, seeing as how that's more fitting to the topic at hand. Do you even know what you're saying half the time? Or do you just come up with a script and recite it back to people once they have called you out? My guess is that you have this written down somewhere to reuse over and over again. Don't you realize that we all have gotten the same treatment? What happens when that rebuttal doesn't work? Can you come up with something on the spot, or do you have to steal someone else's words to help you defend the fact that you are trying to con them? It's sad really. I almost feel bad for you. Almost.
Sitting here, writing this, I think back to all the times that I have sacrificed to get where I am today. I can't shake the knowledge that there’s a hundred-pound parasitic individual out there; a person who is trying to grab another people's limelight without having proved anything. This is a real concern to all that we cooks stand for. It's a simple kitchen code: you start it, you finish it. Taking credit for something that someone else worked hard on is the lowest form of sandbox turd that you can be.
Let me give you a reality check. This title of ‘chef’ that you are trying to achieve will never be handed out. You have to bust your ass for it. This life will chew you up and spit you out many times. And trust me, there is plenty of you to go around. I can't remember a time that I was ever devoid of responsibility like you. I've always taken everything I've done seriously. Sometimes way too seriously. But then again, I'm my own biggest critic by far. I learn from my mistakes by correcting them. I'm not a very good example of a megalomaniac. That title is more fitting for you. Hey, tell me, what type of person can act like hot shit when they broke an axle of a little red Prius just by sitting in it? Is that what I need to do to be taken seriously? I'm not sure I can make myself rewind to the mentality of a prepubescent child. Especially when you look as though you have eaten 2 or more of them. How could anyone take someone like that seriously? I bet that when you leave for the night after what you call working (being on your phone the entire time that you are punched isn't considered what we call working) you would leave a mess for the dayshift to clean up. Probably a shit load of fish scales I bet. Those are the worst to clean up the next morning. They sit there and dry and start to smell. Who in the right mind would ever think that this is an ok thing to do? A chef sure as hell wouldn't. This goes directly against mise en place. A term that you should be familiar with. After leaving your station like that overnight, we can attest that you're an idiot and an asshole, not behaving like a chef at all. So, stop calling yourself that. You haven't bled for the title. You're just a pissed-off line cook who can't hold down a job due to your lack of drive. You may have the same problems as we do, but that doesn't make you the same as us. We are not the same. We cooks know that when you use someone else's work as you own, karma will come back to burn you. So, what's your cute little rebuttal to this? Will it be the same one that you use to explain why you stole money from them? Or is it the one that you use to explain how you are looking out for their best interest? I'm not sure what's sadder, the fact that people buy into this or the fact that you prey off of them when they are trying to help you out. You are the king sandbox turd without a crown when you think about it. What I've often wondered is how you've managed to do all of this without any actual money of your own. Sooner or later though people see your bullshit and cut you off. You're a mooch. A mooch and a loudmouth. I wish you would do something selfless for once and not try to screw people over. All they are to you are dollar signs or what you would call ‘connections’. That's it. You clearly don't care about yourself, so why would you care about anyone else? Now I feel bad for you. That seems like a very lonely life to live.
Thinking back to my culinary class, I remember a term. This term was used to describe a certain person's style of cooking. We called them Piggy. A piggy cook was a person who completely defied the meaning behind mise en place. This person is never humiliated by what they do. They always have some other person to blame for their messes. When in reality, no one else was ever in the kitchen at the same time as you. No one wants to be around the piggy cook. Generally, this type of cook has little to no sustenance to them. They often have to result in some kind of sales pitch to get you to even talk to them most of the time. When it often results in being degraded so that this person is made to look and sound better. In reality, all they did was pour sauce on top of the triple-tier cake that you made and for which they took credit. Yeah, that's not how that works. How about you do all the work so that you can take all the credit? I promise you that the feeling of pride will help wash away some of that bullshit poison that you claim is a skill.
Little did you know that you're supposed to start by getting it wrong and failing. It's those lessons that you can't put a price on. A teaching moment that you missed by trying to steal credit. So, whenever I'm in a kitchen I generally notice this style of individual pretty fast. And it's that person that gets to run the dish pit. The only way out of the dish pit is to understand the importance of what we do and why things are the way they are in our craft. If you don't respect the knife, it will not respect you. Always respect your knife and what it can do for you. It's your partner in crime. That's why they say to let the weight of the knife do the cutting. That's also why sandbox turds always eat smashed bread sandwiches. Don't press down when cutting fresh bread, take your time. I promise that it won't be hard or take too long. Not to mention later on when you're eating your sandwich, you'll be able to hold onto it. Which will, in turn, make it easier to eat and more enjoyable. Now that we have grasped the concept of using a bread knife, maybe working on not being a dick is next? Sarcasm is a second language in the kitchen, that's not even a question anymore. But being an ass isn't anywhere to be found in either concept. It's the one thing that's becoming more and more
frowned upon in this lifestyle. I'm glad that the toxicity is being found and removed. I feel relieved in the fact we don't give a fuck anymore who you are. Toxic is toxic, and there is no place for that type of childish behavior in this line of work anymore.
Since when did we think it was ok to allow someone toxic to control something, we were passionate about? That should have never been ok. We are substantially tenacious by nature. How did we let this slip through the cracks and poison our way of life? I can tell you of many times that I've taken advantage of someone without remorse. But now I suffer the consequences by reliving these moments over and over in my mind, drowning in memories of my callous behavior. So many times, would I rather die than keep having the same terrible flashbacks to these toxic times. I can feel that lifestyle getting further away every day; I’m no longer that person.
In case you were wondering, that's how I know what to look for. I look for my former selfish acts reflected in my present colleagues. Everyone has said and done things they regret in their lives. Some of us forget and move on. Some of us tend to hang on to them and make it our life’s purpose to learn and grow so that we may never revisit that person. That person is the exact type of person we don't want to be anymore. Then why do we find this an acceptable way for others to behave? That's the fatal error. We have to do better about finding these individuals and not allowing them to continue to destroy what we have bled and sacrificed to build. We are cooks. And by allowing toxic people to get away with their schemes, we give them the ability to dissolve the foundations of what we cook for. A foundation that we are going to now rebuild an entire lifestyle upon again. If there was ever a time to solidify our foundation, it's now. The time is upon us to reform this into a lifestyle without borders. Something that we can all be proud of at the end of the day. We can't let people continue to prey off of our brothers and sisters. We care for and protect our own. We are many. We are heathens. We are cooks. So, press your coats, and sharpen your knives. It's time we learned from this and came back stronger like we always do.
Rodney Lienhart is a Chef formerly of McKenzie, TN but is now working and residing in the Lansing, MI area. Starting at the young age of 7 years old. He worked his way through the ranks in his mom's kitchen in the hills of Tennessee. With a background in Southern, Italian, French, and Nouvelle cuisines, he uses what he knows to learn more about what he doesn't. When he isn't putting a flame on a sauté pan, he can be found reading and researching about what makes people tick. A massive overindulgence in psychology has led him here to share what he has witnessed in his experiences. Make sure to keep a close eye one his videos coming out soon. In these videos, he will be closely working with Wayhot sauce and Krystilion CBD on future recipes and concepts. You can follow his story and insight into the world of cooking food and adding the health benefits of CBD to his dishes on Facebook also on Instagram @chef_rodney_117