Ok so imagine this if you will. You walk in your front door from a 12-hour shift. Service was insane, and all you can think about is grabbing a cold one and sparking a spliff. Why? Because you need something to relax you more. When you're coming down from a high already. Then it suddenly hits you like knocking your head on a bookshelf you've known the location of for years now. It's the kitchen that's addicting.
"But how?" some of you may ask. Well, the answer isn't all that hard to figure out. Passion seems to be the biggest culprit here. A passion for cooking. That high that you get after dinner service. That feeling that takes you over as the line is pushed to its max, and everyone and everything seems to be a blur. The world starts spinning around you. And just when you think you can't take anymore, the printer goes off again. You heard this sound in your dreams as they become nightmares. This sound is never good. But it is good for business. More orders roll in and you think that you have nothing left to give. But people are hungry and demanding. Somehow you've found the strength to press on. You don't know how or why, but you just keep going.
That's how addiction works. For some reason that may seem unknown to you at the time, you decide to take a shot. You spark a spliff. You pop that special pill. The excuses you come up with are just that, excuses. Think about it. You don't know why you're reaching for a bottle or a lighter. All you know is that it's going to help you relax. But is that the truth though? If that were the case, wouldn't these things be used as medicine? I know, I know, they once were. But they aren't anymore. So there must be a reason for that. Maybe it's due to health issues later on in life. Shit, if you make it that far that it. Maybe it's due to the substances working? We all know that when something works, someone else wants to try and take it away. I'm guessing it's because misery loves company.
So if kitchens are an addiction, why do we push ourselves to the point of breaking down to be there? Well now, this answer isn't so simple. I tend to look at kitchens as horror films. Some people love them, others hate them. Some people find them predictable and lame. Others find them exhilarating. But why though? How is it that someone can find something like horror or cooking enticing? It must be the adrenaline. The fear of not knowing. Or maybe the feeling of overcoming some sort of odds to best a challenge at hand? Think about it. When you're watching Friday the 13th, you become close with the main characters. Only to watch them become mincemeat in the end. However, there's always that one sly and smart person that overcomes the nightmare and wins their life back. Now that I mention it, that's almost exactly like cooking in a kitchen. So yeah, it makes sense why people want to do it. And become addicted to it so much. How many times have you heard about a co-worker calling in sick and being asked to work a double? Yeah, shit sucks. How many times has someone straight up no called no-showed? Yup, probably more than once. How many times has your chef or owner turned to you and said, I need a catering menu planned, prepped, and executed for 600 people in 48 hours? More than once right? And how many shots, joints, rails, beers, pills, etc did it take you to get over it? The answer is not enough, right? That's because reaching for those quick pick me ups are just something temporary. A quick fix to get back in the game. To get our heads right. To make our muscles less tense. We all makeup reasons for these instant gratifications. However, what we don't know is that side effects may vary. And it's the side effects that we have to deal with soon after. Is there a solution to help curb the side effects? Some might say just to rinse and repeat. But isn't that the definition of insanity? Is that a tautology? Yeah, it is.
So let's take a look at how we can remain addicted to the kitchen, but not all of its addictive side effects. See now this is where I contradict myself. The best way that I've found to curb the kitchen side effects is cannabis. Most of you will either feel against this or for this. Either way, it works for me. And the best part is that there are easy side effects. As well as very little health concerns later on. Worst case I forget something in the oven at home while I'm trying to curb the side effects from taking that huge ass bong rips a few minutes ago. " But weed is a drug, and it's illegal!" The only response that I can think of when someone says this to me is: "shut the fuck up." To think that weed has gotten so much of a bad rap over the last 50 years is insane. I've never met anyone mad and gotten into a fight after smoking a joint. Whereas, after a few shots of vodka or whiskey the results are not the same. But hey, weed just works for me. It may not work for you. That doesn't make it right. But I'm not hurting anyone. And I'm sure I can still cook circles around you while baking. So stop killin' my vibe. Stay in your lane. All challenges are accepted. Let me spark this joint first though.
Ok, so he talked about weed after talking about drugs are bad. He isn't making any sense. Well, if that's what you thought, then maybe yoga is a better choice for you. Do some soul searching. I hope you find something you like. I worked with a chef at a high-end gourmet place once that smoked weed constantly. Like almost every hour on the hour. I didn't mind it at first. I could smoke at work real quick, and get back in the game. Which as you well know, works out very well in this line of work. But the problem started to arise when he started cutting people's hours and borrowing money from people. At first, we didn't know what was going on. But once we thought about it more, the reason became more clear. Money. Well, weed cost money. And money is the reason that we need to work. So we can deduce that the chef needed money for weed. But wait, why cut our hours? We didn't do anything. We found out about a month later that the chef was smoking so much because he had "accidentally fallen onto a heroin needle." Yes, that's exactly what he told us when the owner had a meeting to fire him. Which, ok, the dude had it coming. Karma being her badass self and all, but still. Having a meeting to fire someone publicly while calling them out on their behavior due to addiction isn't the right way to go. Cue karma. We find out later through the grapevine, that the owner was supplying the chef. Said owner was being investigated by the police at that same time. Can you say, scapegoat? So from what I saw here, a few things were happening due to addiction. The owner got the chef addicted to something. The chef's actions became the perfect excuse for the said owner to remove them. So this asshole calls a work meeting and blames everything on the chef. The douchebag even went as far as to call the police and have the chef arrested for evidence the owner said he found. We all knew chef, blow or not, that guy would have never owned a teal workout bag. He liked darker colors. Not to mention, why would the chef own a workout bag with the owner's initials on it? I know, hard to believe. But that's not the only problem here. The owner took over the kitchen. You can see where this is going. He wasn't open six months later.
So can someone smoke weed, and still be sober? Yes. Cannabis has numerous health benefits across the board. Which is why it's medically prescribed. Yes, I know cocaine, as well as booze, was handed out as a prescription at one point in time. Take a deeper look at the side effects of each one more time. Then get back to me. The devil's lettuce has always had it rough. So have many others as well as myself. All those people worked in kitchens. So wait, ganja and I have something in common? Well, that's neat. Maybe that's why we seem to have a respect and understanding. I understand the effects and uses of jazz cabbage. And I know what it can do for me. All that's left is to take into consideration the side effects, and I'll have a well thought out decision. Right? Ok, so the side effects or hungry, happy, sleepy. Are you fucking kidding me? That's it? Well, being a cook, I need more food, sleep, and happiness in my life. So problem solved right? Not yet, one last thing. I have to realize that I can't overcomplicate the recipe here. I have to keep the flavors simple. I can't push it to the point where I want more. When smoking Maryjane, you can't let it open doors to shit that has serious side effects. You know, like the ones that the drug companies are required by law to state in their commercials. Have you ever seen commercials for a left-handed cigarette? No, you haven't, don't lie. But if you did, wouldn't just be like " Smoke this shit, it's great…..those chicken tacos are gonna be the bomb, enjoy your nap." Anyone who smokes knows that this is exactly what would happen.
How else can I curb the side effects of my kitchen addiction without smoking weed? I'm not going to lie, it's hard. You have to want to. Becoming sober has to be what you want. If you don't want to change, then you won't. It's that simple. Cooking at its core can be therapeutic. Push yourself without the aid of outside substances. Be who you were when you first tied your first apron as your dad showed you how to patty up a burger for dinner service later that evening. To me, being able to rise above all the side effects of the kitchen shows mental strength. And that's what separates the cooks from the chefs. Well, that's going to be argued. I bet you're so triggered right now. If so, then guess what, you're a cook. Chefs have to overcome these side effects but it doesn't stop there. We also have to deal with line cooks, dishwashers, etc who are afflicted by said outside substances. Chefs have to be able to put forward the mental acuity to remain stable minded so that they can lead the kitchen in the right direction. All while remaining passionate and sharing that same passion with each plate they and their staff creates. Whereas, a cook just is just responsible for recreating each plate and slingin' it. So why can't cooks be just as responsible? Well, when they learn to be, they become chefs. They are no longer considered cooks. See how that works?
All in all, we do what we have to feel good. Pain and pleasure. Some of us like a good mix of both. Where some of us think that it's either one or the other. But what we all don't realize is that the kitchen is legit the perfect blend of the two. Look at your hands. How many times have you burnt your fingers trying to cook as fast as you can? How many times have you cut yourself trying to dice something on the fly? How many times have you poked your hand with the tip of your knife? And how many times have you felt high after a good dinner service? How many times have you made yourself something to eat that was so good that later on, it became a top-selling feature? See, to me, this is why the kitchen is the perfect monster. Simple at its core, cook food than sell it promptly. Shit, seems simple and pretty straightforward, doesn't it? Fuck you, you know it's not. And you know you're wrong. Kitchens are far from simple. Take a look at what it takes to run a successful kitchen. Then come tell me it's simple. I'll punch you in the nose with my fist for lying. Seeing as how that's not how it's going to go down, you don't have to worry about being punched. Instead, remember that it's all about learning. You'll see.
So whether it's the pain or pleasure from the kitchen that draws you. Or it's the smell of that chicken stock rolling for tomorrow's soup feature. Respect is the same. Everyone that works deep in our trenches knows what goes into doing what we do. That's why you bought that round for the kitchen when you went out to get a burger on a random day off. What we do isn't easy by any means. This is why we have to learn and grow with the times. I've found this to be directly linked to personal accountability. How can we learn and grow if we can't even overcome our present issues? How is the rest of the world going to take us seriously? They don't. They think we are savage, vein-popping, raging, angry, assholes. Why is this ok? It's how we are portrayed by our actions. News flash, it's the same bullshit in all other industries. It's just a different perspective. So let's all put our minds to it and become chefs instead of remaining cooks. Let's show them that we aren't all the same. Let's adapt and overcome. Let's be the best that we possibly can. Hell, maybe we will get paid more. Now, that's probably the most insane and ludicrous thing I've said since the beginning of this. Getting paid more won't happen by just being nice. But hey, that'll have to be discussed at a later time. I need to go roll another one now. For the record, 3 joints were not enough to write all of this. Next time, I'm rolling 4.
Rodney Lienhart is a Chef formerly of McKenzie, TN but is now working and residing in 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 nouvelle and southern cuisine, he uses what he knows to learn more about what he doesn't. When he isn't putting a flame on a saute 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. You can follow his story and insight into the world of cooking food @ chef_rodney_117 on Instagram.