No matter what we say about it, a plate of food is art. You can’t get much simpler than that. Art is created from emotions. And flavors are a medium in which people who cook use to convey said emotions. Though these emotions aren’t always pleasant, we still endure them to further pursue our passion for our craft. What we don’t see is that art is actually a painful experience to endure. Some make it out alive, while some aren’t as lucky. Despite what we go through, and the things that we have lost along the way, we always find a way to serve something beautiful. Which makes each plate, each story, absolutely relatable. The people who cook, often sacrifice often resonating pain for the passion of flavor.
There have been many times in my life where I’ve gone looking for the perfect flavor. Where I made my mistake was by looking for something I could taste. Taste isn’t the only part of a recipe, and sometimes it’s what the flavors aren’t saying that’s important. See as artists, we are often moved to try and create something new, something edgy. And often we don’t have the proper tools at our disposal. This can teach a cook to create something lovely from damn near nothing. Adapting and overcoming are two of the most important things that we learn along the way. And with a passion as strong as carbon in our knives, we often try to navigate our past traumas by relishing in our pain. We look to the satisfaction of the people we feed to move us forward. Although they don’t seem to care about how much we have suffered and endured to feed them, we still continue to do so. And they eagerly anticipate more and more every time. Which in turn means more and more pain for us.
Little do we know, that the only reason that people keep pushing us for more and more, is because of how damaged they are. Which is more than likely why people at tables are often rude to their servers. Tipping the hat to the pain in their own lives, they always seem to treat others like shit in an attempt to offset what they are feeling. Being used to stretching ingredients and our own patience really thin to feed the high demand of our craft, has led us to a higher state of dysphoria than any anyone should have to endure. Yet still, we keep the flames lit, and ovens on. Waiting for another chance to share the art of flavor that we have created from the pain and suffering that we have endured over time. This is how we heal. And each time we get the chance to make someone forget their own pain by means of flavor expression, we get a chance to heal a little. Which we see as a perk of the job. Even if it is a brief moment of happiness for someone, we still count it.
For those of us who cook each day, the suffering isn’t all for nothing. We work tirelessly each and every day to come closer to that brief deliverance of emotional mending. Sometimes our struggle can be illustrated by all of the razorblades tinged with cocaine, beer cans drank then tossed aside, and roaches from half drunkenly rolled joints littered around the house. So many of us want ways to numb ourselves from the projected trauma of others, that we often look to other ways of coping. The most common way to cope is with some sort of substance abuse. This creates a temporary feeling of euphoria, and if abused, which it commonly is, can lead to addiction. This is where many good cooks and chefs fall. They keep burying themselves with the pain of the trauma instead of trying to confront it. The only way to stop the cycle of pain from returning is to move past it. This type of pain is worth enduring so that we may have smooth sailing after the storm passes.
Terror and fear often lead us to form a path of chaos and self-destruction. If anyone out there that works behind the knife tells you that they aren’t afraid, they are lying. Everyone is afraid of some sort of trauma. Ask the fearless how they found the kitchen. And pay attention to what they say. You’ll notice they may, in fact, make mention of some sort of pain they endured or were subjected to. And that same pain has led them to the solace of the kitchen. The place where the devil dancing in the pale moonlight isn’t afraid of being backed into a corner. For we know what pain and suffering can do to someone. And we know who all is in our corner. Although there are many who love what we do, there are few who choose to comment on our sacrifice. This is because they have no idea how to turn a living nightmare into a beautiful brunch on a sunny Saturday. If you can’t call that a goose that lays a golden egg, then go fuck up your own delusional fairy tale. Leave our realities alone, and then maybe your table’s ticket might come out on time.
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 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