“We Could be Anything, We Choose to Cook”

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“We Could be Anything, We Choose to Cook”

Every good kitchen has a story behind it. From spite to passion, we have seen all kinds of venues in our days. But how many of them have a chance to become something iconic? The answer is, all of them. All of them are iconic. All of them are worth it. But not everyone that starts a restaurant does it for real reasons. And that much is being made abundantly clear with the crisis currently at hand. We need all the support we can get right now. But this crisis has shown people's true colors. Events like this show character, it doesn't make it. Either it's always been there, or it hasn't. The reasons you do what you're doing now are the reasons that will be seen by others. You can't hide behind fake ass emotions or anything anymore. You're being revealed. So, don't mess up. You might be caught. So, make sure that reason or passion for doing what you do is a good one. There are those in our line of work who just lost everything. That makes them the person to gain the most. So, messing with them is very similar to trying to wake a sleeping bear. You may not want to do it. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Being in these times reminds me of a few things that I struggled with years ago. I was cooking at a place as a lead sauté cook. Burn and turn. Had to move fast to be called slow. And had to be a blur to be called fast. I'm pretty sure my chef at the time was indeed The Flash. Though, if he had worn any red, he would have looked like a tomato. He was a ginger, just like me. It's weird how we bonded over something that everyone made fun of us for. Usually, behind our backs, but there were those few brave enough people that said it to our faces. And it's those people who we trusted. Fear in a kitchen is something that will put you on the menu. Think of it like blood in the water while swimming in shark-infested waters. Maybe it would be a good idea to not show any fear in the kitchen. Unless you want to be chewed up and spit out. If that's what you want, then be my guest. Please don't come crying to me when your feelings get hurt. I'm not going to give a shit. I've got my problems to handle. I've always heard that if you're too afraid of cutting yourself with your knife, then you're too scared to be doing this line of work. And how true that is once you think about it. So goddamn true. The knife signifies the importance of what we do as cooks. So, if you're afraid of cutting yourself, then I would strongly suggest seeing if you have what it takes to do this. This lifestyle isn't for the faint of heart. And it is going to test you every day. Even if you have the day off. It doesn't matter. In this way of life, we are on call every day. It's what we do. It's how we lived. Though things have changed immensely with this way of life lately, the tenacity of industry folk hasn't. But fear isn't something that can be avoided in life. You have to come to terms with that. Then and only then can you have the courage to keep moving forward. Which is something that I learned from my ginger chef friend during my time under his supervision and mentorship. He always had a saying that we were the people who were the ones who should be called the ones who "protect and serve". He did not like the police. At all. His dad was a police officer and those two hated each other. I rode with him one night to drop off some food to his dad and that's when I saw his father's true colors. The chef was just being nice and bringing him some leftover prime rib that we had. Usually, we sell out, but since we didn't, and his father loved it, the chef thought it would be nice to take some to him. And a person who would be on the receiving end of this kind ass gesture would respond with a smile and a thank you. That's not at all what happened here. Instead, he was met with a bevy of questions, and a list of demands that had to be met before he would even consider taking a free dinner. I mean, who gives a shit about why you eat the one roll we brought you. Eat everything else and stop bitching about how the roll was touching your meat and now you're going to have a gluten reaction. That's not how that works. Seems to me that this man would bitch just to bitch. Also, just because you were an officer on a beat for 25 years, doesn't mean you get to walk around like a cowboy while half-naked. I mean yes, we briefly came into your home to drop off dinner for you, but you knew we were coming you could have put pants on. But yet here we are. I'm way too close to two loaded pistols, and your bitching isn't helping your case. No wonder your wife left, and your dog hates you. You're an asshole. Smoke a joint and go watch some more Bonanza. We are going to the bar to drink your body weight in beer, so I don't give a shit about what happens between here and there. Just say thank you and piss off. 

Is eating while at work stealing in your mind? Before you say yes, please know that I already hate you. I'm not saying talk all you want or eat all the things in the walk-in. But if you make your kitchen staff pay for their food, you are an asshole. I fully understand that money has to be made. But what you don't know is that those people eating a piece of grilled cheese on your dime is the person making it possible to make money for you. So maybe don't piss them off, because if you follow your logic, those types of people are a dime a dozen, right? Well, now you have to spend another dime or more in an attempt to find someone who won't do this to you. Funny story actually, you won't find someone who is absolutely that straight edge in this line of work. If you do, they are lying. Now, if this is not anything that you would do, then I love you. And thank you for your continued support. And you are doing this for the right reason. You get it. You are fully aware that some of your family in the restaurant may not be able to eat unless at work. And that most can't afford it outside of work. Sometimes we can't fit food into an already tight budget. Though some people will argue that this would be possible if we didn't buy drugs and booze. But hey it's all entertainment and relaxation, right? It makes me a bad person to pay for something that will give me an artificial moment of happiness. So, what do you call all of those servers you've paid to sleep with you? Please tell me you marked that under massage therapy lessons. Yeah, at least people are just trying to eat to have enough energy to work for you. And by working for you, they help you make money to be able to solicit such asinine things.  But at least we all know here that you'll make my grilled cheese out to be the worst thing ever. At least I can get a text back from the hostess. Oh, by the way, she told me to tell you to stop and buy her an ounce of Gorilla Glue. I'll have it ready to go when you get here. I wouldn't show up to her house without its homie. Oh, and one more thing, can you grab my pants and shirt back from her? Thanks, man. 

It kills me to see that people are so uptight these days. Why is it that I always find the assholes who want to be heroes at the local farmer's market? I went to a local farmer's market a little while back to grab some fresh produce for a dinner feature. While I was minding my own business, a very nice and openly flirty lady approached me and asked if I knew how to tell if a pineapple was good or not. She was hitting on me.  the owner of the cart stand was right less than 10 feet from us. She could have asked them. Or maybe it was my chef's coat I was wearing. Who knows? She then asked me about any fun recipes that I knew about that involved pineapple. Que her boyfriend. This guy was something else. He must not have seen the light of day for a long, long time. He was THAT pale. I'm sure he would glow in the dark. So, this guy comes over and puffs his chest out. Now, I'm not a little man by any means. Nor am I afraid to back down from any type of challenge. " Who the fuck is this guy?" That's how he introduced himself. " OH, I was just asking the chef here if he knew anything I could do with this pineapple. Calm down or you can walk home." She replied to him. " Well, this bro better not try anything, or I'll kick his ass." He just had to have the last word. So, I started to begin my ignoring him with that comment that I would later find out was an empty promise. When will people learn not to start a fight with anyone with a chef coat on? It's a bad idea. When you threaten to beat their ass, you are threatening them with a good time. They are looking forward to something fun. And by you not fulfilling your end of the bargain, I'm left with blue balls. Which can only at this time be fixed by stealing your girlfriend. So maybe just be a good little chest puffer and shake my hand. Truth be told, I don't want your stank ass hoe. She's nice and all. But if she's acting like this with you across the hallway, what is she like? If you said a stand-up citizen, you're an idiot. That's not what a stand-up person would do. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about the attention. Guys that look the way I do have a hard-enough time trying to get by on just our looks. Luckily, I can cook. I don't how I would get laid if I didn't know how to cook. But it would seem as though this guy screaming in front of me wasn't concerned about my skill in the kitchen. So, I was forced to pass my gaze over to him and lock eyes. This is where it became fun for me. I swear to you I saw the man piss his pants. As soon as we locked eyes, he took a half of a step back and made a very noticeable gulp. As soon as his gulp bulge in his throat reached the top of his chest, I asked him what he was going to do. " Fuck this brah, I'm outie 5000." was his final words to me. Once he turned around to leave, his girl readjusted her weight, and her stance became more relaxed. Which caught my attention, so I turned to my left to face her and tell her to go after him. To which she replied "Why would I do that? All he is playing with is a pissed off Chapstick down there." I'll admit, though this was very sad for him, I laughed my ass off. 

This life isn't all sex, drugs, and rock & roll. That does make up most of it, but it's not all of it. And cooking is just as addicting as all of the aforementioned things. So, if you think about it, that's how we become so burnt out all the time from cooking. We aren't allowed to travel or create on the company dime. We grew up in a culture that pressures us with working nonstop. And for little pay. So even if we did want to take a trip to go and study how they prepare fish in the Amazon, we can't afford it. So that's why I always looked to reading cookbooks and magazines that showed me a far of place and the food made there. Though I feel like the food would taste better in the area it's from. That alone would be priceless to experience. And that's the exact dream for some young cooks in this line of work. Make enough money to be able to travel and learn more about their passion. Traveling is expensive, that's not even a question. Do you know how much money it would cost a cook to plan for a week-long trip across the US? The gas along is ridiculous. And we won't even mention the copious amounts of joints you'd have to roll before the road trip. But I can imagine that being able to look back and say you did that and were able to taste the origins of a flavor, would be something amazing to add to your resume. An idea so simple yet ignored for those less fortunate. The idea of this to some may be infuriating. But to be fair, you could have done this is life if you would have planned it. Seeing as how it didn't happen, you couldn't have had wanted to do it that badly. So, stop bitching. But hey I cook for a living too, I get it. You can't afford time off. That's the point of what I'm saying. I feel that if a restaurant wants to be a groundbreaking establishment, they should be able to send cooks to the outside world to travel and learn. A real investment in learning. Want to be able to taste what authenticity tastes like, shell out the cash for this. From that investment, you're going to find that you have gained a flavor and style that you can't put a price on. Though I imagine that some will try and do such a thing. And that's not a good reason for being in this line of work. So terrible in fact, that it's almost criminal. It's not. But to people on the outside looking in, it is. Remember that you can't do this alone and plan to make any money. Cash does rule everything around us. But soon cash will be worthless. Digital currency is already here. How many times lately have you touched cash? I miss the feeling and smell of a nice wad of 100's. Those were the golden days. You know the days when you didn't have to smoke a bowl just to get out of bed. And now, you literally can go months without touching a paycheck or cash. That's pretty rad though. And I'm willing to bet that if we had to deal with cash and checks, a good number of people would hate the concept of counting cash and writing checks. Once that was all made easier, the market flooded with investors. Why can't we do that with culinary knowledge? Why not invest IN chefs, and not IN making money. With a great chef, they will make you great money. Now think about being able to say that you were the person that gave that cook the ability to become who they are today. That feeling. Gratitude should be enough. It's not, is it? Now imagine what happens when you don't appreciate your culinary workers and people in the food industry. There are those of you out there that do this, and we know who you are. And we can't thank you enough. And your repayment is bomb-ass street tacos for life. That alone is priceless. But we can't learn the proper flavor if we don't get to experience it. So, don't take that away from us. I can't be held responsible for you not being responsible. I also can't stop everyone on my side. But why would I, we aren't essential to remember? Kind of hard to forget something when it keeps staying alive no matter what it has to endure. Get it yet? Passion can't die. Cut one cook down, and fifteen more will be right there to avenge our fallen family. To me, that seems pretty essential right about now. 

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

 

 


1 comment

  • Esther Kwak

    Hit this on the nail chef! In thebmidst of the pandemic, high profile chef/owners are trying to get away with not paying staff (mile solomonov and steven starr) but because of the many loud voices of support, they were finally pressured to pay their employees! (It’s also the law- sick leave that is accrued must be paid out before termination) now only if gordon ramsay would address his shit…
    I love how you mentioned to invest in staff and i agree traveling to different places and trying authentic cuisine is priceless. I’m working on that myself. I also agree that right now is the true test that will filter out the fakes vs. True chefs. I hope I’ll make it alive once this ends (whether i still have the restaurant or stay in the industry) please stay safe chef! Fantastic read!

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