180 Degrees…and I Don’t Mean Fahrenheit

Editor’s Note: Please welcome our newest contributor, the Omaha, Nebraska-based forkitude. A former high-powered businesswoman, forkitude is now trying her hand at the world of culinary school and restaurant work, and we’re excited to hear all the inside details.

Goodbye business suit; hello chef’s coat. After eight years in finance, a few of which literally seemed like Armageddon, I have made the giant leap, the 180-degree spin into the culinary world.  Food has been a passion of mine for quite some time. They say you are doing what you were meant to do when 5 hours have passed and it seemed like 5 minutes.  (This is how I burn the croutons, by the way.)

If one thing is for sure as both a financial advisor and as a chef, your head must be in the game and you need some tough skin. I can still picture a veteran, white-haired financial advisor walking the hallway in the midst of the market crash of 2008, his face a white color to match his hair. That was trial by fire. This is my new trial by fire. I will share some of the translations from the business world to the culinary world as well as some observations I have made in my short time on the line. I hope you can laugh with me, and maybe you will be inspired to follow your passion too. Take a hike, pantyhose and heels. I didn’t really ever need you since I am already 6’0” tall. But thanks anyway for helping me rock the business skirt suit. We had some good times.

So, just a few weeks in, here are some of my most valuable lessons about restaurant work so far:

  • Salt is your best buddy. Sodium chloride has been receiving quite the beat down in the news lately. I completely agree that processed foods should reduce sodium.  Perhaps a bag of potato chips should not make your eyes shrivel and make you feel like the Michelin man. However, salt is a chef’s ally. Proper seasoning is vital or the food tastes bland. Who wants to spend $34 for a plate of bland food? I’m guessing not you. A very small amount of our salt intake comes from the proper seasoning of fresh food. So deal with it. Don’t knock chefs for putting salt in your food. And don’t knock financial advisors when they try their best to give you advice without knowing the future. Everyone needs a little seasoning and bit of advice every now and then.
  • Mise en place is a way of life. Mise en place – French for “put in place”. This means get your shit together BEFORE service.  Prep, arrange, organize, slice what needs to be sliced, peel what needs to be peeled. Prepping during service? Epic fail. You will sink like the Titanic. Much like prepping for the huge prospect meeting, get your shit together before the big show or you will look like a complete idiot. Not only do you need all of the necessary ingredients, but your mind must be ready. Get in the right state of mind. If your mind is somewhere else, you will screw up. Trust me. One more thing: your mise en place is not a snack bar. Don’t eat your work, or other people’s for that matter.
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