The Great Hall
Remembering the day you knew you were hooked The Great Hall: Remembering the day you knew you were hooked
By Cvincolorado (Cvincolorado) on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 02:00 am: Edit

I thought this might be a fun and interesting thread to start. Does anyone remember the exact moment they knew they were destined to be a chef? There is one day that stands out for me. Back in the early 90s I had been cooking in a few different restaurants in Aspen and had managed to make my way up to sous chef. I was thinking about making a career out of this since it came very easy to me without any formal schooling. I moved out to Napa Valley and took a job cooking in a popular Italian restaurant in Yountville . I was lucky to work with a great chef, Peter Hall, who took me under his wing and showed me how much passion is involved in food preparation. One day he showed me how to make a very labor intensive sauce. he told me to watch carefully and take notes and be able to reproduce this sauce when needed. It was started with a heavily carmelized mirepoix, lots of different mushroom stems and the gill scrapings of two cases of portabellos. A few gallons of red wine were added and reduced down to a syrup. Then four or five gallons of veal stock and an equal amount of chicken stock. This was reduced for many hours and then strained, then reduced and strained through cheesecloth three more times. The resulting gallon we ended up with was pure heaven. We sold it all that night and the next morning when I arrived he asked me to make it again. This is the day that stands out most to me. When I brought him the finished product he ladled out a bit onto a plate, turned the plate to check the consistency, tasted it,looked me in the eye,smiled and said "you're gonna be a f-^*ing superstar in this business one day". That was it,I was in for life.

By Jonesg (Jonesg) on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 09:14 am: Edit

1969, first day , little french cafe patisserie in harvard sq , Cambridge MA...lots of whacked out hippies around.
I was just trying to help out, doing a few dishes ,staying out of the crazy french blokes way.

Watched him put a quiche in the oven, "thats not going to work , too lquidy" or so I thought.

Darn if it didn't set up in the oven, I thought this cooking lark is interesting stuff.
Stuck with it ever since.
I looked him up recently, after losing everything he ended up with a tiny crappy cafe on the beach in British West Indies, the CFO of Smirnoff liquors ate there and was blown away by his simple awesome food and literally built a resort around him ( with a new restaurant).

Heres the romm rates. Hold onto yer socks.

By Dpconsu (Dpconsu) on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 11:37 am: Edit

I was eleven years old and was helping my Grandmother put together our Christmas/Hanuka meal, she was so proffesional and fluid in her movements that the meal came together it seems with little effort on her part. This was a seven course dinner for 18 done out of a small home kitchen with a coke fired stove and oven. I knew right then that slavery over a hot stove was for me!!! My gran had been in service for over twenty years to the house of the duke of Kent, starting out at 14 as a scullery maid and ending up as the head cook for the last ten years before she left when she marrried my grandfather. She was a jew refugee from the Ukraine and she married a Scottish anglican ministers son who was an undertaker.(oie vey!!!) Thats why we had both Hanuka and Christmas foods on Christmas eve every year. I guess that cooking talents skip a generation too, as my mother found it difficult to boil water let alone cook a meal!!!

It took some doing, but after the loss of my sister and both parents in an auto accident when I was 13, I persueded my Gran to sign off on me doing the apprenticeship when I was 15. I have never regreted devoteing my proffesional life to our art.

By Point83702 (Point83702) on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 03:48 pm: Edit

Great thread Chris. I don't know if I can point out one specific moment where I realized this was for me, but rather a progression begining in my early childhood. When I was young our family was working at being self sufficient. We grew wheat, ground flour, milked our cows, made our butter and cheese, had a big garden and livestock (cattle, hogs, chicken, rabbits, and the odd turkey or goat or lamb from time to time). I believe living in this environment increased my awareness of food. This may seem macabre to some, but when I was about 5 I started helping butchering. My job would be to get the tongue out of the head. I think it was mostly to keep me from getting under foot and it would take me forever, but I knew I was participating in something vital. Once I got the tongue out my mom would cook it and we would eat it that night or the next day. It was very low brow-boiled with onions and garlic, chilled, peeled and used as a cold cut in sanwiches or with cheese and crackers. My mom comes from a logging family. Her dad was of French ancestry and mom Armenian. Mom learned to cook in logging camps in the 50's and from her older relatives. We always had huge amounts of food in the house. We always cooked big, hearty meals with leftovers enough to feed a small army. I felt more secure when the house had the warm and friendly smell of bread baking or meat roasting.
Unfortunately the experiment in self sufficiency was modified when my mom returned to work. She would always make pancakes Saturday mornings, but now found herself too tired to do so. I was about 7 and went into her room with a napkin and crayon and asked her how to make pancakes. My first meal was done and I said,"I want to be a chef." I kept saying it for a long time. Kept butchering our animals. Kept trying to make food at home. High school guidance counselor directed me to a local J.C. with an ACF apprenticeship program. Got my first job at a very nice fairly classical restaurant washing dishes. I would come in at 4 and have a pile of dishes from the afternoon prep. The chef would bring me behind the line and teach me how to cook once the dishes were caught up and kick me back to the dish pit once the first dishes came back. A lot of incentive to fly through the pots and pans and get on the line. My first tastes of beef weelington and creme brule were nice incentives also. That was 14 years ago and I still get excited remembering it. I still have the same curiosity as the little kid trying wrestle the tongue from a cows head without losing a finger and hope I always will. Hopefully in another 14 years I will look back fondly at this point in my career/life also. No reason to think I wouldn't.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 09:57 pm: Edit

Christmas at age 14 finally cemented the deal. Up until then I had always fooled around in the kitchen, making more of a mess than anything else really. That Christmas I got a b & w edition of Jaques Pepin's "La technique". Totally blown away, "there's actually method to all of this", I thought. Top secret "how to" photos and explanations had my little brain ticking like a clock.
After that, it was dishwashing and prep at various restaurants untill highschool ended, then a community college for a 1 year "Commercial cooking class". That was great, but had me convinced I really knew nothing about cooking, so at 18 I went over to Switzerland where I did a "proper" 3 yr apprenticeship.

By Tamsin (Tamsin) on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 06:40 pm: Edit

I had always been interested in cooking as a kid, my parents have heaps of photos of me aged about 5 in an apron standing up at the kitchen table covered in flour. During high school didn't really know what I wanted to do, but hospitality was an area I was interested in. When I was 15 I went for a weeks course up at the Hotel Management School which was designed to "show off" the school and to get people to go there. During the week we got to do a whole heaps of aspects within the industry. I got to spend two days helping in the kitchen, the first day was making bread, it really did my head it, it was awesome. The second day I got to make these huge fruit displays, the chef had put us in a a team of about 4 people, given us the fruit and a big mirror to put it on and said do whatever you want to do. I knew then I wanted to be a chef. I enjoyed it so much, told my parents when they came to pick me up that I wanted to be a chef. During the next 2 years of school I did heaps of work experience and worked for a spit roasting company doing functions. When I went into my apprenticeship at 18 I knew I wanted to be there, and have loved every minute of it (even the really bad times).

There is a saying I once read, you don't choose to be a chef, it chooses you. I very much believe this.

By Coolbanana (Coolbanana) on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 01:15 am: Edit

I wouldn't be able to quote a year, but it was somewhere around 11-ish. I remember watching "Chef Tell" on a local show, called PM Magazine. I was hooked immediately! I told my parents that's what I want to be. A little while later I saw a program on the CIA in New York. I thought wow that's a long way from home, but that's where I'm going! Back in those day's in order to be admitted, you had to have 6 months FOH, and 6 months BOH, with a recommendation from a CIA grad, to be accepted. 15 years later, I wouldn't change a thing! It's funny when people ask: "What made you want to be a Chef?" I wish I could give them a solid answer, but for some odd reason I was drawn to the profession, as in the above message, I truly believe most of us in this profession are just born for this crazy business!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 06:06 am: Edit

I remember when I was a kid, 8-9-10???....I used to go with my Dad to the corner bakery and he would have his Espreso, I would get a pastry; then we walked to the butcher shop next door and he would get some types of meats for the weekend.
When we got home he would start cooking at 9-10AM and he would finish at 3-4PM when most of the neighborhood knew he was done, so they would all be there. My Dad was a jewler by the way, not a Chef!
When I got my first busboy job at 14 I would come in early to help the Chef with his "early" work, part of that was making Hollandaise, at 14 I made Hollandaise, the crusty old German Chef said to me, "kid, that'sa better sauce then any of these cooks here make; you want to come wash pots???"
And that was the beginnning of the rest of my life!!!!

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 09:12 am: Edit

"You want to came wash pots?"......Manny, you're taking me back man....and boy what a trip!

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Friday, December 10, 2004 - 05:15 pm: Edit

One of my family duties was to wash the family dishes with my sister. As we fought ferociously, my dad made one of us wash and the other wait to go into the kitchen until the first was done. At about 7 years old I began to cook things from the leftovers while I washed the dishes. I made soup in a poached egg pan (as in about 4 ounces). My sister would make fun of me but my dad would tell her to shut up unless she could do better. I remember terribly and terrible salty soup, cakes that tasted like toothpaste, and I put everything in Kraft Macaroni + Cheese to make casseroles.

It took another 25 years to solidify my desire, but prompted by friends, I enrolled in the CCA. I had a small catering business before that but was sadly out of my league. Here I am, now, teaching others with the desire, just a few of the things I have learned through the years.

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Saturday, December 11, 2004 - 01:07 am: Edit

I was hooked when I was working in this hotel and one of the waitress's asked me out.
and then another.
and then another.
and i thought, "this is great!, I'm sticking with this"
is that the same thing?

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