Chef Adam Weiner lists his favorite quips, quotes and anecdotes about life in the kitchen and advice to culinary students.
By Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE
I always try to have the first and last articles of the year be different. For December 2017 and January 2018 I have decided to give you some of my favorite quotes. Most of these relate to the culinary field or being a culinary instructor and some just relate to life.
The quotes fall into the following categories:
- Life in a Commercial Kitchen
- Advice to Students
- What it Takes and Means to be a Culinary Instructor
- General Comments on Life for Students and Teachers
For this column, I am going to feature quotes from Life in a Commercial Kitchen and Advice to Students.
Life in a Commercial Kitchen
"Failure is not on tonight’s menu." Anne Burrell on Food Network’s Chef Wanted
"'My bad' is not an option. No one can sell excuses." Chef Adam Weiner
“It was because of Jeff (Henderson) that I established my rule about the four things that cannot be said in my kitchen:
- ‘I know.’ No you don’t.
- ‘I’ve got it.’ No you haven’t.
- ‘No problem.’ There are always problems in a kitchen.
- ‘Whatever.’ No, you will do it this way and only this way!”
Chef Robert Gadsby on Chef Jeff Henderson’s first job in a restaurant kitchen.
Page 75 of Chef Jeff Cooks.
“A great chef has the following five attributes:
- First, they take their work very seriously and consistently perform on the highest level.
- Second, they aspire to improve their skills.
- Third is cleanliness. If the restaurant doesn't feel clean, the food isn't going to taste good.
- The fourth attribute is impatience. They are not prone to collaboration. They're stubborn and insist on having things their own way.
- What ties these attributes together is passion.
That's what makes a great chef.”
From the movie: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
“I came to learn that a great chef kept an extra eye on the lightweights, the lazy, and the nervous. I would eventually learn that all chefs worth their mettle have their own styles and their own passions. . . Chefs, after all, are well-known control freaks.”
Chef Marcus Samuelsson, YES CHEF.
"The job's got freakish hours and excruciating stress. To you, those are the benefits. The noise. The heat. The intensity. The chaotic but fluid orchestration of a meal coming together in foodservice takes a special breed of person with a special kind of passion."
Restaurant Startup and Growth, March, 2008, page 63
“Don’t worry about me shouting at you. That’s life.”
Chef Robert Irvine, Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible, July 7, 2014
“There were plenty of times I did shout in the kitchen for the same reason I shouted and punished at home. I cared about my crew and wanted them to get better. If they went on to bigger and better things, as I hoped my children would, I wanted them to be ready...” Page 55 of Gillian Clark’s Out of the Frying Pan
“I’m not yelling at you. That’s how I talk.” Chef Jeff Henderson in Food Network’s The Chef Jeff Project
“I loved working in the restaurant with a fierceness that surprised me. I loved the quiet of the clean kitchen early in the morning and the noisy intensity of the lunch rush. But what I liked the best was the way working in the restaurant used every fiber of my being. When I was in the restaurant I felt grounded, fully there.”
Tender at the Bone, page 231 by Ruth Reichl
"Never forget three things: speed, taste and presentation. Once you master those essentials, there is nobody who can stop you."
Chef Robert Gadsby as quoted by Chef Jeff Henderson on page 188 of COOKED.
Advice to Students
“When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy. That is what cooking is all about.”
Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook.
"Finally, any recipe should be regarded as a plan, but success is a plan for life, and without good structure, self-discipline and creativity, a recipe will not work."
John Kinsella, President of the American Culinary Federation
Page 7, The National Culinary Review, Sept. 2007
"The final ingredient that a chef adds to every dish is love. Our profession is about creating pleasure, about giving and receiving. I often say that every dish should convey emotion and that's different from adding salt and pepper."
Chef Alain Ducasse
"Whether it's mise en place for service or for your life, it’s all the same thing: prepare yourself today for tomorrow."
Thomas Keller, Bon Appetit Magazine, Sept. 11, 2011
“So you see, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Chef Didier in the movie Last Holiday
"Figure out what you have to do in life and then just go to work and do it. Look at your world as a beautiful world. And it is a beautiful world. It's just your job to make it a little bit better."
Chef Dooky Chase as quoted by Kim Severson in Spoon Fed, page 155
“Sometimes it is just easier to do things the easy way.”
Chef Adam to a Culinary Student on July 3, 2017
“What makes a failure is someone who refuses to try."
Jeanette Tan Hayden, General Manager of Hospitality, Stanford University, November 8, 2010
"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing to keep it out of a fruit salad.”
Texted to me by my daughter on October 25, 2011
For January 2018, I will start the year with quotes about what it takes and means to be a culinary instructor and quotes for life in general for you and for your students. I will also share my favorite quote and the back story behind it.
Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula, and is a frequent presenter at CAFÉ events throughout the nation. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Antonin Carême Medal.