For four years, I had been in and out of many kitchens, but never one as “serious” as this. I was an arrogant, brash degenerate, barely out of high school and really just beginning what I didn’t know at the time would be a career in food. I’d heard, and partaken in, a lot of coarse language, but, for the first time, I was… Fucking shocked. There was no hint of humor in his words:
“I could fuck your mother and cum on her tits faster than you pour that soup.”
At 20 years old, this was my introduction to how chefs act.
Working in kitchens, I’ve seen some shit, man. The owner of a place where I used to line cook walked into the kitchen while we were closing, completely naked (and obviously drunk), and none of the employees thought it was weird. That was just something that happened. I’ve come in to open, first person there, and found last night’s stress-reliever on service plates. I mean a full rail, equipped with a short, taped up straw. I’ve seen servers fucking in dry storage, a sweet Guatamalan dishwasher spill five gallons of hot fryer oil down her entire lower body and a legit race war between two demographics in the same kitchen.
As a chef, I was brazenly offered two grams of cocaine by a cook, in exchange for his right to call in consequence free. I’ve seen chefs struggle through service, embarrassingly drunk — I’ve done it, too. That moment, though — the “fuck your mother” moment — it’s what I draw on when I imagine who I’d like to be as a chef.
Let’s cut directly to it — there’s no longer a place for that in our industry.
You quite frankly just… don’t get to fucking speak to people that way. You don’t get to humiliate your employees, you don’t get to sexualize their family members (or anyone, for that matter), you don’t get to verbally abuse them — you don’t get to do any of that.
Even if you want to.
Even if it’s your kitchen, you work 85 hours a week, and some little shit is tanking your service.
You’re not Gordon Ramsay, and, to be honest, Gordon Ramsay should cease to be Gordon Ramsay. It’s all cute and fun when it’s reality TV, but consider this — in the current and next generation of chefs, their introduction to food was reality TV. Many of them think that’s the way it is, should be, or both.
That’s not to say kitchens are professional. Most of them aren’t. Cooks are different, man. Different in a way I can’t properly elocute. We speak differently. We move differently. We put up with more, and simultaneously expect more and less. We listen to loud, abrasive music. We curse at each other and ourselves. Internal issues are rarely sent up the ladder, or through HR. We smoke a cigarette about it. We pour ourselves into our work, and, because it only takes one person to fuck it up for everyone, yes, we are outspokenly angry when it happens.
We need to find that line, though. The line of do not cross.
For what it’s worth, I was recently at Chef Fuck Your Mother’s restaurant. I sat near the kitchen, which you can see, but not hear. They were very, very busy, and, at one point, I saw him stop service, just like he used to. He walked over to the pantry, and I was certain it was about to be Hell on Earth in there. I cringed for that poor cook. To my surprise, he calmly showed Pantry Guy the proper way to do things, patted him on the back and went back to the window.
After dinner, we spoke for a few minutes. I reminded him of the time he verbally flayed that poor cook. He looked embarrassed.
“We all grow up one day. I don’t recall that, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
It’s our job — the line cook reading this, me, Chef F.Y.M., All Of Us — to set the standards of acceptable behavior. It’s our job to mold the next generation into good leaders. It’s our job to better ourselves every day, to cut the unacceptable behavior out. You aren’t exempt from treating people with respect just because you tell them how long it’ll be before you need that risotto.
For as long as restaurants exist, chefs will be drunk, servers will fuck inside the restaurant, and line cooks will do drugs. The days of the Screaming Chef are done.
Or, they should be.
Griffin Paulin is owner and head chef at Mirin on Frankfort Avenue.