Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The Old Man and thoughts on age discrimination.
When I was young and full of piss and vinegar, trying to sponge up all the experience and responsibility the Chef would allow me, I always remembered, (even though the consequences of any mistake I could make would be intimidating, painful and humiliating) the "Old Man" could and would ALWAYS be able to pull me out of the shits.
My mentors were the guys who had been through everything a million times and maintained their cool through the most horrifying and impossible situations and afterwards kicked my ass for my mistakes.
In my culinary adolescence, I felt I may have been a better cook than some of them, that I had better menu ideas and ways to implement them, sometimes I was right. I still had the attitude that I NEEDED the "Old Man."
As I worked through my culinary adulthood I could recognize that even though I was an outstanding cook and could operate kitchens with much success, I still NEEDED the "Old Man."
Now I have reached the decrepit age of maturity, 48, have opened, owned and operated several of my own restaurants, trained countless cooks and servers and dish washers, many who have gone on to better their careers in the industry with the knowledge I had instilled in them, I've passed through business plans and p&l statements and all sorts of other crap...and yes I still NEED the "Old Man." (Maybe now more than ever.)
There are plenty of ego driven, flashy, "show" chefs out there, finger pointers, without so much as a spot of marinara sauce on their starchy whites. I sometimes wonder who their “Old Man” is. Who pulls them out of the weeds by something so simple as telling them to get off their ass or pull their head out of it? Will they have the stamina to go the distance that will teach them what only time can, what the Old Man knows? No matter how hard it is to ask him and catch a bunch of crap for it, THE OLD MAN KNOWS...he always does!
The Old Man is the LEADER, not always the strongest or most creative or the best at everything, the Old Man is the shoulder that our worlds rest on, the security we can always count on, the one who got us this far.
Every operation is defined by its leader.
I wonder if our culture is now to take credit for a foundation that was built by those tough, crusty old SOB’s that got us where we are today. Will we forget to carry on in their tradition, will we get caught up in an ego war with those young whipper snapper "I've got the world by the tail, fresh out of school, get out of my way, I know what I'm doing” snot wipers? We owe it to the "hot shots," to teach them (even if we make them get a little dirty) so they will bring up the future generations, so that our craft remains a craft and doesn't end up becoming just some fancy title.
How could the Old Man be discriminated against? Who else do they have to ask?
And hey don't you ever forget: old age and treachery will always overcome youth and stamina!