When I was a Young Skillet, my old man used to torture me with tales from his days in the old Catholic Schools, and mean streets of Chicago. He constantly reminded me about the priests & nuns, "...they hit me harder than your grandfather, and they used the METAL side of the ruler!" He never stopped with the stories about playing with Frank Nitti's kids, or learning to hustle pool from Willie Mosconi. He also never let me forget that he bought the house we were living in BEFORE his 19th birthday. Every adult has an encyclopedia of stories that go this way.
These exaggerated allegories aren't limited to overworked parents & the elderly. The current class of leading chefs are quick to attest: "Things have changed, these young cooks SUCK." What is it about the incoming class of future chefs that sucks so bad? Are their lives/training too easy? What has them convinced that a meteoric rise to culinary stardom takes a little longer than Minute Rice does to cook? The answer most of us old folks have accepted is this:
Presently, the majority of young cooks are a litter of runts & softies, that had their nuts clipped.
Western culture is obsessed with an easy way out. Young chefs included. For every Instagram post I see of a renegade barbarian with a pig-on-a-cross, I hear a dozen stories from a friend who can't keep his line properly staffed. The sad truth is that the majority of "chefs" that are coming for our plates -and dollars- would sooner vac/seal/sear a protein or vegetable, than spend an afternoon in front of a fire, working with flame & ash to create something truly magical. Let's be honest, there's a certain relief that comes with dropping your food off at the spa for a Sous-Vide treatment, and getting on with your prep. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to employing a kitchen hack or two in my day. What we're witnessing here is akin to Kali Yuga, aka The Dark Age, aka a time when energy is given to improving tools & leisure time, instead of bettering ourselves.
Let's wrap this one up, before I turn this blog into a church. Veteran cooks and older chefs, love to chew the fat. We complain about how bad things have gotten, brag about our time in the trenches... and wash it all down with a drink. If change is required in our culture, where does it start?
This is an important conversation, let's keep it going. Send us a story/threat/promise about how to improve the grim forecast hanging over the heads of young cooks & newbie chefs. We'll be accepting/reading submissions through November, and we'll have a fresh blog ready right around the time you're going into a food coma from that Deep Fried Turkey.