I recently spoke with eight talented chefs at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival and asked each person, What’s your favorite part of being a chef? Here are their responses:
I’d have to say the energy, the teamwork, the creativity. As opposed to being a winemaker – you get one wine a year – we get to create everyday. It’s a never-ending playground for us. That part I really like. If it doesn’t work, it’s just one dish. It’s one idea. You get multiple tries. I give a lot of credit to the wine guys. They have to wait one year to get that vintage.
Joanne Chang (Flour Bakery & Myers + Chang)
I got into this because I love to feed people and the food. It’s such a direct connection with what you do, and the pleasure people get afterwards. I spent a couple years in business, where I was working on spreadsheets and behind a computer, and you never really saw the outcome of all your hard work, whereas in cooking and baking you do. As I’ve grown in my career, one of the things I’ve really learned to enjoy is, I love creating a great atmosphere at the bakery and at the restaurant with my staff. Now I view myself, as much as a chef, also a mentor to all the staff members I have to help them to learn leadership skills, baking, cooking and learning how to communicate better.
Just being able to cook for people and make people have a good time and be happy. Creating a memory in their life, hopefully, and create something they can think back on.
Josh Feathers (Blackberry Farm)
The different challenges that you come across. For instance, we’re using our pork here. We were challenged to use some type of local ingredient, so we learned about taro, which is what we used to accompany our pork belly. We used the taro the same way we use sweet potatoes at home. Sweet potatoes, you can use both the leaves and the root. The root, pretty much everybody knows, but not everybody knows you can use the leaves, just like you can use spinach. You can use it in salad, things like that. To use taro, that was our challenge. Of course we ran into a challenge with the oxilated crystals, so we weren’t able to use the leaves at all, but with a little bit of cooking and manipulation, we can use the leaves and ended up with preserved taro. It’s come out pretty good.
The favorite part of being a chef? My favorite part is probably pleasing the guest and making people happy. Reaching them, touching them, basically giving them an experience. It can be an experience like at Fleur de Lys, which is upscale, you’re totally pampered. It can be an experience at the Burger Bar also, with people coming in for 30 or 45 minutes, but still they eat like the best burger. As a chef, over all these years and I’ve been doing it for so long, I’m still excited, even more excited today. If I reach that, if I achieve that, that’s the coolest part of being a chef.
Cooking. I live and die with food and it’s just so nice to be able to express yourself through it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Ron Siegel (Parallel 37)
The flexibility. You get to use living products and create them into something.
Eating other people’s food. The best perk is I can get a reservation at a restaurant. I just got one at Side Street, and I know they’re packed. They’re like, “Chef, come on in.” That’s the best non-monetary perk there is. You can’t buy your way into reservations at a dive. By the way, any chef can get a reservation at my restaurant too. It’s the propriety of chefs. Really, to bring it to why I’m here, one of the coolest things about events like this, I flew in with Ken Oringer, his two sous chefs, my two sous chefs, Francois Payard, Michael Ginor, Adam Richman. It was fun on the plane, and we actually get to hang and see our chef buddies much more often on the road than at home. Why not?