Monday, March 07, 2011

The Hard Way

I've been contemplating this aspect of kitchen culture for a while. I really liked what Eric Ripert called it when I heard his NPR interview. He called it "the Hard Way." The Hard Way is where you have one tough-assed mother leading the kitchen. He screams as a way of motivating action as service fast approaches. This type of kitchen is not uncommon. It's probably the rule rather than the exception. Eric Ripert used to run his kitchen the Hard Way, but he says he has changed. I don't mind the Hard Way. I actually appreciate its usefulness as a unifying force - whether it be out of fear or hatred or both, the team pulls together.

In our breakfast class, there is the one Chef Instructor who is notorious for her yelling. And frankly I'm proud that it's a woman. I have never felt so happy to be a part of a team in school as I was in her class because everybody was so freakin' scared of her that they pulled together. Like Chef Ludo, she possesses the yin and yang of temper and charm that inspire people to want to be better. She is teaching her class in the Hard Way tradition so people shouldn't be surprised when they go out into the real world.

This semester, we are not learning the Hard Way, and frankly I miss it. I would like to see how a kitchen - like Eric Ripert's - might work without going the Hard Way. But what I'm finding right now is that without having a screaming chef to unify the team, each student is out for him or herself and I'm getting REALLY REALLY angry a lot of the time. Maybe my irrational anger comes from my education in the professional kitchen as the most recent of a long line of "Hard Way" Frenchie chefs. Maybe I know that in the real world, you have to work as a team to get through service. Maybe I just have anger issues.