Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chef's Don't Get Hangovers

People think chefs drink a lot. This is, of course, a myth.

I woke up this morning for the second time in a month in a strange city with a low grade headache and my insides asking me WTF? This is the second time in a month that I found my self closing down a local wine bar with my new BFF Chef Michael Blackie. And just like last month in Ottawa, our grape fuelled carousing was the night before the big event. Why do we do this to ourselves?

One my friends in the twitter universe asked us if we were "nursing hangovers". I flippantly responded, "chefs don't get hangovers". While this is not entirely true, it is true that chef's don't "nurse" hangovers; we ignore them.

There is an ethic among chefs that you just have to "git er done". My friend, Chef Aron Epp, has a motto: "Head down, work hard." Guests will arrive, they will expect to be fed, and it is our job to feed them. How we are feeling in the process, really doesn't matter.

I learnt this as a teenager working at Chi Chi's. Some nights I'd stay out all night carrying on with my friends, catch a couple hours of Z's, and then show up to work for my 7:30 prep shift. I wasn't going to let my boss give me shit for being hungover so I would work extra hard. What I learnt in the process, is the best way to get rid of a hangover is to work hard. If you are really hungover and you lay around all day nursing it, you will feel like garbage all day long. If you ignore the hangover and just do some hard physical work, you will feel right as rain in a couple short, painful hours. I see this in my young cooks at the Bistro now. They will never complain, they will never call in sick. The only way I will ever know that they are hungover, is the jumbo size bottle of Gatorade in their station.

But why do we do it? I think people attracted to the restaurant industry are highly social people. I don't party like I used to when I was a young man, but I do like to get together with friends. And because for the most part we work nights, our socializing happens in a friends restaurant with a few drinks. While we are enjoying each other's company we are fully aware that we have to get up tomorrow morning and "do it all over again". But we never want the party to end. How many times have I said , "That was stupid. But it was so much fun". It is hard to end a good conversation with friends.

In the past month I have been involved in two national "chef events". Last month I was privileged to represent Manitoba at the Prairie Scene conference. Today, I am cooking at the Cooks and Curds gala dinner at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival. Both times we had the opportunity to get together with the chefs involved. We all work so hard that it is nice to meet other chefs in fun social settings. Last night, we had chefs literally from coast to coast. We had a chef from Tofino, and chefs from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and everywhere in between all sitting at the table together. This was such an incredible time that how could we cut it short, just because we had a lot of work to do the next day.

We all knew, that we would wake up feeling rough, down a couple mugs of coffee and then get to work. No one at the table would be "nursing a hangover". And tonight, we will do it all over again. Watch out "Acoustic Grill", we are all coming tonight.

I am especially privileged to be able to work with my wife Danielle. So when I am out carousing with "the boys" she is right there beside me.

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