Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I am not a clothing or cleanliness or anything else perfectionist. I am only a food perfectionist.

To me, making anything but perfect food is deeply disappointing. Obviously, that means I'm frequently (almost always) disappointed with my food. Whenever I taste something I've made, my attention inevitably focuses on the flaws as much as the successes. I might say "Good flavor, not great texture," when I'm really just thinking about the texture: how it is, how it should have been, where I went wrong, how it can be perfect next time.

Professionally, that means I taste everything on every plate of food that leaves my station, if it is at all possible, to make sure it's as perfect as I can make it. It also means that, though I never let it show externally, I rage inside whenever somebody shrugs "it's good enough" or serves food that's been sitting under the heat lamp too long, or commits one of a million peccadilloes that cooks and food runners and waiters are guilty of every day.

My perfectionism is also putting me in an uncomfortable spot career-wise (also, I feel like the word 'career' somehow cheapens what I hope is a journey towards knowledge, not professional advancement). My current kitchen is the great place that it is because everyone cares about what we're doing, and I'm no exception. I awkwardly left another restaurant an hour and a half into a trail last week because my chef called and asked me to come in and help solve a crisis brought on by our sous-chef caring too much about the job for her own health. I barely even had to think about that decision then, and I haven't regretted it since. So our level of dedication is not what holds us back from turning out incredible food all the time. The problem is that we're just not good enough to be perfect. To try so hard and still always fall short just about breaks my heart once every few weeks when I get to thinking about it.

Now I'm looking for a place where I can become a sick as hell killer cook. A place where they put out awesome food AND have a culture of perfection. One is not good enough without the other. I've trailed at a place where the cooks are super-focused and the chef inspects every plate before it goes out, and tastes many of them. I could see him boiling inside when someone handed him a salad with some yellowing arugula in it, and I identified immediately. Sadly, the food was very good, but not spectacular. Another place served what could be really excellent, exciting food, but the cooks lacked that perfectionist drive, and maybe the food that went out was all it could have been.

I'm still looking.

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