The industry we're in...
"Chefs may not earn buckets of cash but we know how to enjoy ourselves."
Everyone thinks the industry in which they work is unusual or unique. I know mine is and I am reminded of this almost every day. Going into 2013 there has been a lot on my mind.
Hot on all foodies' tongues is trends for this year. Yes, there is culinary fashion, however, I'm not a follower of fashion and prefer to cook from the heart; highlighting flavours and ingredients that feel right and have a story connected to me and/or my team. Most of my new dishes are inspired by a new technique I have learnt, or by the introduction to new ingredients that usually find me through the kitchen door. The variety of produce available in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands makes this an extremely exciting yet timeconsuming undertaking.
Suppliers play a major role in this industry; if flavour is 'king' then I believe the development of relationships is 'queen'. Taking the time to meet me, chat to me and explain the product is the basis of all the relationships I have with my suppliers. When I have been buying a product for several years and another supplier offers the same product, more reasonably priced and seemingly as delicious, the only thing that keeps me buying from the original supplier is the relationship we have developed.
Relationships and friendships - most businesses are built on these two factors. Twitter and Facebook as well as all the other digital media have made it so much easier to communicate. There's a certain camaraderie linking like-minded communities - a bond that unites us. I think the empathy we feel because of long working hours and continuously missing out on important occasions marries us.
I was recently struck by the realisation that when there are chefs or hospitality people at a gathering, the party generally turns into a 'thrash'! We're like chameleons; so focused as the temperature in the kitchen rises yet you'll find a real party animal under the chef's hat. Our 'off' time being the few hours between dinner and breakfast are well spent and celebrated to capacity. The long hours we work make us appreciate our time off. It's frustrating to witness others squandering this valuable time. Chefs may not earn buckets of cash but we know how to enjoy ourselves. Savouring fine wine and sampling the country's finest produce, usually in picturesque locations, help rejuvenate, stimulate and invigorate tired minds and weary bodies. Not many industries offer relaxation in doing what you do day in and day out.
I was speaking to a professional the other day; he said he was always in awe over the sincere warmth people in the hospitality trade exuded. I said it came with the industry. He understood this practice towards paying guests, ensuring they had memorable experiences worth repeating and would therefore return. However, he never thought an outsider entering the industry as an observer would receive the same concern, interest and care. It was at this point that I realised how generous we all are. We like to share what we consider the good things in life - and we like to receive input too. No matter where I am, I appreciate charming hospitality when I dine out. The effort is always appreciated.
New Year's resolutions - have you kept to yours? I have mine ready for when I am less busy: I will go for a daily run, eat three meals a day, see my friends on a weekly basis, cook at home, attend more family functions, and I will try put everything ahead of my first love - food. I wish all you like-minded friends a happy and productive year filled with rewarding work and enthusiasm for this ever-changing, ever-evolving industry.
Extract from Chef! Issue 34