This food revolution is turning chefs into demi-gods. But they need to eat like the rest of us. So, just how do they do it?
If you turn on the TV, open a newspaper or surf the web, you’re bound to find a recipe, a restaurant review or interview with celebrity chefs. A side effect of the burgeoning food revolution is that it has turned the chefs into food gods, and now in addition to our insatiable desire to know about the Beckhams and the TOWIE’s, we’ve added celebrity chefs to the list. There are novels, websites and endless articles which cover where chefs eat, buy produce, what they eat at home, what kitchen brands they love, what equipment they use. It goes on.
In the culinary world, most chefs seem almost amused by these articles, as they mostly reflect the lifestyles of only the very elite of chefs. At high-end restaurants, such as Noma, Dinner, Per Se, Alain Ducasse etc., there is one head chef and maybe 20-50 chef de partie, demi chefs, prep cooks and stagiaire toiling behind them. For most of the chefs in the kitchen, the average shift is 12-15 hours, in a hot and sweaty environment, for a salary that is arguably barely minimum wage. So no, we are not all eating at the Fat Duck. After a long shift, what most chefs want to eat does not involve foams or purees, but likely the same comfort food most of us crave after a night out – greasy fast food.
Eager to dispel the notion that chefs are all gourmet foodies, I gathered a few fellow chefs to paint a more accurate picture of the eating habits of the chef. Here are the highlights:
Chefs don’t eat out that much. Five to six days a week, they usually eat all of their meals at the restaurant, as most restaurants provide staff with a staff/family meal. On days off, they’re likely to seek out small hole in the wall family run establishments, which serve ethnic food.
Chefs do eat at the Michelin and top rated restaurants, but these are big expenses so chefs often try to do the lunch deals, try to go with other chefs who have an “in” in the kitchen or have to save for months to splurge on the tasting menu. Also, one of the primary reasons they go is to gain inspiration and see what other successful chefs are doing.
This is simply not true. Chefs are a cross section of various cultures and just like normal humans, some of eat everything, some are carnivores, some are vegetarian, and some are extremely picky. I’ve met chefs who filet and prepare all the seafood dishes but absolutely refuse to eat any seafood other than fish and chips. I’ve met chefs who prefer beans on toast to foie gras, and others that hate all vegetables.
So the next time you queue up for Chicken Cottage, some greasy late night kebab shop or a late night Chinese restaurant, take comfort in the fact that the person behind you mind just be a chef.