Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth – Muhammad Ali

I’m in a situation where some of the environments I inhabit feel chaotic. But walking into my weekend shift at the little café I cook at was balsam to my soul. The agenda is clear there: to serve others.

Service (I’m referring to that phase where you’re dishing out food to customers) is challenging, thrilling, exhilarating. It’s our opportunity to impress, to flex our skills, raise our game a notch, to work together like a well-oiled machine, to magically put perfectly consistent plates of food out there. For most chefs, nothing compares with the elation that a good service brings. And if it doesn’t go all that well, at least you know what to focus on tomorrow.

Service (now I refer to the real purpose behind our profession) is not the first thing that comes to mind when we use the word. And you forget it at times: as creatives, we can take for granted those opportunities we receive to practice our gifts. But the issue is that our service is performed behind the scenes. Away from the spotlight. And we often feel frustrated as chefs when no one sees or hears us. When no one acknowledges our toil and struggle. When we are misunderstood for who we are.

But that’s not the point of our work at all. As a chef your job, above all, is to serve others.

Sure, it’s fundamentally important to us as human beings to be seen, heard and appreciated. As an infant if you’re ignored or not nurtured by your parents, it can affect the dynamic of every one of your future relationships.

But when we look to the world to heal our need to be seen and heard, we are overlooking this reality: that we chefs don’t really see or hear ourselves. When was the last time you acknowledged your needs? Your self-care? Your dreams? Your vulnerability? 

Let that sink in, chef.


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