#PeopleStories: Two Sides Of The Coin
The culinary arts have been painted in a glamorous light in recent times, largely thanks to the glitzy reality television shows and prismatic personalities that make up the facade of the profession today. Strip away the superficial layers, and the underbelly reveals itself: being a chef is a challenging career path, but not one without its fair share of rewards for the brave.
I recently had the opportunity to glean the experience and wisdom of two outstanding chefs, Chef Thierry Lerallu and Chef Franck Bruwier − both from Sunway Le Cordon Bleu − on the long-standing trials and tribulations of taking up a career as a chef.
The good show
When I asked the chefs about the daily life of a chef, it was virtually impossible to avoid the issue of long hours. In fact, many concede that it is deeply ingrained within the F&B industry, and is part and parcel of the job.
According to Chef Thierry, who is head pastry chef and patisserie chef instructor at Sunway Le Cordon Bleu, it is hardly an issue if you have the drive and will to succeed. 'If you have the passion, you will not feel the long hours anymore,' he elaborated. 'You will be facing long hours, stressful situations and bad days. But with passion, you will have fun with what you are doing.'
The outspoken Chef Franck was quick to chime in. 'Focusing on the long hours and on being tired is not the way it is done,' he quips. His advice promptly took on a philosophical turn. 'What is important is the final product. People are not interested to know if the meal you served them took 16 hours to prepare. It does not bring them any pleasure to know that you spent 16 hours preparing their meal.'
'As a chef, you need to be efficient while being invisible, yet visible when you need to be. That is what I call good service − in fact, I call it the good show.
To toil or not to toil
The subject of efficiency − working well versus working hard − soon became our topic of discussion. The straight-talking Chef Franck, who first joined Le Cordon Bleu in 2010 as Executive Chef at their restaurant in Seoul, does not subscribe to the idea of slogging away.
'If you don't like what you do, then you can work four hours and find it to be hard work, and you will hate it. On the other hand, if you love what you do, you can work for 24 hours a day and not find it hard. So it is not about working hard − instead, it is about what you do and how much you love doing it.'
'Some people work hard all their lives and get nowhere. So, it is not about working hard, at all. It is about working well,' he continued.
'it's also about being able to use the right tools and the right ingredients,' explained Chef Thierry. 'It is also about making use of the techniques and knowledge you have learned in the classroom. However, it is all about the taste, which is an education in itself.'
'Technique, taste... And love!' exclaimed Chef Franck.'Without love, you will not be able to follow the correct cooking techniques to achieve the correct taste. The right technique allows you to express yourself.'
Chef Thierry and Chef Franck made it very clear that love is always at the heart of cooking. It is apparent that love is also the driving force for the chef profession − a seemingly daunting career choice for a select few who have the desire to communicate not with words, but with the colours, textures and flavours of culture.