After I finished culinary school, I was required to complete two internships. My second internship I worked for The Grand in Brighton, England from 1999-2000. While at The Grand, I was a Chef de Partie, which meant that I was in charge of a station, or particular area in the kitchen. Depending on where I was needed, I would rotate out what I focused on that day, be it prep work, pastry work, service, etc. I was a working chef. I got to create new recipes, plate food, bake pastries, and cook delicious meals. I got to be creative.
I remember one day when we were particularly short handed, and the executive chef was in the kitchen trying to help things along for the day. He looked particularly miserable and a little out of practice with his knife work. By the time a person reaches the position of Executive Chef, they are no longer in the trenches with the other chefs, but are more concerned with the business aspects of things. That’s where their focus lies; on logistics, finding new revenue streams, signing paychecks, ordering materials, and interacting with potential clients. Your brain is completely somewhere else once you become an Executive Chef. You don’t have time to focus on the food, because you’re too busy focusing on all the behind-the-scenes work so everyone who works for you can focus on the food.
As a working chef, I get to have the best of both worlds. I get to create new recipes and interact with clients. I’m constantly thinking about places were we can find new streams of revenue. I still have to sign paychecks and order materials, but all the while I’m still thinking about what creative new dish I could put together for myself and my wife, which could later be rolled out to our client base. I like to lead by example here, which is why you’ll see me at many catering events, washing dishes. I can’t expect my staff to be creative and come up with the next new thing, when I’m too busy counting beans (or brides as the case may be).