A chef on “vacation”

Friday, Nov 27th, 2015

my latest contribution to Chefs Feed delves into what it’s like for a chef to vacation. I struggled to write this piece, as I had only vacationed as a chef. But after a few months away from the grind of restaurants I took a trip to Mexico for a friends wedding. Two days after I arrived, thoroughly relaxed, toes covered in sand and a beach chair pointed at the ocean, my friend who is working as a chef arrived on a flight after sneaking out of the kitchen just hours before. It didn’t take long before I realized what a chef on “vacation” looks like from the outside, and how different I felt this trip with no kitchen pulling at my heart strings. She sat with a double espresso in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, and I finally felt like I had an idea how unique we chefs are to vacation with! 

Nobody does vacation quite as poorly as chefs.

Just ask those few people closest to us who occasionally attempt to pry us from our kitchens, poor souls. We don’t separate from our restaurants easily, no matter how much we bemoan the demanding hours or dream about all the places we would rather be at that exact moment.

However difficult it is, we do leave. Sometimes. Those of us that work in restaurants that close for a week or two during slow seasons have it easiest. Without an operating restaurant to worry about, we really have no choice but to go out and enjoy the world. For the rest of us, we double our hours in the days preceding our time off, scrambling to make sure everything is in place before we vacate the premises.

We work until we leave for the airport, or drive through the night after completing dinner service, and arrive at our destination as the sun is coming up. Our luggage is haphazardly packed, often crammed with what ever we can grab in five minutes—which is why my family will never let me forget the time I arrived with a suitcase full of dirty laundry, as I didn’t have a spare moment to wash my clothes before I packed.

If we make it out the door, we insist that our cooks email us after each of their shifts with updates, and beg them to text us if anything comes up. And we worry. Boy, do we worry. We worry about the order from the farm coming that week, the private party that might need finessing, the new dish that was put on a few days before we left. God forbid a refrigerator goes down while we are gone, or worse, someone quits. How’s that Mai Tai taste now?!

It usually takes a few days before we are able to unwind enough to really enjoy ourselves. Thoughts of our cooks fade when the emergency phone calls we are dreading don’t come, and the rich meals start to make us appropriately lazy. Then, and only then, does our mental pace slow down enough to resemble anything like a traditional vacation.

You’ll most likely find a chef using their vacation time to their loved ones, often the unwilling victims of our flip-flopped schedules. You know the drill: while our family celebrates birthdays or holiday gatherings on evenings and weekends, we work. Because of this, the few days we can pry ourselves away from the restaurant often find us rushing back to family, capturing as much of them as we can before we jump in the trenches, never to be heard from again.

When we do use our vacation to visit other cities, the deciding factor is almost always the restaurants. These culinary destinations will find us scheduling four meals a day, plus snacks, in an attempt to cram in as many new experiences as possible. Breakfast at a notable bakery, coffee at that place that’s roasting their own beans, lunch at a temple of fine dining, snacks at the bar of the hottest new opening, dinner at that restaurant that’s been on your list for years, and cocktails at the chic cocktail lounge with an ironic name. Wake up and do it all over again tomorrow, but let’s throw ice cream in there as well.

If our travel companions are a little on the unlucky side………….

head over to Chefs Feed to read the rest of the article!