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You know you are a chef when you…

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By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist

“Chef” can be a relative title. Occasionally, chef positions are merely the most experienced cook in the kitchen, one who cooks on the line, side by side with his staff on a daily basis.

Some chefs divide their days between cooking on the line and a host of other daily duties. Others still have such large or streamlined operations that they rarely even touch food, but rove around to touch all the areas under their management umbrella.

Once, on a TV program highlighting the then brand-new Venetian hotel and casino in Las Vegas, the executive chef said he never has a knife in his hand, but rather a clipboard, two-way radio, and cell phone. My guess is he will never require a gym membership, and puts an average of 12 miles per day on his feet.

But spend enough time in a kitchen and the following statements will all come true, no matter the specifics of a chef’s environment.

Unless the restaurant is closed, you always wonder when you’ll get the text or call to come in.

You continuously hear the kitchen printer, which prints food tickets no matter what other noise is going on. Sometimes you hear it in your sleep. Like it’s speaking to you directly.

You will also hear any timer, anywhere, for that matter.

You constantly have some degree of burn or cut on your hands or arms, and at times other places. And you’ve unfortunately learned that cutting a burn hurts worse than burning a cut.

You eat so many of your meals standing up that your body begins to prefer it.

You have Sharpie markers everywhere: in your briefcase, your car, various drawers at home and your pocket at all times.

The term family meal has nothing to do with blood relatives.

You always smoke up your home because, well, that’s just how a piece of meat should be seared in cast iron.

You forget what it’s like to celebrate any holiday, wedding, funeral or birthday with anyone.

Ironically, most people use the white noise of a fan to help them sleep at night, yet, a chef associates the white noise with the hood fans they hear all day, every day. And it isn’t calming, but rather it makes us think of the energy and chaos from work.

No one you know has sharp knives in their kitchen. Or they have the kind that has tiny little serrated edges on them. And if we’re forced to use them, we die a little bit inside every time we hold one.

You can hand a chef nearly anything and they can figure out a way to use it to replace the broken knob on the stove.

You’ve worked with someone somewhere who says they had a long day and goodnight as they are leaving. And you think to yourself that you still have two more hours worth of work. Then you remember you saw them arrive to work after you’ve been there for two hours.

When you are over to dinner at anyone else’s house and they’re cutting vegetables, you can’t help but think to yourself, “You’re doing that wrong.”

Believe me, many qualities identify you as a chef, so I will revisit this topic from time to time.

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the Executive Chef at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky.

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