Friday, December 21, 2007

In white apron, and hungry...

I decided to write these thoughts as I stood there on the street corner, eating the most delightful food in the world…

Among the biggest virtues of chefs everywhere, I believe, is patience. And I am not talking about the eight-hour marinating of meats, nor the excruciating minutes we have to wait before we open the oven to check if our soufflé rose perfectly.

Last Wednesday, I had to exercise patience to the core: we had three catering services, so I was sure that was going to demand something from my sanity.

Eight to ten o’clock in the morning, I was busy at the back kitchen of the children’s canteen. The kitchen was hot, my fingers were sticky with flouring the chicken sticks- but truly, it was working for the kids that made me happy the most.

At eleven o’clock, we packed up for the first appointment in a far business district. I was just starting to ignore in my mind the heavy traffic and the midday heat. So seated there at the truck’s front seat in the immaculate white uniform with the driver and his assistant who relied on my directions on the road, I was somehow occupied with a handful of worries, counting the minutes for I was aware that we were already quite late. :p Good thing we found the building in that steel jungle; proceeded to the 17th floor, did the necessary preparations while courteously answering the questions of the client why we weren’t on time. We were feeding 75 employees- and I swear if we weren’t in the city, those people would have eaten us alive. (Though I should admit, those people were extremely satisfied afterwards :)

Anyway, after cleaning up the lunch mess, we had to prepare again for another dinner in the neighboring street. The driver got back to the commissary to get the food and I was left there to set up the site.

And man, was I hungry. It was six thirty in the evening.

There goes the irony of being a chef- you don’t get to eat what you serve. Besides, sometimes after all the preparation, the scent of food clings on your skin that you can’t stand to swallow a spoonful.

I was thoroughly absorbed in the food I was munching on. Although far from the paella, salpicao, ox tongue in gravy we were serving, it was too good that I stood there still, staring blindly at the motorists who were waving hello and mouthing playfully some questions I could not hear.

At that moment, I did not consider anymore that I make and serve food for people. I was suddenly aware of the basic truths of my existence: that I was a commuter, a worker, and was truly grateful for this life. I guess the chef’s patience schooled me into not ever complaining, even after the long hours of cooking and feeding- where our concern was not our own hunger but others’.

Oblivious of the perfections and imperfections of cooking, there I was- under the immense urban sky- a hungry person in chef’s uniform -enjoying the food bought from the convenience store across the street: warm tuna sandwich and Pepsi Max, no sugar. :)

And the day was far from over.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you were a professional chef! Silly me!
Is it because i'm not used to see chefs that are so pretty? :-)

What you describe happens to me all the time but i usually don't get hungry until well after i finished working. Then i start drooling over what i cooked that day. But as you say 'our concern is not our hunger but others'. It's a noble cause, isn't it?