Sunday, October 7, 2012

the last book I ever read (Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef, excerpt ten)

from Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson:

The stress of the show, combined with the stress of the state dinner, was intense. As if on cue, my back gave out. The pain was unreal, but I couldn't give up. Being a chef is an incredibly physical job. Standing for hours on end, the brutality of the kitchen heat, the burns, the fires, the lifting--Mario Batali wears those Crocs everywhere not because he's a fashion victim but because they give him some physical relief. I'm strong because I'm a runner but my back is liable to give out on me at any given time. It doesn't happen often but when it does, when I'm on the floor and I can't move, I can hear my mother berating me when I came home from Belle Avenue after hours of lifting huge sacks of flour, potatoes, and trays and trays of meat. "Macke," my mother said. "Are they working you too hard?" And it's true: Everywhere I worked from Belle Avenue to Victoria Jungfrau to Georges Blanc to the cruise ships to Aquavit, they worked me too hard. And I was glad for it. It's what I signed up for. I manage to look young and strong in photos. But my back, the premature arthritis in my hands, the way my teeth are literally falling out--they tell the story of a lifetime of service. A chef's life is one of service, even in the age of Top Chef and Food Network stars. It doesn't matter if they send a fancy town car to pick you up, you can't sit on your butt in a comfy leather armchair and cook an incredible meal.

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