"The Perfectionist: life and death in haute cuisine" a new biography of Bernard L'Oiseau, raises an uncomfortable question. Is mental illness a prerequisite for being a top chef ?
I'd say mental illness is a prerequisite for being a top anything. Mental illness is probably required for any level of the professional kitchen, providing you stay in the game longer than a year or so. You all know the story; long brutal hours burning and cutting yourself, massive, sudden stress, working when others are playing, dealing with ridiculous complaints, etc.
You may not know the other side of the story. At a memorial service two days ago a former restaurateur was confiding his desire to perhaps, maybe, get back into it. He said "when you see the dining room full, hear the clinking of glasses and forks, the happy people, the buzz and energy, there's nothing like it."
Sounds like manic depression huh ?
Anything can be a meditation on the greater meaning of life. I'm not the only one who uses their work to try to understand themselves and others around them. But I'm fortunate in having a profession which is at the same time elemental, frivolous and tangible.
So tonight I'll exercise patience with those who are making their yearly pilgrimage to a restaurant because it's Valentine's Day and they're supposed to go out. BTW, thanks to Becks & Posh for staying in.
Still working out what to serve tonight. It's one of the few nights a year I'll have filet mignon because you're supposed to eat that on special occasions. Maybe with creamed leeks and Cabernet sauce. We've got some steelhead that I ate last night with bouillabaisse butter (flavors of bouillabaisse in a compound butter). It was really delicious. I don't often think that when I'm eating my own cooking. I'm usually critical, looking for imperfections, but last night was sheer enjoyment. However, valentiner's usually don't know from steelhead or bouillabaisse so we'll see.
I was toying with the idea of doing two special menus. One called First Date with all the safe "aphrodisiac" items and another called Old Married Couple, with garlic and beans and true adult flavors. However this makes more work for everyone and many will not appreciate the humor. One of the things about operating in a small town is your customers are perpetually behind the times. Like any time I try to do any "retro" sort of dish, people don't get it because there's no ironic distance here. The mullets (and I don't mean the fish) are for real.
Oh yeah, am I nuts ? Hell yeah.