If when I told you, that I am my hardest critic, was true, then why do reviews by public and peers mean so much?
I have long believed that in being a chef you are always on stage, but what stage and for what audience is the question for me. I have had the distinct pleasure of rising through the culinary ranks. From dishwasher at a family owned restaurant to Executive chef at a mega resort. I could not and would not have done this without the people that I have worked with.
When I started as a dishwasher someone said I was good at it. My brain told me that their opinion mattered and I should trust it. Being a logical person I made the decision to continue to do what that person gave me praise for. It became very simple for me; if I get praise or recognition for a certain action then I will repeat and continue to act in this manner. This simple if/then statement guided my decisions and pushed me to my limits for the next 20+ years. Where this gets tricky is the longer I continued to function using this equation of "If, Then" the more I became a chameleon.
I was always able to give someone what I thought they needed from me. I became very successful giving people what I thought they needed from me. Over the years the mental and physical toll that this chameleon management style has taken on me is immeasurable. On the other side of the coin it is also one of my strongest assets. I have found a way to manage the strengths of large diverse teams because of my ability to read people. I can speak with someone and very quickly and accurately understand the role I need to play to help them achieve success. Can you hear the razor thin balancing act of those last two statements?
The most impactful part of this comparison to me is that my "I" (personality, individuality, purpose, worth, etc.) is always in correlation to the value someone else puts on it.
As I came through the ranks and began to flourish more and more as a top manager and Chef I had a hard time finding my "I", my personal value. I had spent so long being "who you needed me to be," that I had no idea who I needed me to be. When very few, if any at all, decisions are made based on your personal well being it becomes difficult and at times impossible to find satisfaction. From the outside looking in I was absolutely killing it. A young talented chef who could handle anything. From the inside looking out there was nothing there, but doubt and fear about the decisions I was making. Years of substance abuse only amplified these feelings of isolation, fear, doubt and remorse. Even when the drugs and alcohol were put down I had never established an "I" in my career path. It was always what was expected from me by peers and public that influenced my choices.
So where is this all going? A very important realization for me was that perception is reality. There is an often under quoted saying of "seeing is believing." The second part of this is that, "feeling is the truth." I felt in my core that everything I have written so far was the truth. I felt that I had no"I", that I was a chameleon, that my worth was dictated by those around me. I felt this, and made it my reality.
Lets follow this up with another quote to reflect on. " The "I" is the illness, the "we" is the wellness." Once I opened up and shared all of this with another human being the weight of the world was off my shoulders. I no longer needed to guess who I was or what was needed of me, you told me and showed me. I had the strength and compassion to let the "we" into my life. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give to one another. A genuine conversation. A conversation where all are heard and everyone speaks. When I spoke the reality of my mind to another person the words changed from lead weights to feathers, the burden was shared. I no longer have to let the Devil of Doubt take the reins of my thoughts. I have you, all of you. I have found myself by using the mirror those around me held up. You polished this mirror and held it up to me to show me who I really am.
Ambassador - The Burnt Chef Project