Friday, April 18, 2008


How timely for this NY Times article to appear the Wednesday following my Saturday with my new sous chef Raj. I found it worth a few chuckles, and it gives us some chefs' insights on the high level of profanity in the kitchen:

Tom Colicchio
“Mr. Colicchio blames a loosening of standards in the whole of American culture: ‘You read Rolling Stone and you don’t see rock stars curse like this… And it’s recent, too. It’s something you’ve seen just in the past year.’”

Ruth Reichl
“‘For as long as I’ve been around restaurant kitchens they have been testosterone-fueled places where guys almost revel in their profanity.’”

Anthony Bourdain
“Mr. Bourdain thinks that public profanity could be the ultimate sign that chefs have arrived: ‘I’m making a living at it…I do a lot of speaking engagements and sometimes I feel like I’m being paid to curse in front of people who haven’t heard it in a while…I’ve been pushing it and pushing it and have unloaded like a marine in front of a vast roomful of blue-haired ladies, and they seem to get it.’”

Marco Pierre White
“‘I have sworn, yes, in the early days, going back 20 years,’ said Marco Pierre White, the English chef once renowned for his scorched-earth rages. But then he tidied up his vocabulary. ‘It was just growing up.’”

David Chang
“‘When you talk to older guys, they’ll all say they were big yellers but they’ve toned it down now,’ said David Chang. He said that he would like to do the same, in part because he was worried that his tantrums were damaging his heart. ‘It’s not like I want to do it, I just want to get my point across and unfortunately I’m not that eloquent or articulate…I could find a better way — and I’m trying — to communicate, I will change in a heartbeat.’”

So the downfall of American culture, high testosterone levels, the Hollywoodization of chefdom, youthfulness, and the lack of good communication skills are all factors leading to foul language in the kitchen. Ok. I buy that.

But I have my own theories, too:
1. All the extremely bleepin’ painful wounds you incur but can’t whine about express themselves in the form of explicatives.
2. There’s no bleepin’ “Save as” or “Ctrl Z” button in cooking. Yes, you can try to fix some things in the prep or cooking process, but some things, when bleeped up, are just bleepin’ bleeped. It’s going in the bleepin’ trash along with the 2 hours you spent on it.
3. You’re so focused on the task at hand you don’t have the time to think about expressing your bleepin’ thoughts eloquently. You just say the first words that land on your tongue, and that would be “Bleep!” mainly because that deep cut you have on your fingernail is bleepin’ killing you and you can’t say bleep about it.


Gerry Schramm said...

No quote from Mr. Ramsay? That guy swears like there's no tomorrow. (There isn't, of course, but you get my point.)

But my favorite thing these days is when Ramsay calls someone a donkey on Hell's Kitchen. He sounds like Shrek: "Hey, donkey!" There's really no coming back from being called a donkey.

Undercover Cook said...

Gerry, the article refers to Mr. Ramsay, but his quotes were probably too dirty to put into print. :)

It sounds to me he was making an effort to tone down his language by using the word "donkey" vs "ass."