October 21, 2020

Commonly listed under career requirements for kitchen work is the ability to communicate and work well in a team. However, since the early 2000s, a third trait has entered the spotlight as a prized attribute in the industry: hotheadedness. 

The earliest television celebrity chefs: James Beard, Joyce Chen, and Julia Child, were pragmatic guides to the culinary arts. While stern, these early celebrity chefs were far from today’s popular image of the raging chef, best exemplified by Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.

During an interview on the web series Hot Ones, in reference to ravioli and copper pans thrown in anger, Ramsay said, “For all those beautiful millennials and snowflakes out there, the more you get pushed, the thicker your skin, the thicker your skin, trust me, the higher you go.”

In Uptown Waterloo’s vegetarian restaurant Jane Bond, kitchen manager Anya Steffler doesn’t believe in running a kitchen with Ramsay’s volatile methods.

“My approach is to be nurturing, and encouraging more of a positive environment because it sucks to go into a workplace where you don’t know if you’re going to be met with hostility or encouragement,” she said in an interview last Friday.

“I wouldn’t want to be scolded for accidentally burning something – it’s not like you ever do it on purpose right?”

In 2015, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published a survey establishing accommodations and food services as the industry with the most illicit drug use in the United States. Steffler believes this is a problem in Canada as well.

“I think this kind of environment breeds a lot of substance abuse issues, which can only contribute to negative traits in the long term,” she said.

For aspiring chefs struggling with the stresses of the kitchen, Steffler’s advice is: “Deep breaths, one thing at a time, and working on your time management is important.” 

Anya Steffler is one of ten nominated for The Record’s Reader’s Choice award for best local chef. Voting is open until Sept. 28 here. Jane Bond is located at 5 Princess St. W., Waterloo.

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