MYTHILO Vol. 15 // COOKING IS PASSION! COOKING IS PAIN!
When moving house, many people worry about the basement, because the basement is the only room where not only the square meters but also the cubic meters are completely packed up. I, on the other hand, don't worry about the cellar. For me it's the kitchen, because I love cooking and that needs space. A lot of space!
Why is that? What attracts me to cooking and why am I fascinated by people who devote their lives to cooking?
Cooking is an incredibly creative activity and offers endless potential for self-realisation. The spectrum is huge and ranges from certified organic haggis from home-raised sheeps to lacto-vegan molecular cuisine. The sky is the limit!
Cooking not only encourages creativity and allows you to express your way of life, but it is also enormously versatile. In addition to shopping at dawn and days of preparation, it also involves arranging the food. Just as a Rembrandt belongs in a baroque picture frame, the remoulade needs its matching plate to taste good.
In everyday life, however, this attitude to cooking is not very common. I often look into astonished faces when I say that I cook every day. I can literally see big question marks rising in the other person's head, like air bubbles in boiling pasta water.
But I take it as a compliment and think: You have no idea! There are lots of crazy cooking fanatics out there. You just don't know and don't see them because they sleep during the day and only come to life at night in a haze of frying fat. Kitchen zombies who, like Frankenstein, have a good heart but turn into creative beasts at night out of isolation and misunderstanding.
Even if many top chefs boast about it; Zen Buddhism and mindfulness can be found in cookbooks but certainly not in the restaurant kitchen. For example, the word "please" is used exclusively by the serving staff. However, if you enter the competitive cooking arena, you'd better not use this word - unless you want to spend the first two years of your apprenticeship peeling rhubarb and asparagus. Top gastronomy and large kitchens are no place to show weakness, because the daily stress does not allow for polite phrases. There is swearing and shouting.
Cooking is a matter for the boss and - as is so common in dictatorships - it's not too much fun. There are even celebrated Michelin-starred chefs who are said to have beaten employees to hospital. But usually non-verbal communication is enough: a glance or a finger pointing at the damask knife, the nutcracker, or the lobster tongs. Sounds like a torture chamber to you? No, THAT is restaurant cooking!
Only someone who has worked in a kitchen can understand that. You must be born a cook. As a normal person you will hardly survive the madhouse (restaurant kitchen), especially as there are sharp knives and meat hammers lying around everywhere. You think I'm exaggerating?
You think you know the chefs from TV? I can pretty much tell you how they react as soon as they put on their cooking crown:
If, for example, as an apprentice to Christian Lohse (Fischers Fritz ,Hotel Regent, Berlin) you accidentally sear a bluefin tuna "well done", you will certainly not hear "Well done!" from him. Rather, Germany's fish competence made flesh would turn into a piranha and turn you into fish food. That's how it works in the wild sea and in Lohse's wild fish kitchen.
Perfection and aggression can also be found outside restaurants, where you are served an almond half filled with salmon mousse for the price of a Rolex. Traditional cuisine is just as driven by cooking perfection and its collateral damage. The best example of this is Frank Rosin - the chef from the Ruhr area - whose currywurst tastes good even without liquid nitrogen and potato caviar. Even if you like to laugh at his jokes on TV - believe me: if he doesn't like your sausage, he'll put you through a meat grinder. After that you have to collect yourself...and leave.
Then there's Tim Mälzer, who once said in an interview that he doesn't do anything to earn money, but simply does what he feels like doing. So, he has a place in my heart forever. But beware: we are talking about my heart here. Don't be fooled, because when the soufflé in your second year at the Bullerei collapses in front of his eyes like a hot air balloon flying over a shooting range, believe me, he'll be ready to load his magazine with insults and riddle you with them so that tears flow from your every pore.
The Swiss chef Meta Hiltebrand will also put a lot of pressure. After all, she has one thing in common with my pressure cooker: they both have a red top. So, you would be well advised to keep to the timing in your kitchen and monitor the temperatures. No one wants the pressure cooker or Meta to explode, but should you have a bad day in the kitchen and a fairy godmother leaves you the choice of what to blow up: choose the cooker, otherwise you'll only be cooking in the Metaverse for the next few years.
Yes, and then there's Rambo Ramsey, who with his hot temper - and we're talking about a Beefer grill here, not sous-vide - has already been charged with assault because he couldn't agree with a kitchen employee on the correct preparation of banana parfait... I always thought an apple had driven us out of paradise? Adam, Eve and a banana sounds weird to me and not very Christian, does it? Anyway...
If you love desserts like I do, you know that the best always comes at the end.
All the anguished sweat, all the bitter tears and splashes of blood notwithstanding: they all don't do it out of malice. On the contrary: they do it because they love food and cooking so much, they do it because they love their guests and are masters of their trade. Finally, they do it to justify their high prices to gourmets, celebrities, and food critics. Quality has its price and I know of no profession that takes this to heart more than chefs.
The Ramsey's, Mälzer's, Hiltebrand's, Rosin's and Lohse's of this world, are creative masterminds that always look beyond. In the kitchen, however, their focus is precisely on the plate and if you then slap the polenta onto the plate from a height of 30 cm, you get a good slap. A well-deserved slap for the love of cooking and perfection. I have the utmost understanding for this!
Chefs identify with their work like no other professional group. They demand iron discipline from their cooking staff and golden credit cards from their guests. Who else do you think pays for the compensation for missing fingertips that your chef had to cut off because you have to be told everything twice? So once again: The beef fillet core temperature medium is 56 to 59 °C. Just as the cat has nine lives, you have nine fingers left. So, you better remember it!
Cooking is 100% passion, 100% perfection, 100% art...and 100% madness!
I could go on forever about the fascination of cooking and chefs, but I must get back to the kitchen and concentrate: "Fugu wa kuitashi, inochi wa oshishi". In English: "I want to eat fugu, but I am attached to my life." So, I have to stop at this point, because otherwise this will be my last article for MYTHILO magazine and nobody wants that.
But what am I worrying about? You're probably happy that the alphabet soup has been spooned up and you'll soon be able to open the door to the pizza delivery boy. To each his own, but please don't let it be Pizza Hawaii!
A personal note: I don't think I made career with my former employers because instead of judging my performance, they spent years shooting their mouths off about me diluting my coffee with cold water. To all my former work colleagues and bosses!
EAT THIS: Tim Mälzer does it too!