Jan 15, 2007 by Chef Michael
It’s been several years since I ran my own restaurant kitchen and I’m often asked what I miss the most. Unlimited foie gras? A full bar at my disposal? Nope. The #1 thing I miss about being a professional chef is the professional dishwasher!
Throughout my twenty-year cooking career, I developed a creative style that relied heavily on somebody else wrangling the dirty pots and pans. Every plate on the menu had at least nine different things on it and each required some kind of pot or pan. With a hundred or more guests a night through the door, the pile in the dish pit looked like a grease bomb exploded. But magically the next morning, they’d be gone.
I took dishwashers for granted – but my Mom didn’t! She used to let me cook with her all the time when I was young. I could make an omelet at age six and pull together a seven-course meal at thirteen. We had so much fun in the kitchen that I didn’t even really notice what happened to the dirty pans.
She proudly watched as I graduated from cooking school and afterwards told me that I wasn’t allowed to cook in her kitchen any more. I wondered why? A few years later, I found myself running one of the top kitchens in Canada and offered to cook anything from the menu for her – but she declined. I then gave her a copy of my new cookbook for Christmas and although she was impressed, she didn’t seem to keen to have me cook anything from it. Why didn’t my Mom want me cooking for her?
Then my son was born. As we came up the walk of my Mom’s house for their first meeting, the door flew wide open and she eagerly greeted us taking a great interest in Gabriel. I wasn’t sure she knew I was there until she turned to me. “Michael,” she said, “What’s for dinner?” I was floored. For fifteen years I hadn’t been allowed to cook in her kitchen, but now I was being invited into it. What happened?
“Michael,” she said, “When you became a professional cook, I knew that if I let you cook dinner that every single pot and pan I owned would get dirty – and I’d have to wash them! Now that you’re a Dad and a home cook you’re welcome to my kitchen anytime.”
And that’s when I got it. You know you’re a professional cook when somebody else washes up for you. In my house, I don’t have a personal dishwasher strolling in around 5:00 each day to clean up, so if you make a mess you clean it up. My cooking style has had to play a bit of catch-up!
I can now cook a multi-course meal for ten, including sauces and veggies, in one pot with one spoon for stirring. Dessert too! Lets just say I’ve learned a thing or two about home cooking. I wonder why?