Sunday, February 6, 2011

A restaurant as a life of its own. I believe there are "kitchen gods" that work in conjunction with the order of the universe.  Since I have been here, I have been learning so much about my staff and myself. Things never go according to plan and the best thing to do when that happens is to in that situation is to stay calm and do not panic. The WORST (and disheartening) thing an individual can do when the pressure builds is to give up or engage in some other form of self-sabotage. Standing up and admitting that one needs help is more respectful than suffering through something because of stubborn pride is unnecessary. There is power in asking for help.

It is just the nature of professional cooking that one will fail. Failure cannot be avoided. Failure is a fact of this path. Although nobody likes to admit defeat but there is beauty in failing. The most important lessons in cooking (and life) come from failure, but how you deal with it determines much of the remainder of your path and how the "kitchen gods" will look down upon you. One of the most well-known stories of failure is of probably the best known and hands-down-one-of-the-best-chefs-to-ever-walk-the-earth, Thomas Keller. His example of failure in New York City with a restaurant Rakel, changed the trajectory of his career and ultimately his life. Thomas Keller openly talks about this in many of his presentations on professional cooking, business lectures and to his staff I'm sure. Keller's example of persistence despite failure resulted in him opening one of the best restaurants in the world, The French Laundry.

These topics come to mind in this blog entry because I have seen people in my path as a cook struggle, not ask for help, not take advantage of the repeated attempts to identify and remedy issues, only to walk out on their team. There are people who tough it out, buckle down and go above what they are asked to do and shine. The characteristic that enables people to pull through and persevere is, in my mind a very Apache one, tenacity.

To this point there have been no prolific and outstanding Native American Chefs in our culinary history like Keller, Boulud, Ducasse, Point, Careme and Escoffier that completely changed how people looked at food and restaurants. That fact in mind who do we look to as we work toward developing Native Foods? Although we don't have influential "chefs" in Native American history, we do have very influential and very important historical figures in the history of all tribes in America. During very dark periods in Native American History like the Indian Wars, Manifest Destiny and the development of Indian Reservations, common traits to the survival of Apache people were endurance, commitment to the group/camp, responsibility, intense passion, intelligence, adaptation and tenacity.

It is the ingrained and inherited tenacious Apache mindset that works so well in professional cooking. All of those qualities I mentioned are requirements for any cook to succeed on the pathway to becoming a professional cook and eventually a chef. Since we talked about not having important chefs in our history, we do have important characters such as leaders, headmen of clans and families, medicine people, grandparents, elders, hunters and noted individuals in history that fought to preserve what they believed to be of great value for their posterity. Those important tenacious characters in our history are given new life and continue to be remembered in our dishes, our menus, our stories and most importantly in our culinary mindsets.
This is so much more than "just cooking".