Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Triumph of Principle

We are back in the kitchen. Fortunately, I am still at the helm of the kitchen. I know we took many things for granted. Lessons have been learned and growth has been achieved. I am still very proud of this culinary staff of White Mountain Apaches. We strayed on the path a bit. Nevertheless, we are committed to cultivating an environment of learning and discipline in our kitchen, while producing cuisine based on fundamental culinary principles. We came very close to losing out on some important opportunities in our collective culinary evolution as a team, a crew, or since we are Apaches, our band.

As the chef of this team, I make a commitment to my team and to myself to take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself, to remain a disciplined and committed teacher, and to remain lucid, realistic and sober. I make this commitment public to the world via Internet because I need to honor principles of Apache leadership, honor and integrity.

I learned important lessons over the summer. Reflecting on my path from being a culinary student, a line cook, sous chef, and now executive chef I can see where I have misplaced value. When I was much younger I was fortunate to experience what many take years to accomplish. I liken it to a favorite film of mine, 'The 36 Chambers of Shaolin' where climbing the mountain to the Shaolin Temple to discover the ancient secrets of Kung Fu was the mission. I too, at a young age climbed the culinary mountain to "discover and learn the secrets of the culinary arts" from the masters. Comparing the culinary arts to kung-fu may sound silly to you but a serious cook will understand.

So figuratively speaking, I climbed the mountain to discover the secrets of the culinary arts. It was a difficult journey filled with pleasure, pain, blood, fire and flesh. All this was driven by a fierce and blinding ambition. I had a fascination with the mystique of high level professional cookery or "the cooking of the masters" as some say. I feel is as if I have reached the mountain top only to discover that there were no "secrets" of the culinary arts that masters held. I learned that there were only principles. It was the principles of being a decent human being that defined a great chef!

All this time I had misplaced value and allowed misinformed people/chefs to form my ideals. I had to travel around the world and to the top of the mountain, experience loss and failure in order to appreciate the true value of other people and universal principles of humanity and the culinary arts. Now, with this humbling personal realization of self and my craft, I can see very clearly what is important to me as a chef. We, as Apaches in the Kitchen, hold no Michelin stars, hell we hold no accolades at all. Nevertheless we work toward cultivating an environment that promotes/values work ethic, leadership, integrity, responsibility, organization and discipline. It can honestly be said that we are simply honoring basic human principles. We are honoring and working toward adhering to Apache values that have been present since time immemorial within the Apache way of life.

As a chef, I realize that I searched the world for culinary identity, when all I had to do was look within my own Apache was only then did I see and witness the triumph of principle.

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