the in-box

Yes, You Are Too Old, and I Don’t Want You in My Kitchen

We recently got a letter from Keith, a 45-year-old reader who hated his job and asked us, “Am I just too old” to become a chef? A number of letters have come in, encouraging the guy in his dream: “On my 62nd birthday,” wrote one, “I retired from a long-time corporate career in risk management to follow my daydream of becoming a cook … and now, three years later, work as a prep cook at Amalia.” But lest Keith get the idea that the cooking world as a whole is filled with love and understanding, here’s a wake-up call from chef Dawn Fornear of Vessel restaurant in Seattle. Fornear writes:

Grub Street
The answer is YES, you are too old to work in a kitchen. I don’t want you if you’re going to complain that your knees hurt, your feet hurt from the concrete floor, that you can’t move fast enough, can’t hear orders called. That you can’t stand to listen to the Mexican death metal that the dishwashers play or the gangsta rap the prep cooks listen to. That you can’t work 80-hour workweeks. That you are too old to remember that you don’t run this kitchen … I don’t give a crap that Bill Buford or Jeffrey Steingarten have romanticized the kitchen. I don’t care that the Food Network has made senior citizens think they can just waltz into a kitchen and start searing foie gras.
Dawn Fornear

Jeez, Chef, that’s harsh! Remind us not to ask you about Santa Claus, or what happens to tired circus animals, anytime soon. We just hope Keith never sees your letter.

Earlier: Am I Too Old to Throw It All Aside and Become a Cook?

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