Of course, this is a two way street.
If you wanted to succeed badly enough, you would show it. You would work harder than anybody else in the kitchen. You would come in early, bust your ass, and then do the work of someone else ranked higher than you in the kitchen, just so you can learn something. You would take notes, write down techniques and recipes, study, and then study some more. In the midst of your chef screaming %$^%@# directly into your ears, you would pay attention, stay focused and not fuck up again (for the rest of the night). You would TAKE IT, LISTEN and LEARN. Then maybe, just maybe, you would earn some respect from your chef. In return, the chef offers you his perspective. When I was coming up as a cook, this was the way...the only way.
So if any young cook wanted to learn and move up in the brigade, it all had to be earned. NOTHING good is ever given.
The following are some of the things that my Chefs and other chefs that I highly respect, have passed down onto me:
"It's all about excellence, or at least working towards excellence. Early on, in your approach to cooking, you have to determine whether or not you are willing to commit fully and completely to the idea of the pursuit of excellence. If you strive like crazy for perfection, an all out assault on total perfection, at the very least, you'll hit a high level of excellence. Then you might be able to sleep at night.
"You have to be so earnestly devoted that if you were any more devoted, it would be perverse, and any less, it would not be enough.
On a cook burning spinach: "You must talk to your food. Did you recognize, did you know how long the farmer had to work with that product, seeing that it grows, watering it, temperature's right, and you as a chef, dare burn that spinach?!""The total respect for food is in your hands."
"In this business, there's only time to learn, work, and make money. You better do a lot of the first two before you think about the money."
"You have to be disciplined. Cooking is an art that requires craftsmenship. You have to be true to your craft to be good."
Although I have lost contact with some of these incredible chefs who have helped shape me as a cook, I just wanted to take a moment and give thanks, my way.
and there are many others...
*A Quick Note*
When I use the word "chef", I am referring to the people I have worked for. In the kitchen, there is only one chef. That is the guy in charge. Often, the word is abused and bastardized. To me, the word has more meaning than someone who just cooks. It is title that is earned. Once I call someone "chef", I will always consider that person to be my chef, my mentor and teacher.