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Feel Good Food - A Chef's Perspective on What Makes a Great Kitchen!

Chef Richard Erickson shares his love of the "kitchen way of life" and what makes it so satisfying in this post.

Mary Anne Erickson

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October 15, 2018

People often ask me what 's it like to work in a professional kitchen. Reality TV shows with Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsey and countless others have branded life in kitchens as a perpetual horror show. Angry abusive chefs, hellish working conditions, tension, with pressure and treachery at every turn. As any cook who has spent a lifetime in the kitchen can attest, this can and does exist. It is also just as likely that a kitchen can be a warm, homelike environment full of laughter and commeraderie in the midst of all the hard work.

I first found this to be true in Switzerland where I found work at a hotel as a dish washing/ski bum. I was broke, couldn 't speak the language, alone in a foreign country, and then suddenly I was a part of a team. Far from home, I realized I had found a surrogate family. Respect for others who work hard and do their jobs well is universal. Those who spend long hours together, sharing hard work and meals bond as co-workers in a way that few other workplaces can duplicate. What a feeling! I didn 't know it yet but I was hooked. I now realize that in every restaurant I've worked in since then my goal has been to recreate that feeling of connection. Like any family, there are good times and rough times, but the over-riding feeling is that we are all in this together.

At Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go, employees come to work and after hellos and handshakes all around we get to work. What did you do last night? You saw a movie - how was it? Need time off to go renew your drivers license? We've got you covered! In short, everyone 's contribution is respected and acknowledged. "Please" and "thank you" are thrown around liberally. The dishwasher sings all day, we laugh and joke with the delivery people. People stop by on their days off to check in, recount stories of last night, grab a coffee and say "hi". After my most recent vacation with a bit too much time spent driving, it was a pleasure to get back home - to the kitchen. I confess I haven't watched too many cooking shows lately, but I don 't think this is what they show on reality TV.

I like to think that all this good energy contributes to the quality of our food. Happy people who enjoy what they're doing put an indefinable quality, a shakti as the Hindi's say, into their work. We then share the products of our work (our "feel good food") with the public and get instant gratification for a job well done. It 's a pretty great feeling and I am sure I speak for many in the food service industry when I say "that 's what it 's all about".

Richard Erickson, executive chef / owner, Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go