Never Trust a Skinny Chef. How many times have you heard this one? Well I think it’s nonsense. I can’t tell you how frequently guests jokingly say this to me and I always chuckle but in the back of my mind think the stereotype is extraordinarily ridiculous. Historically speaking, yes, there were a lot of heavy set chefs. There were also a lot of male chefs and very few female chefs so I suppose it would have been just as easy to say never trust a female chef, which also sounds ludicrous. Any stereotype suggesting there is a “supposed to be” in the culinary world, or any world for that matter, rubs me the wrong way. It places unnecessary restrictions and constraints upon what’s normal and doesn’t allow the doors to stay open to anyone with talent, knowledge and the desire to achieve in that world. When it comes to the size of a chef, I can wholeheartedly assure you that size does not matter.
Very early on in my culinary career I read an article about Paul Prudhomme and how he had such difficulty losing weight. He hired a nutritionist to follow him around the kitchen for two weeks. She painstakingly calculated the calories of every sample he ingested and came to the conclusion that despite his not eating much else besides the samples he was consuming, he was ingesting something like 6000 calories per day, far to high for even an adult male of his stature. This was a good lesson to me to curb my sampling and to be mindful of the amount of fat, salt and sugar I am adding to my food. It also was a good lesson in the need for making smart choices in my other meals throughout the day and in the need to exercise to help mitigate the probability of weight gain from sampling. I have been diligent about this from day one so while my weight has fluctuated somewhat, I have never been a big person and have been even more diligent about it of late.
A thin chef indicates two things to me. One, the chef is disciplined. Not only is he/she disciplined in the kitchen, but also as a person. They keep themselves fit, not necessarily because of ego, but because being on your feet for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is difficult work. Not all chefs work those hours but they all spend a lot of time on their feet and in less than ideal conditions. If you are not fit, you will burn out. It’s a young persons game and if you plan on doing this as a career long term, you better take care of yourself and stay fit. End of story.
The second thing it indicates to me is that they are mindful of both portions and of the types of foods they are cooking. In observing what is “normal” in terms of portion sizes in this area I am often horrified by what is considered to be “normal.” I used to try to compete but have since reduced my portions, opting rather to spend more money on quality rather than quantity of food. I still think my portions are more than adequate and in fact quite generous, but not gluttonous. Additionally, I tend to make vegetables the star of a dish more often than not. I think meat is fine and in fact I love a good steak, but I could be just as happy being a vegetarian. Vegetables are infinitely interesting and take a lot of finesse to cook/prepare well. We all know we are supposed to be eating more fruits and veggies and the ability to utilize them well and make them appetizing is tantamount to good health and fitness. This is something I am quite proud of being able to do.
So next time you see a skinny chef, look at it as something positive, a sign that that chef is doing something right. Ultimately it comes down to not judging a book by its cover. Judge it by its content. In the chefs case, judge them by what they produce in the kitchen and send out for their guests to enjoy.