I’m a top-class chef and it’s not like The Bear on TV: I’ve heard of chefs doing drugs and banning customers who complained about their spaghetti – but our real addiction is to cooking
Disney Plus hit The Bear has captivated streaming audiences, showcasing the chaos of life in a busy restaurant kitchen.
Described as an investigation into the ‘madness of the grind’ and the beautiful ‘sense of urgency’ that runs through kitchens, the show has inspired many viewers to start a career in the notoriously hectic industry.
But how true is it for life? Top pasta chef Roberta d’Elia has been working in kitchens in and around Europe for 20 years.
She’s now head chef at Pasta Evangelists in London and MailOnline asked her to share what life as a chef is really like…
Top pasta chef Roberta d’Elia has been working in kitchens in and around Europe for 20 years
Roberta d’Elia, the chef at Pasta Evangelists in London and MailOnline, asked her to explain what life as a chef is really like
There are many misconceptions about chefs.
Shows like The Bear and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares paint a picture of a kitchen that is often unrealistic.
Never ask a chef if he has seen any of these things. A good chef doesn’t have time to watch TV, he’s in the kitchen.
Chefs are addicted to long hours and hard work. We work ridiculous shifts and are always thinking about food. Cooking is a drug and if you’re not addicted to it, you won’t get far.
I started as a chef twenty years ago and have worked my way up to where I am now learning from the best in the best kitchens in England and Europe.
When I started in the industry it was still dominated by men.
Early in my career, male chefs did not treat women with the same respect in the kitchen. I was given simple jobs and was often put aside. When I asked for help, I was told it was ‘difficult’.
Finally I said, “I’m not asking you how hard it is, I’m asking you how to do it.”
Chef Roberta said the industry was male-dominated when she started
‘Chefs are addicted to long hours and hard work. We work ridiculous shifts and are always thinking about food. Cooking is a drug and if you are not addicted to it you will not get far,” said Roberta d’Elia
If you are a woman and you want to build your career and start a family, it is a very tough job.
I decided to continue my career and give up my family and I am happy with this decision.
I started in Puglia, southern Italy, in a classic Trattoria restaurant and fell in love with pasta.
To be honest, I always think about pasta. Last week on holiday my partner snapped at me and told me to stop because I was talking about what I left in the fridge at the restaurant.
You’d think that after a 60-hour work week you’d want some time without food, but the truth is, none of us can ever really stop – it’s all encompassing.
Chef Roberta started in Puglia, southern Italy, in a classic Trattoria restaurant and then ‘fell in love with pasta’
Chef Roberta said it is an open secret that some chefs rely on medication to get them through busy periods
The pressure is intense and when you work as a team there will be flashpoints.
I can be a bit of a Gordon Ramsay with my team. I’m on my toes, but after every shift we congratulate each other on surviving and thriving. Then we clean up and go again.
We put the pressure on ourselves, but it is also real. If someone else is having a bad day at the office, they forget about it. If we do that, we will ruin someone’s evening and lose a customer.
You can’t lose focus. Not at all.
When you’re a chef, you really don’t want to lose your patience because when you’re patient with food, it really gives you that energy and the strength to keep going.
I’ve never done it or seen it while I’m working, but it’s an open secret in the industry that some chefs use drugs to get through sessions.
I suppose it makes them sharper, but I don’t think they need it. If you need medication to get through work, you’ve already lost the passion, so what’s the point.
That said, we have our limits.
Chef Roberta early in my career, male chefs did not treat women with the same respect in the kitchen. I was given simple jobs and was often put aside
‘Honestly, I always think about pasta. Last week on holiday my partner snapped at me and told me to stop because I was talking about what I had left in the restaurant fridge,” said Chef Roberta
I once worked with a very proud Italian chef, whom I shall not name, who denied a customer at the counter because he asked about his pasta.
It was just a plate of spaghetti and the customer was really, really into it.
Finally he snapped and told him it was just spaghetti pasta but he wouldn’t get one because he was so picky.
It’s easy to explode with our work – like I said, we have our limits.