Being humble can be a challenge when you are faced with so much praise. However, accepting that praise and allowing it to get to your head, that is a crucial mistake. In the past, I was fortunate enough to be offered a job as a line cook for a Michelin starred chef. I quit the job after two days, despite repeatedly boasting about how “qualified” and “amazing” of a cook I am. Oh, trust me, I got my ass handed to me in those two days. Day one, I was told that I could not cook because I did not have a ServSafe Food Handler Certification. They had me organize the pantry instead. Oh, and chop up a ton of pickled chili peppers. The pickling liquid seeped into my hands and I could not feel with them for the rest of the week. Day two, they told me my knives were crap, and that I sucked at using my knives on top of that. For me, the last straw was being forced into a back storeroom and being told that I need to organize that stuff because I did not belong in the kitchen whatsoever. I felt like every ounce of my dignity was stripped at that point. Granted, having an inflated ego did not help either. So I quit. I refused to be a part of an operation where the sous chef was treating me like a janitor, despite hiring me on to be a line cook.
But the main lesson here was, had I been more humble, I could have used that experience as a learning opportunity. Yeah, the sous chef was a complete jerk, but I let my ego stand in the way of the operation. I needed to realize that this was what I signed up for, and as an adult, I need to take ownership and responsibility for the tasks assigned to me, no matter how degrading or seemingly irrelevant that they were. Showing that willingness to do anything, no made what it is, that gets you farther in your career or life. Being able to swallow your own pride, and not let your sense of entitlement prevent you from doing things, especially in a hospitality setting, this is how you gain your stripes, so to speak. Yet, I was too arrogant and entitled to realize this. I felt that, because I was hired, that I was some epic cook who was destined to be a chef. Not true, whatsoever. If anything, it was the furthest thing from the truth. Getting hired is nice, but retaining the title and doing well in it, that can only be done by being humble and openminded, which I think are things I tend to stress a lot about in this blog.
Recently, I had just received an offer to work for another famous chef, although I will keep the name anonymous, but will say that if you think about famous New York bakeries, it will narrow it down to maybe three or four names right away, and it is one of those names. The point is, as much as I would love to work for this chef, I have to be humble and realize that I am nowhere near ready to do that. While I could learn so much, at what expense? Their resources, money, and their time? I could be wasting some culinary school’s time instead, and from there, save this famous chef a lot more money. To be perfectly honest, as much as I would love to accept this offer, I know I have a lot more to learn before I could boast that name on my resume. Especially after what had happened with the last chef. Plus, I asked my friend who did have the opportunity to work with this chef, and she told me about how it was run on fear-based management. Because of this, I know I lack the confidence and capability to survive or even operate in such an environment, based on my past experience, where I was constantly told I was garbage until I broke down in the middle of service.
All of the kitchen-related trauma aside, the point of this post was to talk about humility. It is okay to admit that you are not ready to do something, and it is okay to do things that at first might feel demeaning to you, so long as there is a lesson to be learned from it. Never think that something is too beneath you, because that sort of arrogant behavior will ruin your career in a heartbeat. Nobody wants to work for an entitled snob. Ever. Having humility makes you a better worker, leader, and most importantly of all, person, because you had an open mind and it helps you learn from every experience. And being able to take away something from everything, that is what it means to live a featherlight life.