So why do I want to be a Chef?

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“There are some people in the world who say that writing stories,
or composing music or dancing sparkly dances is easy for them.
Nothing interferes with their ability to create.
While I celebrate their creative freedom,
a little part of me just wants to punch those motherf*ckers in the teeth.” – [Title of Show]

So why am I doing this? I had a great job. Earning decent money, for someone my age. In the industry I want to be in. I was fulfilled and was really in control of where my career was going. I’m also lucky enough to be in, pretty much, peak health. I didn’t hate my boss. My flatmate is quite sound and I have a girlfriend who seems to enjoy being around me for some reason. I don’t really display any of the usual traits of someone who quits their job in order to go and learn how to make cupcakes and julienne carrots. But that is exactly what I am doing on this chilly January eve.

It all dates back to my college days. I was studying a degree I had less than no interest in. It would actually have taken a lot of effort to be less engaged in what was being taught to me on a daily basis. I dropped out of college to do of all things, Theatre. So far, so standard right? Well after leaving UCD with delusions of theatrical grandeur I realised I would need gainful employment. I had been working with an event management company for a while so I ramped that up to full time and went hell for leather into it. A year and a half later I had gotten no-where with the theatre thing, on account of not being particularly good, and started to consider the whole “food” thing a tangible possibility.

I started cooking when I was about eleven or twelve. Party as my Dad made me help him chop things whenever he was cooking and partly as my Uncle used to be a Chef and I idolised him in a style that would later become known as “fangirling.” I took to it fairly quickly. Picking up bits and pieces of information from family, books, tv, a detritus of newspaper clippings and no small amount of making shit up. This all started to snowball at around age sixteen as I realised that girls like boys who can cook. As a shy sixteen year old, you can imagine the things my brain did with this information.

When I started taking the food industry seriously as a career idea I was bouncing between restaurants for a long time. All the while working my way slowly up the ladder to management. The turning point came when I was a supervisor in a truly awful hotel restaurant. This was the kick I need and eventually landed the dream gig, managing a small, student focused, fast food place in Dublin City Centre. It could not have been more perfect. And that is where I have been politely hiding myself away for the last few years. Slowly working away on my cooking skills as I blog about all of my culinary misadventures.

I knew it wasn’t quite right though. I loved serving the food and seeing the customers and working with the front of house staff. But I wanted to be in the kitchens. I wanted to start getting my hands dirty in sink fulls of fresh potatoes. I wanted to start expertly hacking up a side of Angus Beef. I wanted to start foraging for my own herbs. I wanted to start making stocks and sauces. I wanted to surround myself with food. To immerse myself in the world of feeding people. So that is what I am doing. Learning how to feed people.

I have always known that certain decisions and actions in ones life can only really be understood in retrospect. You do a stupid thing for some unknown reason at the time only to realise years later that your “gut instinct” occasionally has massive fits of incredibly accurate precognition. I left the dream job. Near bankrupted myself. Put mine and my flatmates apartment in danger. And taken on more work than I can possibly manage. I just hope my gut is on to a winner with this “Chef” thing. Time will tell, or make fools of us all.

I’m scared.

Lets do this.

~ Mark O’Brien

13 comments

  1. We’ll discuss ‘putting mine and my flatmates apartment in danger’ at a later date. This is a brave step and it was not a decision to be made lightly. Let me ask some of the questions that I think some people might have –

    First, how did you know the Cooks Academy was the right place for you?

    Second, after approaching them, what were the steps you went through in terms of decision making and then execution to get to this blog post?

    Third, you mentioned you wrote about food. Do you intend to post links to that blog on this one? What kind of food do you blog about?

    Fourth, you mentioned that ‘student based’ was the perfect environment for you. Is this something you would like to move forward with in life, or would you prefer to move into a different avenue?

    Fifth – finances. Obviously you have taken a huge risk and all going well, it will pay off. How did you come to the decision to go ahead when everyday people seem to feel the credit crunch tightening?

    Great post!

  2. Good Luck Mark. I did the same course a few years ago and love every minute of it. You certainly will be kept very busy but you’ll learn so much. You’re in great hands and your creativity will soar. Looking forward to hearing more.

  3. I’ve been a follower of “Come Dine With Mark” for months now and I really love your work. Well done for taking the plunge and taking your craft to the next level!

  4. takes guts to decide that something isnt for you and start something new. I have alot of respect for that. People stuck in the same job/occupation simple because they were taught it’s a good job or what it is what is expected of you, end up dissatisfied with their life. -> for a little inspiration check out suli breaks, “The American’t Dream”

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