Do you remember that first moment you fell in love with cooking? Maybe it wasn't an instant revelation. Perhaps the love had always been there or it gradually grew.
Everyone must have had their moment when cooking wasn't simply a task or a necessity to feed yourself. It's like reading an amazing book or watching an incredible movie, and your curiosity is booming at an all time high.
You are captivated, locked in, and the joy swells inside you while chopping vegetables, seasoning a chicken roaster, unwrapping a rack of lamb for the very first time, or touching a piece of Mahi Mahi and knowing it's perfectly cooked.
My love story doesn't include that one magic moment. I fell in love with cooking two summers ago.
I had always been handy and resourceful in the kitchen. I knew recipes, certain culinary basics, and instead of eating out or depending on the dining hall like every other college kid, I nixed my meal plan and cooked for myself. My confidence slowly rose in the kitchen, but I knew little of anything.
I needed a job to earn money for tuition my junior year. I hit the streets in early march to job hunt at the local restaurants in Ocean City, NJ.
With the previous summer's sandwich and salad station experience at hand, I landed a job as a broiler cook in a high-paced popular seafood restaurant. I had never cooked seafood before or worked on a broiler in a restaurant.
Terrifying doesn't even begin the describe my shaken nerves entering that kitchen the first day. Luckily, the head chef Bryan took me under his wing and put me at ease. He taught me everything I know now that goes beyond the necessary skills needed to survive in that seafood kitchen.
That summer I learned how to use chef and filet knives. When September rolled around I loved the fishy smell that stuck to my hands. I could peel, devein, and butterfly 20-30lbs of shrimp a day in no time at all. I didn't fret or internally freak out when the entire line was filled with tickets and the printer wouldn't stop shooting out more orders.
I wished for nights when my oven would be stuffed with 15-20 entrees and I could only depend on the touch of my hand and the quickness of my eyes for fish, lobster tails, or shrimp to be sent on their way to a customer.
In the kitchen I learned to grow and love my third hand, a pair of tongs. I always had a pair of tongs and a dry rag stuck in my hands or around my waist.
I looked forward to those nights where we would pump out 400-500 dinners, lose six pounds from sweating, and feel like I just took a dip in the ocean nearby.
The ultimate cooking high is discovered in a dinner rush when all madness ensues. You lose your mind, get lost in the weeds, and dig yourself out by shoveling entrees in and out of the oven.
I learned about the different types of fish, where they came from, how they tasted. and the various ways to cook the types of fish.
The attraction couldn't be stopped again this last summer. So, I went back for another 3-4 months to live in the kitchen at Spadafora's Seafood Restaurant and Market.
Do you have a moment when you fell in love with cooking? Have you worked in a restaurant kitchen? If yes, then did you enjoy that experience?