Loving to cook isn’t enough.
That’s what celebrity chef and “Parts Unknown” host Anthony Bourdain tells John Sellers at Thrillist about making it as a chef.
When Sellers asked him about whether the explosion of cooking shows in the past few years has created a “false impression” of working in a kitchen, Bourdain said it was likely.
“… Anybody who goes in laboring under the assumption or thinking it’s going to be easy or glamorous is going to be very, very quickly dissuaded,” he told Thrillist. “They were not going to last. But that was always the case. There are always delusional people who thought it would be a great idea, who decided to ‘follow their passion.’ This was always a lethal instinct. Or almost always a lethal instinct.”
He went on to say that, by 35, “you’re going to be grandpa in the kitchen” doing “physically hard” work and “getting paid sh–, if you’re lucky, for the first few years.”
Bourdain, who just published his newest cookbook, Appetites, continued:
“And if you want to be really good, then you will insist upon getting paid sh–, because what you should be doing is working for somebody really, really good for as close to nothing as they’re willing to give you, in return for the experience.
“So that’s something that I think it would be useful to point out. That if you have a good job, you’re 35 years old, and you think it’s going to be easy, or that you’re going to make a good living, you at least need a realistic picture of what the business is really like before you make a jump or a commitment like that.”
Bourdain, now 59, is one of the few who started from scratch and became an enormous success in the field — and relatively late, at that. The best-selling memoir that led to his becoming a household name, “Kitchen Confidential,” was published in 2000, when he was 44 years old.
“I know the guy who wrote ‘Kitchen Confidential’ very well,” Bourdain told Business Insider in April. “He’s not me anymore. I’m not boiling with rage. I don’t live in this tiny, tunnel-vision world. I had such a limited view of what reality was like outside of the kitchen doors — I had no clue! I never lived with normal people. I lived in the restaurant universe for my entire adult life. I’m no longer the star of the movie. At all. That’s it! It’s a huge relief in a lot of ways.”
He knows that he’s the exception to the rule, as a chef who started in the kitchen and has become a celebrity. “I work really hard to not ever think about my place in the world,” he told Business Insider. “I’m aware of my good fortune.”
He continued to Thrillist:
“I mean, I admire anyone who wants to cook and knowingly enters the field. It’s a hard thing. But, you know, look before you leap. Because I’ve seen that so many times, kids coming out of cooking school and working in my kitchens, and literally two weeks in, you see it. You look behind the line, and you can just see the dream die. This terrible information sinking in, like, “Oh my God, this is nothing like they told me it was going to be.”
That might be in part because, as he said, there’s very little romance in becoming a professional chef. “The true god of the restaurant business, of professional cooking, is not brilliance and creativity,” he told Thrillist. “It’s consistency.”
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