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ChefCarey

My agent,

by ChefCarey » Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:04 am

after browbeating me for the past couple of months, finally decided I had enough of a book done to send it to a few publishers.

So, I had to write an introduction. Since most of you here will be among my audience, I am interested in your reactions. The name of the book is "Why I Cook."

Introduction


Simply put, I cooked initially because I love to eat and, it seemed to me a completely harmless manner in which to exercise my creativity, provide a valuable service for the species and, at the same time, earn a living. Although I lived among them and called many friends, I never was a hippie. I grew the hair, did many of the same drugs, but I never had a sense of belonging. I don’t think any of us who were in Vietnam could completely buy into the idea that the world could be saved with peace and love and drugs. And many of the hippies were very leery of us combat veterans. We might be baby killers.

I did, though, subscribe to many of the tenets of the flower children. We shared a belief in the benefits of growing and eating natural food in an era when large food service corporations were cranking out a new processed food every nanosecond and fast food joints were replacing local eateries at the rate of dozens per day. Self-medication could be a good thing. Large corporations were inherently bad for the species. Politicians are just no damn good. Equal rights are a good thing. Ending the Vietnam War was a good thing.

Small is good, Grassroots are good. Local is good. But, there was something missing in the hippies. They had not seen enough of life.

As in any age of human existence, true believers abounded. I had waiters, cooks and musicians who were suckers for the latest movement. Organizations like EST (Erhard Seminars Training) and Scientology fought for the right to control the gullible and rootless. For every one of these movements that survived there were a hundred that rounded up feckless flower children and herded them off to a commune somewhere where they could work on them in isolation. Sometimes the results were disastrous, as with Charles Manson. But, most often they just died from the gradual erosive effect of close-quarter cohabitation and no notable improvement in the general quality of the species because of their efforts.

I decided to cook because it seemed to me to that, as a nation, we were getting off track. Fewer and fewer of us were working with our hands. Hell, I was a fucking snob about tradesmen when I was an undergraduate. I was an idiot. Vietnam was more mind-altering to me than any of the thousands of drugs I took. Although I came very close to leaving this country rather than go to war, I, ultimately, went to Vietnam voluntarily because I wanted to see for myself what war was all about. It stripped me naked. I met lots of different people with lots of different backgrounds and possessing a myriad of skillsets. And although I saw the closest thing to hell on earth, I saw the good in the species in the Vietnamese who had survived thousands of years of war and occupation upon occupation. And in the GI’s who felt much more empathy for those Vietnamese than you might imagine. I became aware of the truth in simplicity, a simple thing done well. The creativity and inventiveness involved in making daily life bearable. Getting through a day without harming another. Learning to trust those beside you in the trench. These traits are essential in the professional kitchen. Living creatively in an environment designed to test the human spirit. Keeping on, keeping on. Back "in the world" we were becoming a nation of non-producing, consuming morons.

My life as a cook got a lot more complicated than I could ever have envisioned.

Here I trace my careening path from New Orleans to Indiana, New York, Chicago, Vietnam, Europe, Memphis and California, noting what I learned along the way, including all the character flaws, stumbles and pratfalls. Eventually, I became a damn good cook. And I think, ultimately, that’s even more important to me than being a good chef.

As we wend our way, I make frequent mention of music and films. And politics and history as I lived it. This is not serendipitous. To me they are the diegesis to my narrative, an essential element to an understanding of what was going on. Try to hear the music and visualize the films as you read. This was the landscape for my life. The politics will be harder to understand as many of the issues are not yet resolved.

Nearly my entire adult life has been devoted to cooking or teaching cooking and I continue to do both and will as long as I can remain upright. But, the hardest working among us do not spend 24 hours per day in the kitchen. I hope my story will enlighten you as to what the life of a chef really entails and flesh out the cardboard cutout of a guy in a white coat and gros bonnet, as well as open your eyes about the many routes one may take to arrive at the point where you are called "chef."

One of the most common questions from my students over the years was, "How will I know when I am a chef?"

The answer is simple. You are a chef the first time a line cook begins talking to you and places the word "Chef" at the beginning of the sentence. You have been permanently imprinted. You have arrived.
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Stuart Yaniger

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Re: My agent,

by Stuart Yaniger » Mon Jan 22, 2007 12:55 pm

Never ask me a question unless you want an answer.

Organizations like EST (Erhard Seminars Training) and Scientology fought for the right to control the gullible and rootless.


Completely true and completely likely to get you sued. The Scientology folks are vicious and litigious.

You touch on something I think is ultra-important, but seem to skip past it- the difference between a cook and a chef.
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Re: My agent,

by Howie Hart » Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:20 pm

I copied your text to MSWord and edited it, making corrections that I felt were appropriate. Your original had a few grammatical errors - most noteably, phrases that are not true sentences (subject, but no verb). I put in colons and semi-colons in a few of these. One thing I did not do, but would suggest, is that you put two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence. It just separates the sentences for easier readibility and looks a bit nicer. Personally, I don't think the word "fucking" is appropriate in a book intro.

Introduction


Simply put, I cooked initially because I love to eat and, it seemed to me a completely harmless manner in which to exercise my creativity, provide a valuable service for the species and, at the same time, earn a living. Although I lived among them and called many friends, I never was a hippie. I grew the hair, did many of the same drugs, but I never had a sense of belonging. I don’t think any of us who were in Vietnam could completely buy into the idea that the world could be saved with peace and love and drugs. And many of the hippies were very leery of us combat veterans. We might be baby killers.

I did, though, subscribe to many of the tenets of the flower children. We shared a belief in the benefits of growing and eating natural food in an era when large food service corporations were cranking out a new processed food every nanosecond and fast food joints were replacing local eateries at the rate of dozens per day. Self-medication could be a good thing. Large corporations were inherently bad for the species. Politicians are just no damn good. Equal rights are a good thing. Ending the Vietnam War was a good thing.

Small is good. Grassroots are good. Local is good. But, there was something missing in the hippies. They had not seen enough of life.

As in any age of human existence, true believers abounded. I had waiters, cooks and musicians who were suckers for the latest movement. Organizations like EST (Erhard Seminars Training) and Scientology fought for the right to control the gullible and rootless. For every one of these movements that survived there were a hundred that rounded up feckless flower children and herded them off to a commune somewhere where they could work on them in isolation. Sometimes the results were disastrous, as with Charles Manson. But, most often they just died from the gradual erosive effect of close-quarter cohabitation and no notable improvement in the general quality of the species because of their efforts.

I decided to cook because it seemed to me to that, as a nation, we were getting off track. Fewer and fewer of us were working with our hands. Hell, I was a fucking snob about tradesmen when I was an undergraduate. I was an idiot. Vietnam was more mind-altering to me than any of the thousands of drugs I took. Although I came very close to leaving this country rather than go to war, I ultimately went to Vietnam voluntarily because I wanted to see for myself what war was all about. It stripped me naked. I met lots of different people with lots of different backgrounds and possessing a myriad of skillsets. Although I saw the closest thing to hell on earth, I saw the good in the species in the Vietnamese who had survived thousands of years of war and occupation upon occupation and in the GI’s who felt much more empathy for those Vietnamese than you might imagine. I became aware of the truth in simplicity: a simple thing done well; the creativity and inventiveness involved in making daily life bearable; getting through a day without harming another; learning to trust those beside you in the trench. These traits are essential in the professional kitchen. To live creatively in an environment designed to test the human spirit: Keeping on! keeping on! Back "in the world" we were becoming a nation of non-producing, consuming morons.

My life as a cook got a lot more complicated than I could ever have envisioned.

Here I trace my careening path from New Orleans to Indiana, New York, Chicago, Vietnam, Europe, Memphis and California, noting what I learned along the way, including all the character flaws, stumbles and pratfalls. Eventually, I became a damn good cook. And I think, ultimately, that’s even more important to me than being a good chef.

As we wend our way, I make frequent mention of music and films, and politics and history as I lived it. This is not serendipitous. To me they are the diegesis to my narrative, an essential element to an understanding of what was going on. Try to hear the music and visualize the films as you read. This was the landscape for my life. The politics will be harder to understand as many of the issues are not yet resolved.

Nearly my entire adult life has been devoted to cooking or teaching cooking. I continue to do both and will as long as I can remain upright. But, the hardest working among us do not spend 24 hours per day in the kitchen. I hope my story will enlighten you as to what the life of a chef really entails and flesh out the cardboard cutout of a guy in a white coat and gros bonnet, as well as open your eyes about the many routes one may take to arrive at the point where you are called "chef."

One of the most common questions from my students over the years was, "How will I know when I am a chef?"

The answer is simple. You are a chef the first time a line cook begins talking to you and places the word "Chef" at the beginning of the sentence. You have been permanently imprinted. You have arrived.
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Mike Filigenzi

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Re: My agent,

by Mike Filigenzi » Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:44 pm

Agree with Stuart regarding the Scientologists. They aren't known for taking such references lightly.

Regarding Howie's thoughts on the language, I guess it depends on the book. We're looking at an autobiography here, I assume? If so, then I think it's fine to keep the "fucking". IMO, such books should give an accurate representation of their subject and the intro where you begin that process. If some colorful (albeit profane) language helps the reader get a better picture of who you are, then my vote would be for leaving it in. There's a chance that someone browsing the intro in a bookstore might take minor offense and put the book back on the shelf, but these days I think that's not too much of a problem. If the book is not an autobiography, then I might agree with Howie.

Sounds like a fun book!

Mike
"People who love to eat are always the best people"

- Julia Child
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Re: My agent,

by ChefCarey » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:15 pm

Stuart Yaniger wrote:Never ask me a question unless you want an answer.

Organizations like EST (Erhard Seminars Training) and Scientology fought for the right to control the gullible and rootless.


Completely true and completely likely to get you sued. The Scientology folks are vicious and litigious.

You touch on something I think is ultra-important, but seem to skip past it- the difference between a cook and a chef.


I get into this in the book. And, yes, I did want and appreciate responses.
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Re: My agent,

by ChefCarey » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:21 pm

Thanks a lot, Howie. I am truly appreciative of the time and effort you put in here.

Yes, I tend to write in a very conversational manner. Sentence fragments. :)

As to the copulatory reference. If a person is offended by that one word in my intro, then this ain't the book for them.
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Re: My agent,

by ChefCarey » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:22 pm

Thanks, Mike. Yes, it is an autobiography - of sorts. :)
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Re: My agent,

by Bob Ross » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:28 pm

Chef, I'll take a look at this again after you respond to Howie's points. In the meantime, I wonder about using the word "diegesis".

Currently, the word seems to indicate a fictional setting; see the OED, for example: "The narrative presented by a cinematographic film or literary work; the fictional time, place, characters, and events which constitute the universe of the narrative."

The word is slippery and has other connotations, of course, but your story seems based on fact.

More anon.
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Re: My agent,

by ChefCarey » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:38 pm

Bob Ross wrote:Chef, I'll take a look at this again after you respond to Howie's points. In the meantime, I wonder about using the word "diegesis".

Currently, the word seems to indicate a fictional setting; see the OED, for example: "The narrative presented by a cinematographic film or literary work; the fictional time, place, characters, and events which constitute the universe of the narrative."

The word is slippery and has other connotations, of course, but your story seems based on fact.

More anon.


I don't think the word itself carries any implication of fact or fiction.

To me diegesis means the ambient background, atmosphere, if you will, an ongoing environment, atop which the narrative is laid. While it ostensibly has nothing to do with the narrative, the actual telling of the story, it does enhance the story being told. In a film like "The Big Chill," for instance, the film would have been hollow without the music.
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Re: My agent,

by Bob Ross » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:53 pm

"The Big Chill" was fiction based, Chef. The music is important in movies -- do you plan a CD to accompany the book?

Might be an interesting idea -- certainly technically possible these days.
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Re: My agent,

by ChefCarey » Mon Jan 22, 2007 7:13 pm

Bob Ross wrote:"The Big Chill" was fiction based, Chef. The music is important in movies -- do you plan a CD to accompany the book?

Might be an interesting idea -- certainly technically possible these days.


The CD is a great idea, but I doubt I could get a publisher who would risk it.

Here is something I just found on Wikipedia.

"However, the author may include elements which are not intended for the primary narrative, such as stories within stories; characters and events that may be referred to elsewhere or in historical contexts and that are therefore outside the main story and are thus presented in an extradiegetic situation."

Makes me wanna take an extra analgesic.
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Re: My agent,

by Bob Ross » Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:31 am

I read that entry before posting, Chef, and it would take more than an extra analgesic to help me parse through and make sense of it all.
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Re: My agent,

by Martha Mc » Tue Jan 23, 2007 11:39 am

ChefCarey wrote:As to the copulatory reference. If a person is offended by that one word in my intro, then this ain't the book for them.


I'm thinking I remember seeing some of the 4-letter words in some of Anthony Bourdain's intros. I have to admit I do find them jarring and distracting. However, I would consider the "copulatory reference" offensive if you were directing it towards someone else. Since you are using it introspectively, it shows more that you are getting to be a softy in your old age. No anatomical reference implied, but rather to your soft-hearted, thoughtful and considerate frame of mind these days! (I was a pretty much a "copulatory" idiot in my youth, too!)
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Re: My agent,

by ChefCarey » Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:05 pm

Martha Mc wrote:
ChefCarey wrote:As to the copulatory reference. If a person is offended by that one word in my intro, then this ain't the book for them.


I'm thinking I remember seeing some of the 4-letter words in some of Anthony Bourdain's intros. I have to admit I do find them jarring and distracting. However, I would consider the "copulatory reference" offensive if you were directing it towards someone else. Since you are using it introspectively, it shows more that you are getting to be a softy in your old age. No anatomical reference implied, but rather to your soft-hearted, thoughtful and considerate frame of mind these days! (I was a pretty much a "copulatory" idiot in my youth, too!)


I will admit to wanting to jar occasionally, but distract? Never! I don't know that I am softening so much as feeling more familiar, and even comfortable, with our species than when I was an abysmally arrogant and ignorant youth.

Thanks for the observation, Martha. :wink:

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