Warning: the following post contains a fair amount of bad language that some may find offensive but it is an accurate representation of life within a professional kitchen. I am a chef and this is who we are – I never said it would be pretty.
In 1987, Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran wrote, ‘one does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland — and no other.’ I believe the same to be true of your profession and that in every job there is a language, jargon and dialect that is only understood by those who work in it. Kitchens are no exception but the language we chefs inhabit just so happens to be the most vile, offensive and testosterone filled language imaginable.
Luckily for most, especially those dining in our restaurants, you will never hear the crap that comes out of the mouths from those who cook. In no other workplace is the ‘c-bomb’ dropped so liberally, as pointed out by one chef to our apprentice, ‘you know you’re learning when you start calling people c***s.’ Beyond those kitchen doors dick jokes, talk of rape and casual racism are the optimum forms of communication. If something gets burnt it is not simply burnt it has ‘gone to Africa.’ If you are struggling and need a hand from one of your colleagues you’ll get the help you need but expect plenty of sarcastic abuse from them, possibly in the form of ‘do you need me to hold your dick and wipe your arse for you as well?’ If there is an attractive waitress on duty you better believe we’ll be talking about how we’d love to screw her when she’s out of earshot.
Sarcasm is also a hallmark of our language. The unrelenting and unsociable work, the heat and the stress usually result in a sarcastic outlook and barrier to the world. Part of your ability as a chef is measured in how well you can put your coworkers down and how well you can take a sarcastic quip. A daily life in a kitchen will expose you to plenty of remarks of your closeted homosexuality, how you are inbred or just plain dumb.
Here are some of the things I have either said or heard in professional kitchens:
‘Yeah I’d finger her if I were single, I’d reckon’
‘Did he shove it up his arse?’
‘Imagine if I just started shitting babies’
‘Because you’ll be furiously masturbating’
‘I like a good tea-bagging’
‘Can I come and perv on you?’
‘If that pigs head were still here I’d put my penis in it’
‘You could serve pube pie and they’d still love it’
‘We’re gangbanging this service lads’
‘She’s got a nice body but I don’t think I’d rape her’
Kitchens are the most un-politically correct environments around but try not to take too much offence from what is said, most of it is bullshit and used in a lighthearted way to make the best of a hard days work. For most that may not be an excuse for the casual racism, sexism and foul language that is bounded round kitchens. That our sarcasm and joking is a source of a problem and that the real world issues of sexism and racism will never be solved simply because idiots like us exist and think it’s funny to call each other a cocksucker. I’m part of that crowd, joking about rape is no joke at all but the language we inhabit becomes part of us and for all its hideous flaws I love the sexual innuendos and abuse found in kitchens. I have worked in crass kitchens and have been educated in leftwing art schools where any homophobic or sexist remarks would be rightly chastised. Idiots will say idiotic things and we chefs simply are idiots but our language is our own and we will live by it. It is summed up best by one of my current work fellows, ‘chefs are wrong, I fucking love it’.