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andrewB

Smoking chefs

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Andrew, I am very interested in this topic, too, and asked culinary professionals who are members here if they smoked. FYI, here's what was said a couple of years ago: Chefs, Cooks & Cigarettes.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Thankfully gone are the days of stirring the soup pot with a butt dangling from the cooks lips

I did a dining room stage last month at an old school restaurant here in Detroit that recently (a few years ago) won the Restaurant of the Year in the local upscale magazine. Walked into the kitchen at about 8:30 and saw the exec. chef on the line calling out orders in the middle of the rush with a marlboro hanging out of his mouth. Incidentally the Maitre D' interviewed me the day before while standing above me and smoking as I sat in a chair and answered his questions. Probably should have noticed the red flag blowing in my face.


Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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Some years ago, my mother and I both noticed how salty restaurant food is and have remarked on it ever since. Now that I think about it, this is around the time when we both quit smoking. I wonder if smoking is one of the reasons why restaurant food is so salty?

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I recently quit the same way Toby has- Chantix (it works) and behavior modification. It's been right around four months. My general attitude toward life has improved as a result; whether this will have a lasting effect on my palate remains to be seen.

I haven't noticed much of a change in my own experience of "restaurant food." It's been (and stayed) like this: whatever it is I'm eating, I like my food to taste like itself. Some things just need more salt than others toward that end. I have no problem tasting salt in a dish, but it does frustrate me when the discretion required to properly season one or two components of a plate isn't realized, especially in an upmarket place.

Habitual, aggressive-defensive oversalting is a problem, however. It remains far more worrisome to me than either chronic undersalting or unwitting/overenthusiastic oversalting is. I know it when I taste it, as I expect most of us do. I'll stay out of the realm of conjecture, as it (demonstrably) may or may not have to do with cigarette smoking, and merely say I'm glad I've encountered it infrequently in my professional experience, as the accompanying contentiousness (in 100% of the cases I've observed) is no good for nobody.


"What was good enough yesterday may not be good enough today." - Thomas Keller

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Some years ago, my mother and I both noticed how salty restaurant food is and have remarked on it ever since.  Now that I think about it, this is around the time when we both quit smoking.  I wonder if smoking is one of the reasons why restaurant food is so salty?

There's an interesting exchange w/ Anthony Bourdain on-topic in this past weekend's "The Onion", full text online here: http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/anthony_bourdain,

and excerpted by me, below:

...

AVC: Do you ever feel like your sense of taste or smell was diminished by your drug use?

AB: Who knows? I think, technically, male palates start to decline very early anyway, around 27 or 28. That's what God made salt for.

AVC: Do you feel like your smoking has affected it?

AB: Oh, I'm sure it has. But most chefs smoke. I always love reading on the foodie blogs, these complete idiots who say, "I would never eat food made for me by a smoker." Listen, asshole: You've been eating food made by smokers your whole fucking life. Most of the three-star chefs—at least half of them—smoke.

...

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Listen, asshole: You've been eating food made by smokers your whole fucking life. Most of the three-star chefs—at least half of them—smoke.

...

I wonder why that smoking ratio is so out of proportion to the rest of the population. Is there a cause and effect? I cook. Would smoking make me a better cook?

* tongue in cheek *


Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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I use to smoke and there is a very big difference in how food taste. Even to the this day, if I want a break at work I go out with the smokers. I did that so much everyone just thought I smoked and was shocked to find out I didn't...


"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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While I think we can all agree that smoking is a pretty gross habit, I don't particularly care if the chef preparing my food is a smoker. As long as they're not putting out their butts in the bourguignon, i could care less


a very hungry college kid

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I have know of people who take up smoking when they started cooking, just for the breaks.  You would be laughed at if you said "Hey guys I'm going to sit down for five min."  Where, "I'm going for a butt", Seems fine.

Yeah, how true. And it's pissed me off for decades. I'm not a smoker and if I wanted to sit down with a cookbook, any book or newspaper for 5 or 10 minutes I'd get seriously reamed. BUT..if I would have been taking a smoke break, even in the middle of service, that would have been mighty fine.

Thank god the day came that I was the one running the kitchens I eventually worked in. Smokers did NOT get more breaks than anyone else. I had to sack one guy because he couldn't go more than 30 minutes without a smoke break. It was pissing even the other smokers off!

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Younger chefs in today's kitchen smoke far less.  Kitchens run by old-school-ish chefs smoke more.  It's a direct reflection of smoking in society in general.  You'd be surprised to learn how many of what we regard as the most precise and refined palates in the country also are laden with smoke regularly.  Doesn't SEEM to have much of an effect that I can detect -- though I just find nasty on a hygenic level.

Really? Like who? I know alot of well Known chefs and none of them smoke.

Thank the lord!

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I have know of people who take up smoking when they started cooking, just for the breaks.  You would be laughed at if you said "Hey guys I'm going to sit down for five min."  Where, "I'm going for a butt", Seems fine.

Same applies to front of house, I'm asked "can you watch my section while I grab a smoke ?" so often that I've now started asking neighbouring servers "Can you watch my section while I stand outside and do nothing productive for 5 minutes ?" just to see their reaction.

On topic I know many cooks who smoke but very few chef/sous chefs who do.


''Wine is a beverage to enjoy with your meal, with good conversation, if it's too expensive all you talk about is the wine.'' Bill Bowers - The Captain's Tavern, Miami

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Any job that requires long hours of tedious and high pressure work has a higher percentage of smokers, in my observance. I work on equipment from banks to hospitals and every where in between. Factory type work, nurses, oil field workers, mechanics, cooks, welders, and anywhere the hours are not 9-5, high stress levels, and repetitious tasks are involved, people smoke. It's a break from the day.

Plus all the cool kids are doing it. I seriously doubt that Ramsey smokes as referenced upthread though, I've seen a couple of his BBC Kitchen Nightmares shows where he reams someone mercilessly for smoking. Well, not so much for smoking but for wanting the break. He's an ex-jock, I would have trouble believing him as a smoker. Batali's voice sounds like a rumbling Vesuvius, Flay has trouble with anything less than 10,000 on the Scoville scale, and we all know about Bourdain.

eta: The economic thing brought up earlier I think may have something to do with my first paragraph there. Skilled, highly-paid employees are usually not doing mundane tasks over and over. Plus they usually have a desk where they can sit for a couple of minutes and pretend to be looking for something when they needed a break.


Edited by FistFullaRoux (log)

Screw it. It's a Butterball.

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Plus all the cool kids are doing it.  I seriously doubt that Ramsey smokes as referenced upthread though, I've seen a couple of his BBC Kitchen Nightmares shows where he reams someone mercilessly for smoking. Well, not so much for smoking but for wanting the break. He's an ex-jock, I would have trouble believing him as a smoker. Batali's voice sounds like a rumbling Vesuvius, Flay has trouble with anything less than 10,000 on the Scoville scale, and we all know about Bourdain.

Don't know about the others, but Bourdain quit (or so he said in a short interview for Time Magazine...or was it Newsweek?). He's not cooking professionally anymore (as far as I know), though, so perhaps he doesn't count?

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Plus all the cool kids are doing it.  I seriously doubt that Ramsey smokes as referenced upthread though, I've seen a couple of his BBC Kitchen Nightmares shows where he reams someone mercilessly for smoking. Well, not so much for smoking but for wanting the break. He's an ex-jock, I would have trouble believing him as a smoker. Batali's voice sounds like a rumbling Vesuvius, Flay has trouble with anything less than 10,000 on the Scoville scale, and we all know about Bourdain.

Don't know about the others, but Bourdain quit (or so he said in a short interview for Time Magazine...or was it Newsweek?). He's not cooking professionally anymore (as far as I know), though, so perhaps he doesn't count?

Well, I meant that Bourdain was doing far more than smoking cigarettes, though he may have quit now. Something tells me that he was smoking at least as long as he's been cooking. And I remember seeing one episode of Cook's Tour (Or was it NR?) that he did take his turn on the line, I believe with a lemoncello at arm's reach, remarking that it felt good to be able to run with the young dogs still.


Screw it. It's a Butterball.

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He mentioned back in Nov. at a book signing that he quit because of "a set of seven month old lungs in the house" in a voice still yearning for a Marlboro.


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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A short while before the onset of the millennium I did major series of articles about the great chefs, winemakers, restaurant critics and wine critics of the 20th century. Of the 92 people on the various lists 78 smoked and most of those smoked more than 20 cigarettes daily. That did not stop them from being great chefs, winemakers or critics!

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A short while before the onset of the millennium I did major series of articles about the great chefs, winemakers, restaurant critics  and wine critics of the 20th century.  Of the 92 people on the various lists 78 smoked and most of those smoked more than 20 cigarettes daily.  That did not stop them from being great chefs, winemakers or critics!

Hmmmn, not for nothing, but since these are people with professional palettes, I wonder what brand of cigarettes they smoke. Are they as discriminating with the taste of their smoke as they are with the taste of their food and wine? Are they smoking Sobranie Black Russian cigarettes? Do they roll their own from fine, carefully-selected tobaccos?


"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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I quit three years ago. I can't say for sure how it has affected my palette but my nose works way better than it used to! A good dinner starts when I walk in the door and notice the aromas wafting around ( usually :wink: )

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Smoking chefs are VERY common. Where I used to work, more than half the staff smoked.


At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since. ‐ Salvador Dali

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For years I have bugged certain Philly-area chefs who smoke (as well as a besotted Tony Bourdain once during a press party for Philadelphia's The Book and The Cook), regarding their nasty habit and its effect on their palates. It has always been my contention that these chefs cannot possibly taste the flavors that a non-smoker can, so that in the creation of their cuisine , for the sake of the argument, they are working with different equipment.

To that last one, they have ridiculed my argument and told me that their palates are every bit as good as mine, if not more sensitive.

But doesnt my argument make sense?


Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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My ability to taste certainly improved when I stopped smoking. I could smell again.

I've also heard chefs insist that it has no effect. Maybe they learn to compensate over time? I don't know. Rather than anecdotal evidence, I'd like to see some science on how smoking affects the sense of taste and smell.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I am one of maybe four or five people I know of at work who don't smoke. After about 8 months at this job, I noticed the same thing a lot of you have mentioned - smokers get breaks, and the rest of us are SOL! I decided to hell with that, and have started taking breaks with the same frequency as the average smoking employee and will do things like eat a snack, read a magazine for a few minutes, or go out back with the rest of the staff and blow bubbles.


"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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Twenty years ago, in a small town in Ontario I got my first chance at being an Executive Chef. High end fine dining in a very affluent suburb of Toronto… I smoked French cigarettes, 1 -2 packs a day.

(This was only twenty years ago and the norm)

While doing prep the French/Canadian cooks would have an ashtray at the end of the prep table and would ALWAYS have a cigarette going. They would only get 3 – 4 draws off of each cigarette. The smell of Gauloises permeated the entire kitchen during prep.

During service…NO SMOKING; (LOL) except in the storage room off the main hot line. Every 30 minutes everyone would huddle and take a few drags.

Ten years ago I moved to Vancouver, BC. If you wanted a break you needed to smoke. It was not acceptable to just go outside and have a breath of fresh air.

It has been ten years since my last smoke, yet when I dream I am still a smoker…

Weird. Now, you do not hire smokers. They suck the energy out of a kitchen and make it hard to have consistent seasoning/flavours in the new style of food that relies less on creams/booze and more on organics.

(Vancouver is a city that does not allow smoking on Patios or within 15m (50 feet) of any entrance)


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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I have been a smoker for nine (of the fifteen) years that I've been in the kitchen. Overall, I tend to smoke about 5 cigarettes a day (one on the way to work and one on the way home). On my days off, I'll smoke 1 or 2 cigarettes (if any).

Smoking does dull my palate--and my appetite--but only temporarily (for about 20 minutes). As such, on heavy production days (which is most of the week) I cannot smoke often--once every few hours--because I need to taste the food.

Even though I am a smoker, I consider myself to be fairly disciplined and very hygenic. I have a meticulous hand washing ritual (that includes sniffing my fingers) that forces me to think about whether I really want that cigarette.

FYI, I smoke Dunhills. Never been a fan of Marlboros (no flavor) or domestic cigarettes (too harsh).

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