When a beautiful plate of food hits a diner’s table, it can be a stunning thing behold. The dish sits before you in all its aromatic, well-plated glory, conjuring up romantic notions of laser-focused cooks, sequestered several rooms away in a placid kitchen where they nurture stocks and coax the skins off of roasted beets.
But the scene behind closed doors is often quite different from what you’d imagine—more Gordon Ramsayan hell kitchen than Zen monastery. For most professionals, cooking is at once a pleasure, a test of patience, and, occasionally, a raging pain in the ass. If you’re a chef, you can sometimes pawn the worst jobs off on your cooks, and if you’re a cook, you might be able to dump your least favorite tasks onto an intern or a porter. But most of the time, you are just stuck with the drudgery.
How real does it get back there? Here, we take a look at 11 of the most painful, tedious, nasty, or just plain boring kitchen jobs—all unpleasant necessities on the road to the sublime. So before devouring that pan-roasted cod fillet with tomato-braised cardoons, take a moment to toast the back of the house, who did all of the shitty work so you didn’t have to.
Written by Scarlett Lindeman