That is, until I watched the episode and saw myself crying over a pot of acidic, gone-awry boiled peanuts. I remember the scenario and knew no one in their right mind would edit it out unless I made them. But watching myself breakdown in front of the camera, early on a Saturday morning, with a hard evening’s service ahead of me, made me acutely aware of all the long, inconvenient hours that went into the making of this series. Nearly everyone who made “A Chef’s Life” happen did it in their “free” time, because they believed in the honesty and power behind the project and frankly because when a train is moving, it’s very hard to jump off. I’m going to go out on a limb and bet “A Chef’s Life” is the only nationally aired television series whose core team all answer to other jobs....if you know of another, please share. I’d like to break bread with those folks.
My breakdown over boiled legumes, and trust me there is a lot of it you didn’t see, is of course a little bit embarrassing, In the chef business, you do not cry, particularly on TV. But I did, and I’m glad.
I’m glad I was able to show that good ideas (my Asian peanuts) don’t always turn into brilliant dishes and that sometimes you just have to make something taste good at the expense of the original idea. I’m also proud to show that not every chef, not many chefs, have legions of people waiting on a dime to work for free at their side, willing to peel garlic and shell fava beans for the opportunity to say they’ve spent time in his or her kitchen. But I’m most grateful I’ve been given the opportunity to show how hard chefs work, and how decidedly non-glamorous a chef’s life actually is, even one who’s making a TV show. The woman who cried over that pot was not crying because her peanuts sucked. She blubbered ridiculously because she was tired, worn down, overcommitted and dying to spend a Saturday at home, guilt-free, with her kids (and maybe a babysitter for when she needed a break).
Peanuts used to mean nothing to me, now I will remember them as the straw that broke the camel’s back that Saturday in November.