Zen is a way of being. It is a state of mind. Zen is dropping the illusion and seeing the world without distortion created by your own thoughts. It is action without action. It is the total calm that comes over you in the middle of a raging storm.
Everyone in the kitchen has a joyous little place we go to. A menial task that seems so simple and repetitive that everything else is lost in between. You perfectly meld into the activity, becoming what you are in the moment. It is a serene peace through repetition and thoughtless action. It is the ultimate perfection in being and can cut the stress of the day and consume an unfathomable amount of time. It isn’t for the reward of the task, nor the glory, or search for mastery, but only for the task itself.
Sounds a bit maddening?
Some of us deep clean, some of us fold bags of towels, some of us spend ungodly amounts of time crafting petite truffles or hors d’oeuvres, (both of which are generally scarfed up in a single bite with out a second of thought), some of us peel fruits and veggies, some of us chop cases on cases of those same vegetables, some of us write recipes that no cook may ever see, some of us write long dissertations about zen in a kitchen. But all of us do it to buffer our failing and slowly faltering sanity from hours and hours of the physical labor, the mental strain of perpetual motion and the peaks and valleys of adrenaline rushes and sold out 7 o’clock seatings.
Cooks by definition are extreme personalities.
We are hard wired to feel fear only when we are looking over the edge of the world with no hope of salvation. Eight hour days are half days, caffeine is a need not a want, creation is the only driving force, and success and failure are dictated by your drive and ability to drive others. Peace in our lives is fleeting, but this peace is the perfect dichotomy to our never ending search for the perfect night of service. This is the yin to our yang. This is looking madness in the eyes and laughing.
This is Kitchen Zen.