Suck it, Cal…
Dear, Cal Ripken Jr.
In baseball annals, you will forever be known as ‘The Iron Man,’ breaking Baseball’s consecutive games played streak with 2,632 straight games. A ridiculous number that is a testament to your willingness to basically grab your lunch pail and hardhat, and go to work everyday.
I applaud you Mr. Ripken. (Golf Clap)
I salute your statue at Camden Yards. (Right hand to forehead)
I kneel to your piercing blue eyes. (Ooooh, what a gaze)
But try that weak ass Iron Man shit in a professional kitchen and then talk to me, Calvin.
Working in the kitchen is a seriously hostile work environment that can bring people to tears, and not only injure physically, but mentally as well. The kitchen family is inhabited with individuals from all walks of life. Smart. Dumb. Male. Female. Young. Old. It doesn’t matter where we come from, but we all share a common mentality…being crazy.
Why would we risk so much for so little?
Simple answer. I don’t know.
It’s lunacy to the Nth degree and I have no idea why we do it. True Kitchen People are team oriented, and would rather die than leave the line or cut off a finger instead of having someone else pick up their slack during prep.
Bottom line. We put the team and our Kitchen Family before ourselves.
It’s not out of the ordinary for us to step up to the plate with second-degree burns on our limbs. Working the line and reaching over flames that singe arm hair from three feet away. As a point of reference, next time you burn your finger on your flat iron or on your microwave dinner. Immediately turn your stove top to the highest setting. Let it warm up for several hours. Now put your finger an inch or two from the burner. Now multiply by 100. Now do this for 12 hours. That, my friends, is a daily shift for a line cook.
When I harken back to the days of ESPN reporting you played with a ‘tweaked’ ankle, I immediately think of this guy I used to work with. He hobbled around for two weeks with what amounted to a purple eggplant of an ankle he stuffed into a non-slip shoe everyday. (BTW none of us have health insurance for the most part)
I’m sure when you were fading, at the end of his career, your best days long in the rearview mirror, you weren’t worrying about your ankle or your paycheck. You knew everything was guaranteed. Yet we know not the luxury of a team doctor, or a PPO or HMO. And to be honest, I have no clue what they stands for.
And that is what separates kitchen people with vintage Cal Ripken. Not that we both strive to go on, but the inherent need to keep going. The need to feed ourselves. Our family. Our undying need to get the job done. The need to comeback to work the day after getting seven stitches for flashing everyone the tendons in our hand. The compulsion to only take one day off after having a seizure. The obligation to barely break a sweat after seeing the first two layers of our skin crumple like Kleenex after spilling 350 degree oil over your forearm.
To sum up the above diatribe and to put it into perspective: It would take the average line cook nearly eight years to earn what baseball’s Iron Man earned in his rookie year of 1983. And it would take that same line cook only 10 years to reach the same milestone it took Ripken 17 years to accomplish. But no matter how you slice it. No matter what it looks like from the cheap seats. It’s damn near impossible to deny the fact that we Kitchen People are made of iron too…just way more crazy than you.
As always, best wishes, and keep enjoying the food Mr. Ripken.