Michael Laiskonis on Professional Cooking and 'Sacrifice at the Highest Level'

Pastry chef of Le Bernardin, Michael Laiskonis, writes about replying to emails, letters, and phone calls asking for advice ("I happily participate in these exchanges"), his history ("I credit where I am now in large part to sheer luck"), and on the "harsh realities of professional cooking":

You don't need a sage to tell you that passion, hard work, and a thirst for knowledge are paramount to success in this business. What makes each of our stories unique are the choices to we made, our willingness to persevere, and the overall attitude we bring into the kitchen everyday...

The harsh realities of professional cooking aren't necessarily apparent to those just starting out, or to the career-changers, or to anyone with only visions of glossy food magazines and reality cooking shows dancing in their heads. I don't mean to dramatize or glorify some grand sense of daily adversity, but there is a fair amount of sacrifice at the highest level, and different people are willing to accept different amounts of it. That sacrifice is eventually what drives talented cooks out of the business, or at least to its fringes. When I started out, I had nothing to lose, so I dove in headfirst. In hindsight, I did lose or miss out on a lot of things. I'm thankful for the fact that now, over a decade later, I'm in a position to regain those things, like relationships and financial security, that I initially sacrificed in the name of food.

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