A Stir The Pots Post

My friend Mike!(Knorr, chickens and latex gloves!)

by | Jun 12, 2008 | Chefs

Anthony Bourdain always says people in kitchens are misfits who couldn’t make it anywhere but the kitchen. I tend to agree with Chef Bourdain. The characters you meet come from all parts of the world or universe.  Some shouldn’t stay in the business. Others just can’t escape it. The hardest part is keeping in touch with people when your busy working those shifts  and staying friends… at least by anything more than email. Afterall, if you’re a working chef, you’re spending an awful lot of time in your workplace kitchen, leaving little time and energy at the end of the week for much socializing.

And honestly, it’s tough making friends "in the biz." Beyond time restrictions, there’s the competitive nature of the restaurant industry, as well as the seemingly intrinsic insecurity of kitchen positions. One day you’re there. The next day you’re not. Such harsh fate can stem from all sorts of things. The top chef decided one shift that the "plate of the day" was not up to snuff, and therefore it must be your fault. Gone. Or you screwed up their special soup on a day they were particularly sensitive. Out the door. Maybe you’re showed up at work reeking of a late night bender. Or worse you show up in the middle of a bender. Whatever, really great food elicits great passion. Kitchens draw passionate people. Passionate people make for colorful but risky environments. At least for cultivating easy friendships.

Still, sometimes in this crazy wonderful business (even a bit more than sometimes… sometimes) you meet a fellow food professional who it doesn’t matter if you see every day, every week, or just once a year. They may be someone who has your back. Or they just may be someone who is generous with their wisdom, humor, or good cheer. Whatever, such friends are precious. Take a certain chef whom I count on to take me to New York’s Asian markets in Queens, introducing me to different ingredients and food not recognized in my culinary repertoire. All to say, I would like to make my own introduction to a friend of mine. Everyone, meet Mike Kobylanski. You will find him every once and a while leaving kind messages here. Or just adding his two cents. 

There are more than enough stories to tell  about Mike, you could fill a book with! One time we were in the kitchen after lunch. Mike and I put some latex gloves over our heads and were clucking like chickens when our top chef walked in. Worse, he was joined by Charlie Trotter. Mike and I scurried like hell to the walk-in fridge and hid. All of a sudden Mike turned to me. "Shit," he said. "The Knorr chicken base is on the counter!" For a moment we were scared. But then we broke into uncontrollable laughter, imagining how it would ruin our boss’ reputation to see the chicken base as he showed the esteemed industry AND television food personality around his kitchen. We didn’t even consider the latex gloves swaying on our own heads as we crowed and cuckled, knowing that our future no longer carried jobs with the legendary PBS-sanctioned Charlie Trotter. Hell, that is what a real food friend delivers, sharing war stories and kitchen mischief.

Thanks Mike for the memories. Oh yeah, when are we going to the Heidelberg to see Rosa?

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2 Comments

  1. Michael Kobylanski

    Hey Jeremy Thanks for the attention.I always remember the times we worked together,i never laughed so hard in my life…but i also remember how our attitude towards cooking differed from the “up and coming “chefs,we did and do it because we love it ,the drive for fame was not the primary focus,also we have paid our dues almost 30 years in the biz now.As far as the asian food markets go in queens i know them all, any weekend except the last two in August,Renata and I will be exploring the food markets and farms of Hawaii.I will have plenty of photos for you and whatnot.I do agree with Anthony Bourdain ,misfits,and nutters can still hold down a carreer in the Rest.Biz…let’s get together soon it’s been awhile…….let’s check on Rosa perhaps, or even the bohemian beer garden might be a nice venture,,Mike

    Reply
  2. Jeremy

    Yo,yo Mike,
    We will hit some of the markets for sure and of course the watering holes! You know I started realizing that star gazing is for scientists and romantics, cooking isn’t a galaxy nor is it romantic, it’s blood, sweat and tears, (Winston Churchill said that, not me!) Fame isn’t a virtue in this industry, it’s meant for those who don’t really cook anymore. If you aren’t cooking for love then hell you may as well stop eating!
    Peace brother, and remember Fernando’s Nigerian egg sandwiches, fiery! “Michaeeel!”

    Reply

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