Eli Kirshtein

Eli Kirshtein explains why a chef can and should get upset when his/her dish is being criticized.

on Dec 9, 20100

You know they don’t come easy. Sometimes you can have all the faith in the world about your work and what you have done, but it might not be felt by all the powers that be. As chefs, especially at a high level, you are taught to have a swagger, arrogance even. Not entirely in a bad way, but a confidence is a hallmark of a good chef. If you aren’t sure about your craft and work, you aren’t doing a good job; you aren’t giving it your all. But also, it’s not terrible to being open to opinion and criticism about your work. But really at the end of the day, you have to be strong and proud of you and your craft.

At the end of the day a chef cooks, hopefully with love and fervor. When someone speaks lowly of a chefs work or ideas, they should get upset, and they should get irritated. 

Unless it was created out of poor form or intention, in both conception and execution, a chef should feel very passionate about it; otherwise there is no reason to create. Each and every dish is a child of a chefs, it gets treated with the love and respect as such. If you turn your back on it, or stand down to it, than it was disingenuous all together. There is nothing wrong with pointing out flaws or mistakes, but the original idea should be grasped and believed in.

What your expectations are don’t always translate to reality. When you think things are going to happen, that doesn’t mean that they will.  Think the fate of the 2007 Patriots, or maybe even the 1980 Soviet hockey team, expectations weren’t achieved to say the least. Every day is game day, and you have to treat it as such, you never know when someone has a bloodlust and won’t just rollover. With that being said, sometimes it isn’t quite so aggressive, it can just be who plays it safe versus someone who gives it their all, and doesn’t succeed. Sometimes the extra effort doesn’t denote a better final result.

It can be really easy to feel tides changing and start to pass blame, start to justify reasons for failure even. But a strong willed and focused chef will accept failure as his or her own. Their inability to produce with the lack of help is their own fault, not the absentee party. When you aren’t able to achieve goals, you might scale back, simplify, be slightly less ambitious; or in the presence of greatness, you push harder and get the job done. At the end of the day, you will live and die by your own hand, not someone who isn’t there.

Maybe I’m partial, but I must attest to Jen as a person as well as a chef. Over the last couple years of my time knowing her, I have found her to be exceptionally caring and compassionate in a social world as well as being inspirational in a professional sense. With her longevity working for Eric Ripert, she has acquired many of his quality traits. She is thoughtful and careful with her food, as well as being tender and caring about the people around her and the environment she is in. I can’t attest to it being her time to go home or not, but I do rest much faith in the judges unequivocal decisions, but I do know that she is one of the best chefs on the cast, maybe not in this challenge, but on the whole.

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/elikirshtein

11 comments
Jessica L
Jessica L

Love your blog! I agree Jen wasn't insane, and that it's OK to defend your dish (like Fabio from the week before), but what we've learned on TC time and time again is it's ok to stick up for your dish as long as you know what error had occurred to cause you to go to judge's table and how you will learn from that. Not expressing your ability to learn from the error and bounce back from it shows the judges you will not go very far and keep making the same mistakes. From episode one, I'm not sure if it was editing but all of her solo interviews were arrogant and only about herself. Recently re-watching season 6 she had the utmost humility and respect to the judges, and conceded to their opinion time and time again when she was on the bottom. Did newfound fame get to her head as a result of TC6? And I thought Jamie should have gone home. Not cooking at all can be worse than making a bad dish, and for going to the hospital to get two stitches shows her lack of ambition in this competition. When Tom asks you think this dish will be your winning one? What about not even making one and being gone half the time? She will go home very soon, probably for yet another soup. And if Jen had not said anything at all I doubt she would have gone home.

Cheers to your Wisdom!
Cheers to your Wisdom!

Thank you for having the wisdom to recognize the difference between Ego that impedes personal integrity and confidences in one's self.

To claim that: "As chefs, especially at a high level, you are taught to have a swagger, arrogance even." it is merely a justification for his own arrogance. As talented as Jenn may be, even Eric Ripert is mature enough to know that personal integrity trump ego "At the end of the day"

What we witnessed was unfortunate. Not in her defending herself, but how it was done. Being confident is good, being obstinate for the sake of it only compromises her own integrity. To me, being a chef requires yes confidence, but more important humility. Without it, we close ourselves off to the opportunity for growth~ As an Chef instructor I can say that this is the very essence of education!

Not sure what school Eli attended that would teach "Swagger and Arrogance" as an essential skill of being a chef, perhaps he should have focused more on the braising lessons. Sounds like he got a degree in BS at The Academy of .....well BS!

Bravo to you for calling him out on that!

Vivi
Vivi

Jen is passionate and going home (unfairly, in my opinion) hurt her considerably. No, she probably shouldn't have reacted quite as strongly as she did at judging but sometimes it's hard to keep it in when you are obviously being targeted and there's no good reason for it. Eric Ripert was right on in his video blog when he said the undercooked frittatas were not only inedible, but a dangerous dish to serve. And for Jamie to leave for 2 measly stitches? There were others that should have been eliminated this round. I think it seems like someone had it out for Jen and this was a poor decision on the part of the judges.

mushy bacon
mushy bacon

"With her longevity working for Eric Ripert, she has acquired many of his quality traits."

It's too bad that Jen has not learned from Chef Ripert the quality traits of humility and grace. She has a lot to still learn.

mushy bacon
mushy bacon

"With her longevity working for Eric Ripert, she has acquired many of his quality traits."

It's too bad that some of the quality traits that Jen has NOT learned from Chef Ripert are those of humility and grace. She still has a lot to learn.

PatsFan
PatsFan

Aw man, why you gotta throw the 2007 Patriots in there? Some of us are still recovering emotionally from that game.

Your post shows a lot of emotional insight about the difficulty of walking the line between confident and arrogant. You have every right to be defensive of Jen - I understand that TV has to edit to make drama, but this kind of exposure can ruin people's careers if the edit is taken to be the whole truth about who they are.

And why does everyone braise bacon these days? What happened to a nice crispy piece? Mmmmmm.

Viewee
Viewee

I dont really see how she was being insane- rude maybe, but not insane. Did you think fabio was insane when he defended his dish- which looked god awful. Fabio basically challenged bourdain to a bar brawl- He said that if his comments were said in a different context(outside of judging)- there would quote, be a problem.

NOLAdy
NOLAdy

I call BS on that! Yes a chef should take pride in their creations and have emotional reactions, but they should also be capable of taking critisim and know when being defensive is warranted. Was this crazy woman playing it up for the cameras, or is she really that insane?

And to the other comments, I've worked with people who had all the confidence in the world and were still horrible at what they did. There's something to be said for humble creativity. I have no doubt she's a good chef but she's also not perfect. Handeling the situation the way she did was childish and I would have expected somebody with her experience to have grown past that at this point in her life. Lord knows the chefs she has worked for in the real world are MUCH more critical.

GoBacon
GoBacon

Thanks for the perspective and kind words about Jen. Hopefully she will recover well from this anomaly.

Maggie a Great Big Foodie
Maggie a Great Big Foodie

Absolutely loved everything you said. Her conviction was an indication of her pride in her work. Sometimes we can be wrong and in this spot she may have over done it. But like Tre said "I would rather be overseasoned than bland."

Go Jen!

GSong
GSong

Respectable words... especially the part of confidence being a hallmark of a good chef. Good choice words.