I define myself as a cook, it is an aspect of my life that saturates my day to day existence. I am C/O the cook, and I introduce myself to people as such: "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm C/O, I cook at....". It defines me as a person more than any other aspect of my life, the drugs and booze have always been secondary, after all, its the cooking that pays for the drugs and booze. I love the trade, and all the crap that comes with it.
I love those glorious moments when the kitchen is utter havoc but I am on the soap bubble staying one step ahead of all the shit and producing food of good quality at a rate that blows peoples minds. I am good, I am damn good, I have pwned many a young cook who thought I couldn't handle their "fast" kitchen, having the shit in the window with timing that is impeccable. I help those around me when they are in the shit, I keep it clean,I can work a 15 hour day without fading, and I can toss my last empty beer over my shoulder before walking in the back door and still be better than the asshole next to me. I fucking rock.
But I am also done, overdone perhaps. 22 years is a long time to be at any one thing, and I'm not counting the dishwashing years. I love my craft, but I have run up against a brick wall that allows no further progress career wise. I have seen this coming for a while and tried to avoid it, but recent developments have put a cold hard nail in the hand that once used a knife so well.
About two years ago I decided I need my "red seal", this is the qualification given to a journeyman in any given trade, be it cook, welder, or carpenter. I never got mine because I was doing just fine without it, I moved around a lot and the jobs I applied for usually didn't require it, when they did a few good references and a few days on the job would usually show an employer I knew which side of the knife was sharp. This has changed over the last 10 years, and I found I was not welcome to apply for jobs I knew I was quite qualified for because I lacked certification. I finally decided to get the fucking papers and started a two year bullshit festival.
Let me make my opinion clear on this, I appreciate the trades program, it makes sure those given this certification are competent cooks. But I have dealt with recent graduates of several culinary institutes over the years, and while some are damn good, most lack the kind of versatility that only comes from long years of kitchen work.
So a big fuck you goes to the "B.C. Industry Training Authority" or as it was known for the first year and a half of my dealings "the B.C. trades and apprenticeship board" I will just say BCITA from now on , a governmental agency responsible for certifying tradesmen. At about 1600 odd hours a year, for 17 years(I am knocking off 5 years for unemployed periods and a few breaks I took from the trade) I have about 28000 hours of cooking experience. The BCITA requires 8000 hours of practical experience to challenge the red seal exam. No problem right?
So I get the forms, a nice five page heap, and start mailing copies off to former employers, the ones I am still on good terms with that is. And approaching all the local ones personally. After considerable beer buying, arm twisting, and massive phone expenses I finally get 5000 hours documented over 11 employers and the program allows me to swear an affidavit for the rest. I mail away the package and have watery guts for 2 solid months as I wait for a reply.
When it comes, I am so pissed off I could kick a sack of kittens down the street at top it off by raping a grade 2 schoolteacher in front of her class.
"Your application to challenge the Red Seal (cook) exam has been denied due to lack of relevant experience in the employment records submitted, blither blather, blither blather" When I sober up I realize I was doomed from the beginning.
The checklists involved were quite extensive, essentially they wanted to know that I had been employed not just as a cook, but a cook in an establishment where all or most of the skills learned in the red seal program were applicable. I have those skills, pieced together from knowledge from my whole career. But each individual employer only taught me, or used a few of them. And on paper it looks a lot worse than it is. I see someone feeding my stack of references into a computer, and a little red light going off, and a big DENIED stamp coming down.
Thus begins a year of bickering with the BCITA, not one fucking person I talked to was a cook, or a tradesman of any sort, just a bunch of faggot desk jockeys. Finally 6 months ago I found someone I could talk to that understood my predicament. He said he would do what he could do, and he phoned each and every one of my references to get the full story. He arranged for a phone interview with the guy that administers the practical part of the exam, and if he was happy I could take the exam.
The guy was an asshole, and grilled me for 20 minutes or so,but he said I could take the exam, and I was on my way to being a certified cook. Then things get really haywire, almost surreal. The whole BCITA is overhauled, out with the old people who made good money, in with the new folks who work for less. After finally reaching the new person in charge of my application to challenge, I am told my application will be reviewed.
Which brings me to about three weeks ago, when I was told again my experience was insufficient for a challenge. The ensuing drug binge was epic. And about a week ago at work I came to a revelation of sorts, and realized I was done. I put my apron and hat on the counter, changed back into my civilian clothes, told the boss I was quitting due to personal reasons, and left. Bye.
I was going to go back to foundry work(cooking with metal:thumbsup:), the only other thing I was particularly good at, but no one was hiring. Yesterday my roomate said his work was hiring, sheet metal, ducting, siding, that kind of shit. He told me once I started I would automatically be in a union, get benefits, pension, insurance, etc. It sounded good so I took it. I am no slacker when it comes to work and have done construction(concrete forms), and other labor jobs in the past. I will wake up on monday, at 5:15 am, have a cup of strong black tea and some pb&j on toast, then walk out the door and do what I can do. Wish me luck.