Cooking School Secrets: Dealing with Denial

Is it possible to be a chef and care about animals? My questions started to surface the day I turned around in the walk-in and looked directly into the blank stare of the pig chilling until roasting the following day. It took all my self-control to not take off my chef coat and use it as a blanket. Seemed so wrong to have its beady lifeless eyes just staring out at everyone who entered. I winced and put it out of my mind pretty quickly.

The next week we were studying seafood. Luckily, our chef was the one who was going to place the live lobsters in boiling water, but I still cringed at the thought of watching. (Would it be OK to just stand back, look the other way and hum to myself?) In anticipation what might ensue, the chef instructor requested that everyone be respectful and refrain from joking before, during and after his act. He explained that killing wasn't something he relished doing and he wanted the students to acknowledge the seriousness of the moment.

Within days, the Chef Chated about how chickens are typically raised, the treatment of calves being raised for veal and how some ducks are force-fed so their livers can be used for foie gras.

How do chefs cope? By living in a constant state of denial; more than one told me they avoid thinking about what happens before their animal protein arrives in the supermarket.

Selective reality just doesn't cut it. I applaud Chef Jamie Oliver for gassing, stunning and killing chickens on TV to expose viewers to the harsh reality of factory farming. I believe that those of us who choose to eat meat should be witness to all aspects of what it takes to get it on the table. Some won't care; a few may go vegan; others might advocate for more humane conditions. But we will be making choices with our eyes wide open.


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