It's everything I was afraid it might be. Hot. Sweaty. Loud. Stressful. With the only redeeming value being the rush you get - that is, if you are the type of person that thrives on frenzy and survival.
Better than sex, said one of my classmates. Don't believe it. You do feel the energy rise (as the expeditor starts calling out order more quickly), the wakening of all your nerve endings (as you start to cook or plate several things at once) and a relief when it's all over...but somehow I miss the joyous release.
I'm OK with that. I never expected that I would move into cooking on a line after school. Too much cleaning. Too many crude sexual and ethnic jokes. Way too much testosterone. Plus I take things personally - too personally to have people yelling at me on a regular basis.
Maybe 30 years ago I would have jumped in headfirst. I got off on last-minute energy (why else pick publishing with its deadlines?) and I believed that life was all about how hard you could work and play. And it was easy to switch from one to the other. Time has mellowed me. I still like the thrill but I don't have the physical or emotional stamina to pay so heavy a price.
I remember my first instructor warning us about a frightening progression that too many chefs follow: alcoholism and substance abuse, divorce, loss of a finger or hand, suicide. It's not so hard to understand anymore.