Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chef Viverito

Somewhere in the basement of Roth Hall at the Culinary Institute of America, 11 students fidgeted in their slightly too small chairs and narrow bench tables. The room was filled with a mixture of anxiety and excitement--this was the first class that they would be required to use their brand new school-issued kitchen knives.

Chef Viverito finally strode in to class. He looked relatively young: I guessed somewhere in his early 30s. He had short black, wavy hair that matched his jet-black eyes. His nose was quite pointed in a nearly triangular way that complemented his angular chin. He took a seat on the stool at the front of the room, leaned back, crossed his arms in front of his chest, and sized us up.

"So how was your first day of cutting fish?" he finally asked in a sharp, stern voice. It was more of a rhetorical question than anything as we had just a couple hours before at 530am scaled, cleaned, and fabricated nearly a 100 fish--for some of us it was the first time they had done it.

We all mumbled something inaudible.

"Good. Because that's what you're going to be doing every morning for the next seven days. Today was a bit crazy because it was the long weekend and we had to do extra work, but you're going to increase your speed and intensity." He paused, turned away to look at something, and then looked at us again.

"Ok. Welcome to Fish Identification and Fabrication!" he said as if we were going to regret it.

"And congratulations! Of all the fish instructors you could have gotten, you got the hardest one!" he malevolently smiled. "My class is THE most difficult and you will have to earn your grade here. None of this 'everyone starts with a 100 or an A' crap. All of you start with a zero, and all of you will earn every single point. Just coming to class and doing your homework will not get you an A. All of that is already expected of you. Why should that be anything special?"

"I'm not gonna give you a pat on the back and say 'Ooo, you came to class and did your homework--Good job!?" He made a face and mock-applauded. Then, before we had time to laugh, he became serious, "If you want an A in this class, you have to go above and beyond that. This isn't high school anymore."

In reality, the majority of us were post-college students in their twenties. We just sat silently. He stood up and looked down at us.

"Although I am the most difficult fish instructor, you should actually be thanking your lucky stars. Because you are going to learn the most about fish and you're going to be the best fish cutters at this entire school for the 7 days. I'll be damned if the other class after us is going to be better than you. And I'll be damned if you fail this class" He jammed his finger on his desk for emphasis as he delivered that impassioned statement.

"Actually, scratch that," he suddenly said to himself. He changed back to his I-don't-give-shit tone of voice. "I couldn't care less if you fail. It's your money. You can do what you want with it. Just paying for this education doesn't mean you'll get a good grade or even a good education. I mean, I'll give you the resources, but you have to use it."

"Wait. You know what? It's not even your money. It's your parents money. Go ahead and waste their money. And if they call me and start complaining, I really don't give a damn," he paused here and defiantly looked at us, as if waiting for someone to breakdown and cry and run out of the room.

At this moment, I excitedly thought to myself: Man, what a BADASS!

"Alright, let's learn about some fish."

And learn we did.


Some of my favorite endearing quotes from Chef Viverito.

"Did you take kindergarten? Because for some reason, you can't seem to count the number of fish we need."

"Wow, you seriously do not want to listen to me do you?"

"You've got two seconds to ask me "Chef, what am I doing wrong?"

"I like you all as people, but when it comes to following directions...Jesus!"


  1. sounds like someone has a crush on chef v

  2. Scary!!! I'm all for the teacher that challenges and pushes his/her students, but wow. I hope that you meet and exceed his expectations for your own personal satisfaction and not his, Chef Sous!

  3. Jeez, your Chef is so polite!

    LOL, this is the closest thing to what culinary school is really like since my blog!


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  5. hes a cunt and a saint