Jason Robbins is the head chef at the Smokehouse and Grill at Gastown, but his culinary journey started not at the front of house but in the back of house, and he slowly got the skills and experience he needed to move to the front of house and make the food he wants his way. When Jason sat down with me, He explained that there is a lot more that goes on inside a successful kitchen than a lot of people realize.
There’s more going on there that are just so intangible and so pressure-filled, and if more people could see behind the Iron curtain, so to speak, and not in the sort of produced contest where like a Hell’s Kitchen or even any of those kind of shows that do to a degree accrue the experience so that it’s more palpable for the guests or for the people who are watching. But no, the truth is, is that you have to be a special kind of person to do this and smile at the end of it. And I think I’m that kind of person.
When you’re in the middle of either a busy lunch rush or a hectic dinner service, Jason explained that you feel less like a chef in that moment and more like someone performing a dance routine.
You’re trying to hit your marks. And those marks, unlike a dance routine, are not consistently practiced in the same sequence because not every day is going to sequence the same. So, I mean, there are a lot of challenges there. So having a strong mind for flavour and for construction of food and flavour profiling is a very small facet of being a strong professional cook or a professional chef, or even, to be honest with you, any professional in the service industry because there’s so much to grasp.
Confidence is what sells. So at the end of the day, if I want you to trust me, even if everything is on fire behind me, you can’t ever know that. So do I make mistakes? Yes. And I’m human and that’s my job. My job is to make mistakes and what’s furthermore? My job is to learn from those mistakes and adapt and grow. If you’re not making mistake, Then you’re probably not being honest with yourself and you’re probably not growing very much, and that level of ego can stop you.So many times it’s the idea of I know it all, instead of understanding that you need to learn more and that is the game for me. The game is if I do end up getting to the point where I feel like I have learned everything, that’s the day I look at my bosses and I look at the owners and I go, it’s time for me to go. Because now I know I’m not putting in what I have to put in to get that need for myself. And then conversely, I have to sleep at night. So if , if I’m, you know, Whipple balling my existence on a regular basis, I have to live with that. And to be quite frank, my professional sensibility and my normal life sensibility just doesn’t allow for that possibility because that’s not who I am.
– Jason Robins, of The Smokehouse and Grill at Gastown
Listen to the True North Tale here!
and check out the Smokehouse and Grill here!