Cooking with fire: a chef’s life

Joel Macaraeg, 28, started cooking in a restaurant in 2004 at Red Robin’s. At the time he was 17, and worked his part-time kitchen job in order to pay for school. While attending BCIT, Macaraeg felt no connection to the marketing program he was enrolled in and instead decided to drop out and work full-time. After a few years, he was offered a job at the Boathouse Restaurant in Port Moody, where his career started to take off.

In 2007, Macaraeg was promoted to sous chef at the Boathouse and worked there until 2013 when he was then offered the opportunity he’d been waiting for. He left Port Moody to become the executive head chef at the Boathouse’s Horseshoe Bay location.

Although he’d known working in a kitchen to be an exhausting but rewarding job, he had no idea of the chaos he was in for once he moved into his new position.

Q: What made your job at Horseshoe Bay especially difficult?

A: Well, the distance for one was a problem because I live in Port Moody and it took me over an hour to get there each way. The main issue though, was the situation where the whole management team, front and back of house, left the week I started there. They didn’t fill all those positions until a full year later. When I got there, my sous chef got deported back to the Philipines and a lot of the kitchen staff just stopped showing up. I basically had to hire and train an entire kitchen staff.

Q: What were your chef hours like?

A: I was supposed to work nine or 10 hours a day five days a week. It turned out to be 12- to 13-hour shifts six or seven days a week. Plus the two hours total travel time. It was just work, work, work.

Q: What is the role of a chef?

A: To make sure the team is on task. To make sure food costs and labor costs are met to company standards. We need to make sure food is going out in a timely fashion. We do the scheduling, the invoices, the ordering, most training, company systems for charts and checks, and we basically babysit.

Q: What’s the worst part about being a chef?

A: Not being able to see your friends and family, and when you do, your phones constantly ringing because something’s always going wrong. I’ve lost my passion for working in the kitchen completely, so I guess being a chef did that to me. That might be the worst part.

Macaraeg worked overnight shifts at work a few times a month to make up for the lack of trained staff he had. He was constantly stressed and on edge and began hated cooking altogether. He lost touch with a lot of friends that he simply couldn’t keep connected with because of his long hours at work. He did learn a lot from the career, including patience and flexibility, and he proved himself to be a undeniably hard worker, but he became tired of showing up to a job that he began to despise and it started to take a toll on him.

Macaraeg ended quit his job less than a year later to work at a new restaurant. After a year there, he has decided to leave the business and pursue a new career as a correctional officer and his hoping to begin work in the spring. He’s excited to start something new and to have passion for a job again.

1 Comment

  • Daniella Javier
    Reply December 9, 2014

    Daniella Javier

    It’s too bad he lost his passion for cooking, but I’m glad that he is now going towards another career that he likes. Passion is an important component when you’re considering a career that you’d like to go into. For instance, I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I want to make sure that I go into a career that involves writing in some way. Hope all goes well for him!

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