Someone questioned on an Instagram photo of chefs Katsuji Tanabe and John Tesar: “Are you two an old married couple who can’t stand each other but can’t bear to be apart for long?”
It’s a fair query.
The Top Chef frenemies have certainly butted heads on camera. But scan social media and it’s pretty common to see the two hanging together. It’s the classic conundrum of whether they love to hate each other, or hate to love each other. Whatever it is, it’s always fun when these two get together. So the Chef Works’ blog had an idea: Give them something to argue about and let them go at it.
Chef John Tesar: Right off the bat let’s make it clear that I’m far more established in my career than Katsuji. He’s going to talk a lot about the status you get from wearing a coat. But make no mistake, that coat does more for him than he does for that coat. He needs it. Me? I’ve been there and done that.
Coats were nice, once. But they were also a requirement and, frankly, I find them to be a little antiquated. They aren’t for me anymore. I’m classically trained and have been doing this since the ‘70s and ‘80s. I went through all of the color phases and the coats spackled with sponsorship logos. One day I looked in the mirror and felt like I was a NASCAR driver. I’d rather be comfortable in a tee shirt and feel protected in an awesome apron.
I don’t need the coat anymore. I’m not defined by a uniform. Katsuji is. He’s young, ambitious and just obnoxious enough to try to convince me otherwise. But I don’t think he will. I’m pretty set in my ways. That’s what comes from being right. I understand that’s a concept he’s not very familiar with.
The insecure always take jabs at the respected. I just hope one day he can be as successful as me and that it’s the coat that does it for him.
Chef Katsuji Tanabe: John is right. It is a status symbol. And what, exactly, is wrong with that? It commands respect in the kitchen. For me, part of being a professional chef is looking like a professional chef. Not looking like a wannabe hipster dad trying to blend in at a Kanye concert. That doesn’t work for me. But I guess it does for him?
My first major decision of the day – what to wear – has already been decided. I’m going to wear a chef coat. There is a pride and elegance I feel when I put it on. I feel like I’m laser-focused.
The chef coat is simply more professional than a tee shirt and an apron. When I walk through the dining room and I meet customers, I want them to see who the chef is. I like that my name is written on my coat. You know how the Lakers display all of their banners at the Staples Center? I like to do that with my chef coats. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far in my career. I like being able to show off what I’ve accomplished.
And let’s get down to the very basic fact that a chef coat is better protection in the kitchen. If John wants to try to look like one of the younger chefs because he thinks it’s cool, that’s his business. One of us has to be the professional here. I guess that’s me.
Where do you stand? Chef coat or apron? Let us know in the comments below.
(Photos courtesy of Bravo TV; John Tesar photo credit Kevin Marple)