restaurant industry never sleeps. And seemingly so, neither do the employees: when the doors open, orders begin to roll in and the sounds of the kitchen come alive, pots clicking, fires burning, and the oven timer ringing off the chain. If something goes awry, chefs internalize every problem in the kitchen—and after twelve-hour shifts, six nights in a row, their lives outside the kitchen take a toll for the worse. For many, this wake-up call leads them in search of a new challenge, one that doesn’t force them to choose between their passion and well-being.
There’s a high that comes from validation for many chefs, whether that’s through recognition, awards, cult followings, or media write-ups. However, when you reach a personal peak, the ego is a giant that can’t be knocked down. This competition challenges this ego, and asks the contestants: Are you as good as you think you are? Any good chef knows that there’s room for error in the kitchen; any great chef knows how to troubleshoot a problem and think “on the fly.” While forcing contestants to use these skills, Chefs vs. Wild also challenges their mind, body, and soul. Long days of prep are expected in a kitchen, but when you’re in the wilderness against the elements, you must access a new level of focus and endurance and yield to the authority of your survivalist—which I noticed was difficult for some chefs.