There’s a sense of grit, grind, and adrenaline that can only be found within a working kitchen—more so in a restaurant that touts Michelin stars on its shoulders. This rather unforgiving and “right of passage” lifestyle is usually subdued into the shadows while the industry is perceived with celebrity chefs, tattooed renegades, and food porn on Instagram. Though, if you linger long enough, you might encounter a glimpse of what life really looks like in a kitchen. Few survive, normal lives as we know it are left on the cutting board, and the pursuit of perfection becomes the kitchen’s mantra.
I first met Joseph Johnson while on a field trip with Chef Josiah Citrin at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Every Wednesday, as sous-chef, you might find Joseph running around the market fetching produce for Josiah’s prestigious restaurant, Mélisse, a traditional French, fine-dining restaurant with two Michelin stars under its belt. As I learned more about Joseph and his rather calm disposition—and oddly enough, no ink on his arms—I became enamored about the possibility of documenting what life might look like from the perspective of someone in the trenches and making their way through a cook’s life in a fast-paced restaurant.
With the partnership and collaboration of our friends at FoodieTV, Life & Thyme filmmaker Nathan Sage and I ventured into the trenches ourselves (or otherwise known as: the kitchen life). We counted our blessings, packed our camera gear, and shadowed Joseph for many, many hours—both inside and outside the restaurant. We set out to document the modern-day cook through the lens of filmmaking, even if it meant hovering over 400-degree ovens.
We eventually walked out of the backdoor of Mélisse drenched in sweat, an adrenaline rush, and an unmatched appreciation to those that truly care about the craft.