Monday, 12 October 2009

3. Stefen

Stefen is a chef, and actually a quite good chef, and this has two major influences on his life. First Stefen is a good chef because he loves cooking, and he loves cooking because he loves eating. Combine this with a solid Danish metabolism inherited by some Viking ancestry – threatening hugeness and capacity to store fat to survive cold and starvation -, and you can guess that Stefen is a big, big, tall man. A taste for lumberjack shirts kept from his grunge years and the beard he grows in an attempt to thin his face make him a typical bear – almost a cliché. Assumed bears usually mate with bears, but not Stefen, that makes his life difficult, I’ll say more about it later.

The other thing of being a good chef is that Stefen can make big money out of it. But he doesn’t care about what money can buy, the grunge teenager in him despises luxury and high life. So becoming a prestigious chef in a renowned restaurant had little appeal to him, heading a small capitalist business as a perfect little local dictator and being chained to success, fame and bankers is not a life for him. Big house, big car, all bullshit, Stefen is bigger that whatever he could own. But his luxury is time. He doesn’t have to work all day long all year long to make a reasonable living, a few months are enough, a little bit more if more is needed. He’s doing seasons, and his reputation allows him to be picky and demanding about the contracts. Cruises are the best joints, he often spends summers between the Riviera and the Greek islands, and he’s at his best with cooking seafood. A couple of times they flew him from Copenhagen to Maui – though cooking for Yanks is not so rewarding. So when he has money for the year, and knowing that they would hire him again as soon as he wants, Stefen is free to do whatever he wants.

But Stefen the chef is the official Stefen, there is another one hidden behind (there’s plenty of room to hide behind Stefen). Since his childhood, Stefen has a true love for hollywoodian classic musicals, passed by his parents (a sociology student attending Michel Foucault’s class in Collège de France and a trainee at Café Louis, they met in a Minelli retrospective in la Cinémathèque de Paris in the mid 70s), and veneration for Fred Astaire. Around ten, he would dance his way to school, dance his way from school, glissé to bed, pas-de-deux to breakfast, entrechat to the bathroom, all graceful and mellow (Gene Kelly was also divine to him but slightly too muscular to be really elegant). Around twelve, classmates started to call him a fairy, around thirteen he was 1m80 high and they stopped, and he stopped dancing in public. He was still dancing alone in his bedroom when they forced him in the rugby team in high school (that made him extremely unpopular for his unsporting behaviour), his first money as a young chef apprentice allowed him to buy the high hat he coveted for so long - and that he never wore.

Stefen never had the heroin chic, cadaveric anatomy of Kurt Cobain but was an early and dedicated fan of Nirvana, and his early cooking talent had his long hair tolerated in an otherwise conservative and macho milieu (they wouldn’t think him effeminate then – they wouldn’t think him anything aloud when he’s around, but that he was the acknowledged Bisque de Homard prince). He got himself a second hand Fender Mustang (it started to be very cool to have a second hand Fender Mustang) and learned how to play power chords – enough to play with some other desperate white males in a short-lived grunge band. He felt very far from Fred Astaire at that time, until he met Ásbjörn.

(to be continued in 'Ásbjörn')

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