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Cirque de Cuisine: Raymond McCrindle finds culinary success with Cirque du Soleil

MATTHEW HIRST | 3/1/2019, 1:01 p.m.
For members of Cirque du Soleil, real life is far different from the extravagant one fans might expect. Be it ...
Raymond McCrindle is Cirque du Soleil’s only African American chef. Matthew Hirst

The Dallas Examiner

For members of Cirque du Soleil, real life is far different from the extravagant one fans might expect. Be it the laborious hours that go into performances and extensive travel or the constantly running to-do list seemingly stacked higher than the kitchen’s dishes at night, circus life is tough.

Some of the busiest and most talented of the crew can be found in the kitchen.

The extensive effort required to perform such grandeur takes great energy, and that energy is impossible without proper nourishment. But food isn’t the only thing demanded from the kitchen staff. Chefs in a traveling circus need to be multi-talented with more than just blades and soufflés.

When it comes to life as a circus chef, job responsibilities extend far past the kitchen. Circus chefs must also drive forklifts in order to tear down the kitchen tents whenever necessary, something often required on a whim, according to the circus representative.

Raymond McCrindle, is just one of four of the multi-talented chefs that can be found in Cirque du Soleil’s kitchen, and the only African American working behind the scenes. He is in town as part of the Cirque du Soleil: Amaluna tour.

“I decided that I wanted to work in kitchens when I was 7. Now, I’m going on 28. When I was younger, I didn’t really care much for my studies, and when we went to the library, I would just go straight to the cooking section and read a bunch of cookbooks,” McCrindle said. “Eventually, I managed to convince my mom to let me cook something at 7 years old. She was like, ‘Alright, go for it.’ And from then on I just kept studying and learning.”

He said his first job was working as a dishwasher with a goal to be a pre cook while he was in high school. After graduation, he worked in a few restaurants, including an Italian restaurant and a couple hospital cafeterias. But it was Sodexo at Lehigh Valley Hospital Main Cafeteria where he said he learned a lot about bureaucracy and management styles.

He later went on to Johnson Wales University, where he earned a degree in culinary and food service management.

McCrindle credits a great deal of professional success to his insatiable desire to learn and work. By his own account, this willingness to be a pupil of life provides him with opportunities he’d never even dreamed of. It has allowed him to travel all over the country and world, on top of changing his opportunities for life along the way. For McCrindle, keeping an open mind and always learning, while staying true to his passions, are some of the things he holds most central to his life’s journey so far.

Past his work ethic, he will be the first to tell you that ending up at the circus was also due to a little bit of luck. Sometimes that’s what it takes, he said, just a little bit of good fortune to tip the scales your way.