We talked to six New Yorkers, in different careers, who all depend on their hands professionally and sometimes recreationally. They told us why their hands are important to what they do — and what they like about them.
Edouard Massih, private chef
Edouard, a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, was born and raised in Lebanon and now resides in New York where he owns a catering company. “I enjoy cooking for people. Cooking has become rare. Now nobody cooks. That’s why I love my job. I just love feeding people,” he said.
“I don’t know how to explain this, but my hands are everything for what I do,” Edouard shared. But as a chef, his hands get a lot of wear and tear including burns, cuts, and dryness from doing so many dishes every day.
“People talk about paper cuts, but aluminum cuts from catering dishes are so much worse. Every time I cater an event, I have one or two cuts from that,” he added.
Stefanie Fitzpatrick, teacher at the Lexington School for the Deaf, CrossFitter, and former gymnast
Stefanie has been teaching high school math to deaf and hard of hearing students at the Lexington School for the Deaf for eight years and communicates all day, every day in American Sign Language. “My hands are my words, and they’re my voice,” Stefanie said. “I knew I wanted to go into teaching. I was learning ASL in high school and did an internship. I fell in love with the language.”
She’s also a former gymnast who now uses her gymnastics skills and strength as a competitive CrossFit athlete. She started gymnastics when she was 4, because her mom didn’t know what to do with all the energy she had. “CrossFit brought back my gymnastics,” she said. “It’s given me new goals to attain as an adult.”
“I love that my hands mesh all of my worlds together. Teaching is my soft side, and then, after school, I’m going to CrossFit and roughing up my hands,” Stefanie added.
Brett Parnell, guitarist
Brett is a Brooklyn-based freelance musician and recording engineer, who specialized in guitar but is a jack-of-all-trades. Brett said his interest in performing music began when he was 13 and had to pick up a rock album for his brother who was at a dance. When he listened, he knew right away that he wanted to pursue a music career. “My only concern was that it would affect my future professional basketball career,” he said, laughing.
As both a musician and a recording engineer, his hands are essential to his career. “It takes 15 or 20 minutes to warm them up each day. After about 15 minutes, I can play.”
And his hands get a lot of wear — both from carrying around gear and from playing. “Every guitar player has callouses on their hands,” he added.
Samantha Langstein, pianist
Samantha is a New York–based pianist, composer, and educator, who holds a master's degree from Manhattan School of Music in jazz piano performance. She explained that there are three elements to being a musician: teaching, performing, and composing. Samantha teaches private lessons, performs around the city, and writes music.
“I've played piano since I was a kid. There was nothing else I wanted to do. I feel I can best express myself through sound,” she said of her decision to pursue a career in music. Samantha explained that her hands are important because, to get a good sound on the piano, you need to apply just the right amount of weight — and added that acoustic piano is actually very therapeutic for your hands.
Rachel Warnes, veterinarian and rock climber
Rachel is a shelter veterinarian by day and a rock climbing enthusiast by night. She explained that she got into veterinary medicine because the pound seemed so scary when she was a child. She adopted two dogs from a shelter nine years ago and thought something needed to change. “Who doesn’t want to save animals’ lives?”
Rock climbing, on the other hand, is her release, mentally and physically. “Each climb is unique, which takes me away mentally.”
And as both a vet and a climber, her hands are indispensable. “Literally ‘hands-on’ is in the descriptions of both my job and hobby,” Rachel said. And her hands really take a beating, “from cat scratches and bites to cutting my hands up climbing. They say if you’re not bleeding, you’re not climbing. Rocks outside are very sharp.”
What she loves about her hands? “I can beat them up, and they’re still there for me.”
Raina Dimmitt, baker
Raina has worked as a baker and pastry chef for 12 years, starting as a bread baker in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Most recently, she’s worked at a boutique cake shop in Brooklyn. She got into baking because she was trying to avoid an office job. "I was doing ceramics in college," she said. "I lucked into a bread baking job and never looked back."
For baking, her hands are everything. "They separate an average baker from an exceptional one," she said. "People talk about having ‘the touch.' Even if you do everything by the book, if you don’t have the touch, it shows in the final product."
"My hands tell my story. I still have the scar on my left hand from when a window slammed on it when I was 3. They also have their own memory. For example, I may not be able to verbalize how to braid a six-strand challah, but my hands will remember," she added.
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All photos by Stone / © BuzzFeed