The most frequent question I'm asked from visitors to my web site; The Adventures of an Itinerant Chef (http://www.chefpatrick.com/) is, “How do you find all these jobs?”I've decided to take advantage of this column to answer that question.
I began my culinary career as an apprentice in 1971 working in restaurants, hotels and resorts on the “resort circuit.”The “resort circuit” is nothing more than any restaurant, hotel, resort, lodge, camp, yacht and other business that operate on a seasonal basis.
To “work the circuit”one could work the Summer season at a lodge in Alaska and then work the Winter season at a resort in St. Thomas, or work the ski season in Chile and then work the ski season in Colorado since they are directly the opposite each other.
“How do I find these jobs?” Much the same way you find any job, you look for it! The trick is looking in the right place at the right time.
Back in 1970 BI (before internet) if you were looking for a Winter job in Florida you either went through a “head hunter”who specialized in seasonal employment or subscribed to the Miami Herald for a few months. The trick was to look for a job at least 90 days prior to the date you wanted to go to work and/or the season opens.
Today that process is much easier. Simply turn on your computer and check out the on-line newspaper in your preferred area. A good source to do that is http://www.careerpath.com where you can read the newspapers for an entire State with one keystroke.
Timing is still the key if you've got a specific destination in mind. If you're looking for Winter work in the Caribbean or Florida you need to start looking as early as August. These jobs will be posted beginning mid-August and usually run until the start of the season in early December.
“Head hunters”are still out there but it's just as easy to read the “Help Wanted”pages on sites such as http://www.cheftalk.com/, http://starchef.com/ and http://www.pastrywiz.com/. Four of my last seasonal positions have come from one of these sources.
Whatever method you choose you should always check the references of a future employer. One way to do that is to contact the Chamber of Commerce in that area and/or ask your prospective employer for references from previous employees. This is particularly important if you are considering a position in another country or in a remote area.
I've had a bad experience in accepting what I was told by an employer without checking references and found myself stranded in a very remote part of South America. For more information about that experience please read my article about “How to find a job off the Internet.”
Probably the best option for those just starting in the industry, is to “show up”in the region a few weeks prior to the beginning of the local tourist season and start knocking on doors. That technique works extremely well in Florida during the Winter months.
While in Costa Rica last Winter studying Spanish I was offered five jobs in a month and extended my stay for another month as a Chef Consultant in a Resort. I would have stayed longer, but I had already accepted a Winter position in Patagonia, Chile.
Sending an unsolicited resume to businesses in an area you might like to work is not generally a good idea. It is expensive to do and quite frequently your resume will just end up in the trash can.
NEVER send an unsolicited resume' via email. Many businesses in remote areas do not have fast internet connections and that approach is guaranteed to end up in the trash can. The best approach is to send a brief email asking whether they would like to receive your resume.
Networking with friends in the industry is another great way to find a position. Two Winter's ago I received an email from an old friend asking whether I was immediately available to help out for a “week or two”in an all-inclusive resort in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Three days after receiving the message I was drinking Daiquiris with my buddy on the beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The St. Thomas job lasted eight weeks and proved to be quite profitable and fun.
Prior to leaving St. Thomas I happened to check http://www.starchef.com/ and found another temporary position in Belize. Since I was heading that direction anyway I accepted the 60 day position before returning to Alaska.
I highly recommend staying in touch with your friends and ex-coworkers. You never know when something great will show up. Also, regularly attend your local Chef's Association meetings and attend professional conferences whenever possible.
This Fall after completing the Summer season in Alaska I will be attending the 1st International Congress of Chefs in the New Millennium in Cancun, Mexico on September 26, 27 and 28, 2000.
This conference promises to bring together Chef's and other hospitality industry professionals from around the world and should be an excellent opportunity to meet other professionals. I will report on this conference in a future column. For more information on this conference visit their web site at: http://www.chefcongress.com
Now, about getting that dream job on a yacht? Stand in line, because there are about 50 other chefs/cooks ahead of you. That doesn't mean that you should give up, it just means that you should be prepared to wait for your opportunity. My best advise is to visit marinas and yacht clubs on a regular basis and ask around.
Also, be prepared to accept less money than you would normally work for. There is a lot to learn as a crew member on a boat and you've got to pay your dues before you can expect to earn top dollar.