or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

A very good article on MSN

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
How To Become a Top Chef
By Jennifer Mulrean

Anthony Bourdain, the executive chef of Brasserie Les Halles in New York and bestselling author of Kitchen Confidential, and A Cook's Tour, has a tip for all the wannabe chefs out there: Work as a dishwasher for six months first.

A stint as a prep cook would also cut it, he says, but the point is to step inside a kitchen and take a long look around before shelling out the big bucks for a formal culinary education.

"It'll help you make that all-important decision 'do I really want do this?' And, 'do I have what it takes?'" Bourdain says.

Think of it as the first phase of your schooling. In addition to helping you figure out whether this is really the life for you, you'll come to know your way around a kitchen and have a good feel for how things work before you're being evaluated by professors.

Putting his money where his mouth is
If you think this is a case of a chef not eating his own cooking, think again. Long before he was appearing on the Food Network or penning bestselling books, Bourdain sudsed dirty dishes on Massachusetts's Cape Cod.

"I was a ruthless kid in need of a summer job," he says. "One of my roommates was a waitress and when a dishwashing job came up, I was pretty much ordered to take the job."

It was a backbreaking way to make rent, but it was also the start of a lifelong love affair.

"These were the first people who I respected and whose respect I wanted in return," he says of his kitchen mates. "I responded quickly to the camaraderie and physicality of the work."

Chefs first, celebrities, maybe
Note Bourdain did not use words such as "ease" or "glamour" to describe the work. The culinary life usually has little to do with glitz, though it's easy nowadays to make the mistake.

"Some very exciting things are happening. You have the celebrity chefs, you have a 24-hour food channel, you can find anything on the Internet ... but it creates a dangerous thing: Everyone wants to be a celebrity chef," says Dr. Victor Gielisse, associate vice president and dean of culinary, baking and pastry studies at the illustrious Culinary Institute of America (CIA). "It's not that easy."

This sentiment is echoed by Scott Dolich, executive chef and owner of Park Kitchen in Portland, Oregon, who was recently named one of the 10 best new chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine. "Fifteen years ago, chefs weren't celebrities; chefs were chefs," he says. "And those people who do have their names up in lights have put in their time, by and large." Case in point: Dolich's own designation as a best new chef--a good 15 years after he started down his career path.

But the advent of the celebrity chef also has been a boon for the foodie world. Dolich and Gielisse point to increased respectability while Bourdain notes that it's opening up a world of career possibilities.

"This is a moment in history, especially in America, where chefs have more opportunity and can make more money than ever before," he says.

Personal chefs rank fourth on Entrepreneur magazine's list of the fastest-growing home-based businesses in the country. And Gielisse notes that only 45 to 50 percent of CIA graduates pursue careers in independent restaurants á la Bourdain or Dolich. The other 50 to 55 percent go on to work in research and development, management, cruise lines, hotels and resorts, and even food writing.

"What I like to stress to students is they need to explore all the sectors," Gielisse says. "The more broad-based their knowledge the more marketable they'll be."

Browse Culinary Programs

Compare top culinary programs and find the one that's right for you.
• Browse programs.
The education of a chef
To really take advantage of all the opportunities, it's not surprising that the CIA's Gielisse also recommends a formal culinary education. His institution began offering four-year degrees about 10 years ago, which he sees as a critical stage in the evolution of the profession. But Bourdain, who has a reputation as an unconventional straight-talker, seconds that advice. Skip the degree and "you're short-changing yourself," he says.

He himself enrolled in the CIA not long after his dishwashing stint. He saw it as the best way to become really good at his chosen profession, so that, in his words, he'd "have more to offer."

This isn't to say a culinary degree is the end all be all to becoming a great chef, nor that the lack of one will determine that you'll never amount to more than fry cook. This is a profession that was built on the apprentice model, after all.

"Some of the greatest chefs in the world didn't have a formal culinary education," Bourdain acknowledges, "But you really better be a genius."

Nor will your education stop when you're granted that degree.

"It's a huge, huge advantage to have a culinary education," Bourdain says. "But if you really want to rise up in this business, you really have to put in that time working for the best chefs you can at next-to-nothing pay.

"I think a lot of the smart young chefs coming out (of school) today are doing six-month apprenticeships and they're doing a series of them."

What it takes: beyond the craft
So what skills will serve you best? First, you need to lose the notion that you'll be reinventing haute cuisine on a daily basis.

"I think the biggest misconception is that it's a glamorous job," Bourdain says. "You have to be an organizer, you have to multi-task, you have to cook brilliantly--and identically--every single day without going insane."

And then there are the skills that have nothing to do with knowing casserole from cassoulet.

"Gone are the days when you could just be a good cook," Gielisse says. "There has to be a seamless blend of business acumen and culinary skill."

Dolich, who opened Park Kitchen just over a year ago, is experiencing this firsthand.

"What's kind of come to pass is I don't cook as much anymore," he says. "I have to spend a lot of my time running the business and managing the floor.

"It's a whole lot easier to find good cooks than to find good people to run my business."

No matter what aspect of the food business you ultimately pursue, to hear Bourdain tell it, you won't just be getting a job, you'll be joining an exciting international subculture.

"There's a shared language and a shared way of looking at the world," he says. "That, plus the knowledge you can do something with your hands--that you're skilled and can take that with you and be employable anywhere.

"All my good work habits and any moral quality I have is from the kitchen."

About the Author
Jennifer Mulrean is a writer on MSN Money. She has written articles for the Seattle Times, the Los Angeles Times, and In St
My latest musical venture!
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
My latest musical venture!
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
post #2 of 3

Thanks for sharing that article with us.

It was a good read, and fair because it had two chefs from totally different culinary upbringing (Gielisse and Bourdan).

Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
post #3 of 3
great article. guess i better get a job in a kitchen somewhere......
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home