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Question for the pros...

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I'm a student, still far away from graduation. I know most, if not all graduates start off in the dish pit and have to move their way up from there. My question is, how long does it usually take to move up from dish pit to line cook, prep cook, or any cook for that matter?

One graduate came and talked to my class once and said he has been doing dishes since he started school. Then by the time he graduated, he became the sous where he works now.

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 17
Well, I still do dishes.
I worked as a dish guy for about a month then there was opening on the fry and pantry. It depends on your skill and your motivation. Try and watch everything that happens around you. Notice which plate is which when your scraping them. During your interview state that your goal is to not stay in that position. If there's any opening you'd like to be considered.

Though, I'm sure you could find a prep gig or even a lunch line cook position right now if you tried. imho
oh and not everyone starts in dishes!
GL
professionalism .
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professionalism .
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post #3 of 17
Yeah, skill, motivation, and luck.

Luck is the big one. It's when the salad guy is on a bender or otherwise un-available and the Chef looks at you and tells you to jump in. 'Course you still gotta do the dishes afterwards, but then the CHef shoves you in the salad guy's job and when the salad guy eventually does show up, the Chef boots him out.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #4 of 17
When I first started (1 year ago) I was prepping for a chain restaurant. Take my advice, don't wasttr\e your time with these corporate restaurants. They don't need culinarians to flip there brgers and drop there fries, they need cooks. Go straight into the finer end of the food biz. Fine dining is good. If you go to an independent restaurant make sure they don't have the potential to go out of business within the next three months. Skill is a big one, but common sense is key. You can teach someone a skill, but you can't teach them common sense.
post #5 of 17

Bang on doors

Get on the net and find the top fifty restaurants in your area and start banging on the door for any position. If this happens to be as a pot wash then so be it but you have your foot in the door. Watch, listen and learn, ask questions and pretty soon they will take you on as a commis.
Also keep a notebook with you, make notes of different things you see. Ask the chef for that past month menu before they use for scrap paper, file it away.

Buy the way, washing pots is a very integral part of the business. If a pot is looked after it will last for years, pots cost money, money equals profit not loss. You can alwayse tell if a chef started out washing pots him/herself, how? they never burn one again and if they do they will apologise for it to you.

I started as an apprentise in Zurich but spent a year in the pot wash, before I was allowed near a knife. In those days it was all copper so we had to first wash the pot then once clean you had to clean the copper (vinegar,salt,flour) then once shiney it had to be rinsed off and polished.
Given the fact that not one pot had to be replaced in my year on pot wash I effectivly saved the business £6000 about 10 000 dollars.

Any chef who is worth his salt will know what I mean and will thank you for a good job.

Commit 100% to any task

Best of luck
www.chefsworld.net
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your input guys, I really appreciate it. Unfortunately where I live, there isn't much BUT big corporations and food chains. The ones that are finer dining mom and pop shops have no openings, "especially" for students. I guess I just have to try and look harder and do my best.
post #7 of 17
I have to disagree with anyone who wants you to have a narrow range of work experience. Although in the end you may wish to end up in the fine dining field I would not put off a casual place that does high volume or even a chain. You learn different aspects of the industry from different types of work and I feel that it can only make you a more well-rounded cook or chef.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #8 of 17
Blue your absolutely right. Worling in a chain restaurant you can learn how to move your a** when food needs to get out due to the high volume of customers. Working at a chain restaurant I didn't even feel like a cook, I felt like a food re-heater because most of everything came sous vide already made and frozen and alot of the sh** I put out all I had to do is reheat. It was so bad even the **** mashed potatoes came sous vide frozen. Bullshi*.
post #9 of 17
Another thing to keep in mind is that I'm sure the chef's at yur school have connections. Talk to them and find out if they know any companies or restaurants looking for people. Don't go into a place thinking your going to be "Chef" because you went to school because you'll just be heartbroken to find out that you will be the lowest on the totem pole after the dish washers. Not to worry though, whatever job you have, be good at it maintain integrity, show interest, have a good attitude and know in your mind that you will move up. If your a prep cook, be a darn good one, be the go 2 guy for the prep, and learn how to do everything on that prep list. Hang in there and good luck
post #10 of 17
My advice for getting a job.

Apply everywhere... accept every interview... if nothing happens... repeat
post #11 of 17
I admit that I've never worked at a chain, and although I do work at a relatively casual restaurant a large amount of our food is prepare a la minute (with some exceptions, of course). So I guess the key is to find a large place that still does things casually, but well.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Blueicus: I agree, I think that I shouldn't focus on a certain type of dining. A wide range of experience is always a plus.

ChefInTraining: My teachers do have connections, but unfortunately they are all far away from me. I commute 80 miles a day just to go to school and I don't have time to go home and tidy up, so I definitely have to find a place around my house to work.

Part of the reason why I want to move up fast is because my cousin was Michael Jordan's personal chef and now he's the exec somewhere in Vegas and he's quite young. I know it's unrealistic to be at the top once I graduate, but I like to think I can! :lol:

Thanks for all of your replies. I really appreciate you all helping me out.
post #13 of 17
Im the sous with 20 + cooks and dishwashers under me and I spent at least an hour doing dishes today... Spent an hour writing menus... 45 mins ordering product... at least two hours making sauces and attending to stocks... an hour at the cryovac machine... kissed souless toolbox management's *** for a very very long 15 minutes... at least another hour cleaning... and many things I cant even remember in between... my point is no matter how far you go you will spend time doing everything from the most degrading work to the most satisying ego stroking work there is, every day... and if you really are meant for this business then every minute will be worth it....
post #14 of 17
The easiest way to become Executive Chef right out of school is open your own restaurant. Apart from that most places will hand you a potato peeler your first day. Those positions where you walk in as a Sous or Exec Chef are rare. Look for that sure but don't be too stuck on it. Don't rule out a place that could be great just because they want you to do prep.

The other pitfall is a place that would hire a recent graduate as Executive Chef is probably desperate for a reason. I have a client here in Chicago that actually offered me an Executive Chef/Kitchen Manager position. I never even went to culinary school. I am sure you are wondering why on earth I turned it down. Well in that case of that place salary is based on experience and I have zero as an Executive Chef. It is a night club so all I would really be making is apps and the hours would totally suck, plus the reason he offered it to me was because he had just fired 3 chefs in a row, good chefs, people I know who are amazing. The GM is just a pr**k and I wasn't about to be chef #4 he fired. Not only that but I don't think I am ready.

I am off on a tangent now, hopefully you can salvage something useful out of my diatribe. :talk:
Mike

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” -- Zaphod Beeblebrox
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Mike

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” -- Zaphod Beeblebrox
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post #15 of 17
Another important thing you want to keep in mind is whether you actually do deserve a position. It's all well and good to tell people you're an executive chef at 25, but if in the end you can't prove your chops to run a kitchen well and don't have the knowledge base, then what good does that title do for you? You'd just be living in a delusional fantasy land.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #16 of 17
I know you are focused on getting a job in a restaurant, but there is another possibility to consider. I want you to promise that you won't stop reading until the end even if you start laughing now ... Cafeteria. Now when I say this, I don't mean that crappy school lunch we all used to eat in junior high (although a lot of the middle schools now have quality food programs) I am talking about College, University, Hospital and CORPORATE cafeterias. There are three major corporations who do contract food service in these areas (I happen to work for one of them - I am executive chef and general manager feeding breakfast and lunch to 2000 daily) and you would be amazed at the high quality (especially in the area of catering) not to mention high volume, and if you are looking for broad experience, the menus change more frequently than any restaurant - most items change at lease weekly if not daily.

If you have any questions about this area, I will be happy to try to answer them.
post #17 of 17
Best advice I ever got I got from the line cook at my grandmother's restaurant, way back when I was a teenager and just getting into kitchen work. He said "Take whatever job you can to get your foot in the door. Work hard, don't ***** too much, and when another opening comes up, ask for it."

That plan's never, ever failed for me.
"Hunger is the best pickle." -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac
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"Hunger is the best pickle." -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac
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