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Thinking About A Career In The Kitchen!!!

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Good Day. One thing about the whole "celebrity chef" phenomenon, is that it really has brought a lot of attention to food and the people who make it. The bad thing about it is you have a lot of people who are trying to get into the game, more for the celebrity than the craft...the art, that is food. I could give a **** about the celebrity...I just want to be about the food.

I currently work in another high pressure, high ego occupation...politics. I have interned and worked for governors, congressional candidates, and Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. I currently work for the U.S. House of Reps now, in a non-partisan capacity. It's been a good run, I have been involved in politics in one way or the other since I was a teenager. I want a change, and I want to go into the culinary field. I have been cooking seriously at home, since 2003, and have become confident enough in my cooking where I now cater and offer advice to friends, family, co-workers, and others on how to properly prepare and cook their food. I write the food column of my office newsletter, and I have a blog on MySpace. It really has become a love and a passion for me.

I want to try to take things to the next level. I have taught myself a lot, but I need to learn more, and I need to learn certain skills and practices to the point where it becomes as easy as breathing. My goal is to open two restaurants...a turkey wing joint (Turkey wings, homeade biscuits, burgers, mac-n-cheese, etc.) but done in a somewhat innovated and upscale way. And I want to open a finer dining restaurant...what I call "Upscale African Diasporatic Cuisine"...soul food from the American South, Carribean cuisine (My first wife's family is from Trinidad and Tobago, and my fiance's family is Jamaican), and quite possibly other cuisines from Cape Verde, and Africa. Served simply, but with some innovative twists. But I can't get to that point, unless I learn more with regards to cooking, and also get to see how the business side is ran.

Aside from telling me how hard it is, because I do know how difficult it can be (My catering jobs are difficult enough...and it's just me doing the work). But tell me how I can approach someone, and ask them if I can become a prep cook for them. Will they even take the time to train me (I can't go to culinary school, because of lack of time and money)? Tell me some of your stories...especially those chefs who are self-taught. I apologize for the lengthy of this thread, but this is something that is really important to me, and I need some good advice. Thank you.
post #2 of 7
It shouldn't be too hard to find an entry level prep job, especially in the D.C. area. Just be prepared for low pay and a lot of dirty work. Make sure that when you interview with the Chef, that you do some interviewing of your own. Make it clear what your goals are, and a time line for them. A lot of Chefs will respond well to someone who is driven, though maybe not so experienced. If you are a hard worker and reasonably intelligent, you can be taught to excel in the food business. Make sure that the restaurant has a theme that works with the skillset you are trying to master. They should be doing a lot of the fundamentals of prep, sauce making, basic butchery, etc. Most of the time you are going to find this at a privately owned, more upscale restaurant. Make sure that the Chef has a support structure capable of good training. Many restaurants take on externs and apprentices. This would be a good place to start. After that, get yourself some good textbooks and study hard.
It's Good To Be The King!
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It's Good To Be The King!
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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank You Montelago

I appreciate the advice. What you're saying makes a great deal of sense. I'm 34 years old, and have worked in the workforce for awhile...so I am intelligent and hardworking. I am not necessarily worried about the pay, since I have a job during the week. I just want to get in there. Prepping and observing...that's worth more to me than anything else. People make look down at prep work, but a restaurant can't get things done unless things are sufficiently prepped. Also as a prep cook, it's all about repetition...after awhile, I will be able to cut, dice, and peel things at amazing speed, and do it the way a chef would want it done. That's good enough for me.

I am going to take your word, and others advice to heart, and work towards my goals. Thank you again.
post #4 of 7
I currently do all the prep work at the restaurant where I work, as far as I know, no one looks down on me as far as being "the prep cook". I am also the sous chef..for when I get done with all necessary prep, I then make sure everyone else is doing their job and take care of whatever else needs to be accomplished for opening.

I am self trained, I have asked many questions along the way, I have subscribed to many online publications to keep myself current and I work with some of the best cooks and the Chef/Kitchen Manager (where I currently work) is a CIA graduate. I have been in this crazy business for 29 & 1/2 years and have worked for many places from "fast food" to fine dining.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks Salliem

Thanks Salliem for the advice and/or commentary. I hope I didn't insult you in any way with regards to my comments on prep cooking. I wasn't saying that it is "lowly" or anything like that. However, I do know that some look down at people who may be in prep, because it is not "so-called" cooking. I think that attitude is "elitist" and frankly "full of crap". From the dishwasher to the executive chef...every position in a restaurant is important.

Either way...you been in the game a long time. What kind of enjoyment do you get from being in this business? Does it get boring to you at all?
post #6 of 7
I really enjoy what I do, yes sometimes it gets boring but then again most jobs do. A long time ago one of my sisters asked me when I was going to get a "real job"..my response to her was to come and do my job for just a half day and then get back to me. Since we now have so many celebrity chefs she has been able to see some of what goes into a single day and they don't ever really show the real thing as we all know it to be.

As far as the prep cook thing, I make all the bread, all the sauces and soups..and then I go and do "real cooking", meaning the hot and cold line. I also open the restaurant in the morning, checking in all of our deliveries, food, beer, wine, etc. Something most always happens in any given day to keep one on their toes.

I am about to enter into another level of this business as a consultant if you will to a friend who is getting ready to open her own place..should be exciting. It's all good..:)
post #7 of 7
Boredom is not a word that I would generally use to describe this job. Maybe hours of monotony punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I love the stress, the adrenaline, the comraderie, the creativity, the satisfaction of feeding people something completely sublime and watching the expression on their face. This is a job that you really have to love, or it will eat you alive. There are a lot of extraordinarily average "chefs" out there who will never really get it. And there are at least as many who are unknown, but inspiring, talented, driven, hard working, creative and really great people to know.
It's Good To Be The King!
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It's Good To Be The King!
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