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How can we help? - Page 2

post #31 of 46

How can we help newbies and want-to-be's ??

Well, I have been in the Restaurant biz for 16 years now.Cooking for 9 of those. I have just recently decided to get a degree at the local Community College. In these classes are apprentices from the Sea Island Company (a nice resort here in SE Coastal Georgia). Some of the stories they have told me about are just awful.(low pay , long hours, bosses who just don't give a ****---but hey, we all gota start somewhere.)

I just got finished reading "Kitchen Confidential--Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" by Anthony Bourdain.

I would tell someone to read this book as it will give you an idea of how 75% of "Professional Kitchens" are really like. (I can tell you that up untill 3-4 years ago that this is how my kitchen was, and to an extent---except for drug use and harrassing of female employees---it still is.)

With that said, if you have read the book, you know what I am talking about.Most people just wouldn't hack it in the reall world of food production in a "Professional Kitchen"(what an oxymouron (sp?)--)

I have this friend who is in investments. He can cook some nice food for parties and himself when he has the time. I saw him in a bar one night and he expressed to me that he would love to work in the kitchen at my place. Well I only told him I would cook him something to eat if he really wanted to see what it was like.So he came in on a Wed night(traditionally a slow night for us) and let him shadow me for a while.

Prep work done, I made one of the specials for him and some for the waitstaff.(Grilled lamb chops that had been rubbed with mint,rosemarry,dijon mustard--roasted garlic and bacon mashed potatos with dill---and broc with bernaise sauce)

This restaurant seats 125 or so and lately we have been averaging 130 a night on Wed. I forget the real number we did that night,but it wasnt over 100.(slow season fo us and all)
It was just me and my Sous (who is also my younger brother) behind the line, and we let "our little helper" sautee some veggies and pasta dishes.

Half way through the night, here he is about to fall out from heat exhaustion and looking like a wet rat. He just could not believe that this was a slow night. He was a trouper though.He hung in while we slung insults back and forth in the kitchen(between dishwashers, salad prep,expeditor and the two of us)

After work , we sat at the bar and had a few cold beers.He thanked me for the opp. and said he was just stuned at all the work that goes into a typical night in the kitchen(he hasn't asked to come back yet :-)

I give this little story just to show someone that this life is not all "glam and ritz" as you see on TV and read im Mags. It takes hard work ,long hours, constant babysitting, conflict resolution, and hurting feet ankles and knees. All of this for low pay(mostly)

One gets into this buisness because they work well with their hands and love the food they produce. They are willing to put up with all the bullsh** that goes with a "Professional Kitchen"
because they love what they do.

As for me, I love this field. My grandfather had a bakery and some of my earliest memories are getting picked up from school by my mom and going to the bakery. Once there I would get to pick something out of the walkin to drink (usually a nice cold glass of milk) and my favorite apple turnover that he would have heated up for me.

I was destined to be in this buisness.I only got into it in high school cause I needed money. I do not think there is anything else on this earth that I would rather do as a profession(even if I won Lotto, I would still be cooking in a kitchen--it would just be my own)


I say read the book listed above and ask yourself if you really want to be in a profession such as ours. That book brought back some fond memories, and some I would rather forget.

Billy
post #32 of 46
This is my first post so please be gentle!

After reading this thread and going back to it's title, I would like to offer my perspective on why I'm changing careers and how you can help.

At the age of 32 I have just completed my 10th year in the high tech industry. And yes, you could say that there are definate luxeries to the job. But after flying near 1,000,000 miles in the past four years, there are also the downsides. It's not the dishwasher next to you that doesn't know about personal hygene, it's the airline passenger you sit next to for six hours on your coast to coast all night flight. Holidays and vacations are really not breaks from work. In the "tech biz" you work every waking moment. We won't even mention the no-sleep 5 day trips to Tokyo on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July - oh I guess I just did.

But I don't think that we should try to match up careers to see who's job is more difficult. If it wasn't difficult it wouldn't be called a job. It would be called "fun time" or "take-it-easy-time". I think that it's all in your attitude and your vision for your profession. My number one reason for leaving high tech is that I lost my vision. Second runner up would be my loss of passion. I looked around me and those people who I once wanted to be....I didn't respect them anymore.

Now here is an interesting twist to my story. I worked in the Rest. biz for just over 6 years before I started into High Tech. My family runs a restaraunt and a catering business. When I left Ohio to run around the country with high-tech, my mom said "You'll be back" and yes she was right -----> AGAIN!

Well here it is and yes I'm heading back to school. I'm attending the C.I.A. in Hyde Park starting in January. Why you ask? It's simple...it's about what I love to do. Yes I'm crazy to love the back of the house. Hard work, heat, sweat - I'm up for it. Been there, done that, love it.

I know that working in the biz is hard. **** it's darn near impossible some times. But what drives me is that night when you beat your alltime best at putting up covers. It's when the awesome review comes in and you were the one that cooked the food. It's when someone pokes their head into the kitchen and says "That was an awesome meal". It's the looks on people faces in the dining room when they take that first bite.

Realize it folks. We are the future of this business. And everytime I hear "it's a horrible rotten place, but you have to pay your dues"....bullllllllll - don't do it. Pay your dues somewhere else. Have vision for your profession.

So how can you help.... here is how I think you can help me. Stand up and make changes! That's right...not just answer posts on a message board. Go and do something that changes one little piece of your business that you don't like. And then come back here and post your successes and failures in doing so.

That way as I make my way thru culinary training, I'll learn how people have been able to effectively change the business. What is working and what is not. We all need to know how the changes can impact the bottom line. We need to know if changes improve the performance. We need to know if changes really do make good change.

Just my two cents......David Patrick
post #33 of 46

dang....

Amen brothers! May I add this small insight................
People who really cook for a living can be very territorial and competitive by nature. Not all, but MANY. I am one of those people. We are the politically incorrect, the hostile, the crazy, the demanding, the tough and the ones with our hearts tied to our jobs. I am very possesive of my secret life in a professional kitchen and don't care to share that joy that I have being on 'the inside' with people that just plain have NO idea what's in store. YES many career changers have been very very sucessful and satisfied with this business.
YES you do need to spend SOME time paying dues, but know the difference between dues and slavery, and when to get out.
YES this is a hard job, but I think we try to keep 'wannabe's" out because we don't want to share the air of mystery and intrigue that surrounds the real inside of the restaraunt business. It makes us feel a little cooler and hipper than our friends and neighbors, and face it, most of us were never cool or hip until we started slinging food and making servers cry. We gained approval from those already in the kitchen and they didn't make it easy.. now we're the sophomores, juniors, and seniors and we want to haze the freshmen a little, too... scare them a little to make them sure this is what we want cause there's no room for crybabies or lazy people in a good kitchen.
Sorry.. I got a little passionate there.. hope ya'll get my point.:D
Thirteen is my dog's name, I am not 13 nor am I a dog......
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Thirteen is my dog's name, I am not 13 nor am I a dog......
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post #34 of 46
David Patrick~ what a wonderful idea!!! I love it.
I'm working on school gardens and curriculum for sustainable ag and local healthy foods being offered to our kids. Lining up grants, I talked to the Dept of Ag and Slow Foods today on available grants....I found a couple of certified teachers that organically farm and a University to develop curriculums. There are going to be two MAJOR fundraisers this year to raise monies for local projects....
There are several other tangents I'm working on but they all revolve around local foods.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #35 of 46
Thread Starter 
david,
Welcome to cheftalk.
I wish you great success back in the "biz"

Your point is well takin,get off our duffs and make a change.

If we are going to talk the talk we have to walk the walk.
cc
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #36 of 46
There is no room for cry babies in the kitchen, that's why I take it online. It's the only place TO take it.

The people HERE are the standing up talking about issues with the hopes of bettering kitchens. This is the first step, identify the problems. You have to understand one of the realities of change is resistance. Their are tons of chefs and managers out there trying to make things better! But as Suzanne will tell you it's a dangerous road to travel. The movers and the shakers get fired. Real change can only happen from the person handing out the pay checks.

Owners don't want employees to rock their boats. They have obsticles too, which we appreciate. BUT I still believe the only way to make any quick improvements comes from organizing. So long as we can't agree among ourselfs they'll never be any wide spread changes. It goes back to one owner at a time to insitute change.

Every newbie who works for a couple years then bails is much like the illegal worker. They do nothing to increase professional salarys. They help owners, not workers. They provide cheap labor and work at wages skilled older workers can't afford to compete with.
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #37 of 46
DeBord - I totally disagree w/ the notion that owners are some how profiting by the use of "newbies". While I'm all for bringing new people into my organization it is very expensive to me. I've read in some industry mags that the average cost of training a new employee ranges in the $20,000.00 range not counting the cost of benefits which are another 12 - 20,000.00 per yr. Even if you take 25% of the training costs multiplied by say even 5 employees a yr that's 25 grand alone and while that maynot be alot of money to some, it is to me since it comes directly out of my pocket. Not only that but you have the potential of lost business. Since there is always a learning curve for every new employee there is the potential to send out something not quite up to par. And while you hope that the service staff would catch it, things have a way of slipping by. So say Mr. Jones is looking for a new place to hold all his business lunches as he is tired of the run around at the old place. He figures that since your main business is fine dining it would given him an personal view of how you do business. Out comes the sub-par entree and Mr. Jones gets it. So not only do you lose his business but potentially alot more when he starts talking to his friends about his bad experiance.
Furthermore as an owner we are exposed to alot of risk financially when we hire a new employee. For example: I hire Chef Johnson who comes w/ wonderful recommendations and references unknown to me even though I checked his references the guy's a slimeball. He lost his last couple of jobs because he can't keep he's hands to himself. I find out and fire the guy and my Female cook files suit not only on him but me also for not providing a safe work enviroment my insurance co. decides to settle and I'm lucky that my insurance only doubles and that I don't get canceled. No insurance and I'm out of business and the 65 people that I employ are out on the streets also. So no I don't believe it is beneficial to owners having newbie turnover. At least not to the owners that know 5 + 5 = 10.

Sorry, maybe I should have put this under the rant thread
Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
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Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
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post #38 of 46
As a potential career changer I have to admit:
O.K. I am good and scared about just about everthing i've read about the restaurant business. I've read the threads, read the books like "Kitchen Confidential" and yea, I'm scared you know what ...less at times. I have a dozen good reasons why I want to make a career change, the key word is passion. We are only here for a finite amount of time so if every day is passionless, yet profitable for you and that is enough stick to what you are doing. For me, I just want to cook, period. I have read alot of cooking related pieces and one common theme i have gathered is that there is no way of being truly happy in this business if one does not love food, in every way, which I do. The question I have is what is the best way to begin to learn about this gigantic industry without offending people who have paid their dues. The last thing I want, is to run into this business and start burning bridges during my baby years in this industry. Yet, I also don't want to be taken advantage of just because I have no refined skills in the kitchen. It's the great paradox of beginning in any new field, however I have an advantage by asking all of you kind people. First, where do we start? Second, what should we look out for? Hopefully I can figure out the rest! :confused:
post #39 of 46

Well. Mike...

As far as I can see this is the best way to indoctrine yourself in a kitchen. Mind you it took me screwing up and NOT doing any of these things, getting fired a few times, getting in a few ego wars and the occasional screaming mtach. I have learned from my mistakes.. maybe other people could add suggestions, but here is my little theory on getting a good start and not pissing every one else off.. I was told these things and dismissed them and got burned hard ......
1. Show up every day regardless of bleeding, bruising, coughing, vomiting, concussion, whatever. If you are really suffering, your chef/boss will probably send you home, but it will be noted as your being a 'trouper'. I had an infected molar removed last summer and was at work before the novocaine wore off. The saute guy was nice enough to wipe the blood off my face periodically. They sent me home, without drama.
2. LISTEN. This is my sore spot. I am a horrible listener. But I have improved a lot.
3. Accept compliments by saying "thank you" and nothing else. No dissertation on how clever little you devised that the soup needed a little more salt than the recipe calls for, just say thanks and move on.
4. Don't disagree with the person who pays you. If they ask you to do something, do it. Ask questions if you must.. ask why, ask how, but don't tell them they're wrong about something. Most likely they are FAR more advanced a cook than you or have they're own reasons for doing things a certain way. Trust them.

These were my biggest issues, I have acted like a know it all princess and nearly got my head ripped off for it. I'm happier now that I just shut up and does as I'm told. Makes life WAY more livable.
Thirteen is my dog's name, I am not 13 nor am I a dog......
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Thirteen is my dog's name, I am not 13 nor am I a dog......
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post #40 of 46

Changing Majors!!!

Hey uguys,

I've been interested in cooking since the days of my first real baking experience. I made an apple crisp at the age of 8, and then on, i was hooked. However, I was heading into college for eduction and or business. I've been in the restaurant field for almost 8 years now (i'm almost 22), and I love how it works.

Working with the customers, seeing those people eating my food, laughing, enjoying, smiling, walking away satisfied. Though i'm going to graduate in the Restaurant/Hospitality degree from BGSU (not much of a program, but highly regarded among the business community) I am going to attend JWU in RI.

Funny thing is i was just fired from my job at a nationwide bakery/cafe chain. As a simple staff member, my manager told me that I had the drive/discipline/desire and thoughts to achieve my goal as chef/owner. I'm picky in my staff, and food, and sanitation, and preparation. I'm an a**#$Q% to work with, but It's all out of love. I want my team to be the best, the most passionate, and beautiful as well. I hope that these traits will transcript into a meaningful career as a chef.:chef:
-Would you like to engage in stimulating conversation, ask questions, or pass along tips and notes? Feel free to email at BGMAD@mail.com or on AOL IM at BGMAD. Hope to hear from you!
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-Would you like to engage in stimulating conversation, ask questions, or pass along tips and notes? Feel free to email at BGMAD@mail.com or on AOL IM at BGMAD. Hope to hear from you!
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post #41 of 46

Mike Laughlin, you said the magic word!

And the word is: PASSION! That is, after all we say, at the bottom of why we switch into this business, or get into it in the first place, or keep coming back to it. Someone probably already brought up that it is a "calling" for us -- an ineluctable force in whose face we are powerless!

(Sometimes I wonder if somebody should just put some lithium into family meal, to smooth out our manic-depressive-like highs and lows. Re-reading previous posts shows a bit of bi-polarity in us as a group, don't you think?)
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #42 of 46
well put everyone.
I am happy to see that the people who are here that happen to be career changers are as dedicated as myself and others before me. Welcome.. it will be a pleasure to have hot lamb fat splattered on my tender wrists by any one of you..:D
(anyone who hasn't yet been burned or even disfigured by screeching hot lamb fat must know that is the sincerest welcome I can give :) )
Thirteen is my dog's name, I am not 13 nor am I a dog......
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Thirteen is my dog's name, I am not 13 nor am I a dog......
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post #43 of 46
While I have not yet been burned with hot lamb fat, will the 1 x 3" burn scan on my wrist, from an oven, or the numerous droplet splatter burns from the soup-and-salad special from my waitressing days, do?
post #44 of 46
heh, all it takes is a thick skin and the right response.

vis a vis:

The owner of the "establishment" where i work was a wee bit cranky the other day (currently iam transitioning from one gig to another and these are my final days at the old place), so as well as attending the final exam of 5 1/2 yrs cookery school, im actually looking after 3 jobs as well (phew quite a balancing act i tell you!)

Something or other went wrong on his side and he stormed in and said to me:"whats this, what is going on, are you stupid or something?"

i said :" im sorry, what did you say?"

he said:" are you stupid or something!"

i said:" or something!"

he said:"huh?"

i showed him a letter from Mensa offering me membership. i then said, im not stupid.
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
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"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
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post #45 of 46
Thanks for correcting me Fodigger, of course your right (I sure missed that one!).
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #46 of 46

what are the realities for someone making a career change?

Hi everyone. This is my first post after reading a hundred or so in these boards. This thread interests me in particular, but what would help me greatly is a frank description of the monetary realities and lifestyle aspects of changing careers into the cooking business. What does a graduate from the CIA or some similar school make at his first job? Does it vary greatly by City? Lets say it is NY. Or Chicago. or a smaller town like Madison WI, as representative examples of different markets. What is the CIA graduate's first job and what are the duties? The hours? The pay? Assuming average/above average performance and initiative what are the duties/hours/pay like five years after? Ten years after? Some of these answers will vary greatly from place to place and may change with the economy, but please don't let that stop you from responding to this email. I need some answers, and this seems to be a good source for some of them.

Quick background: I am currently a lawyer two years out of school who is incredibly disillusioned with his career choice. Cooking as a career is becoming more and more of a temptation for me, but I have ZERO experience in a professional kitchen -- the closest I got was as a waiter assistant for a month at the Edgewater restaurant in Madison WI (I was 19, and yes, I wa fired). Since then I have grown up a lot, gone to law school, and worked for two years, all the while truly growing to LOVE food and its preparation, but only in the confines of my home kitchen. I worry that may not make the translation into professional kitchen. I've read Kitchen Confidential and reviewed this message board, but want some more input on the realities of making a switch from where I am to the cooking world. Mainly though I need specific info referenced in my first paragraph. Sorry for the length, rambling nature and possible grammatical errors of this message (I have to worry about grammar all day long and happy to to just write without worry at night!). Thanks in advance for any responses!
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