Yes, I am indeed working for no pay in a restaurant right now. I did have to pay my own liability, which covers me for a year. The first month I wasn't paying for it and the exec chef soon told me that I had to be covered. I think it's better to play by the rules and do that, if they asked. When I mentioned that I was paying so that I could return in an online site that I keep that I'm using to chronicle my time in the kitchen, a few kind folks were annoyed, on my behalf, that I had to pay. I guess with so many folks working in restaurants under questionable circumstances, etc., they thought I was really being gypped. But I don't mind paying, if it keeps it all on the level, I didn't want the chef in trouble for having me around. I look at it as a **** of a lot more bang for my buck than if I put it towards a cooking class, it covers my learning for a whole year!
Just ask a chef if you can work for them for free. They get free help, and you get experience. Just make sure that you create a schedule and STICK to it. I am free to come and go from the restaurant as I please, and I am lucky that way, but I always show up when I say that I will, and give plenty of advance if I cannot be there on my usual days.
Don't be afraid to ask. People are generally nice and all it takes is a little interest and effort, and they might just let you in, especially if it's at no cost to them. =)