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Comin' Up from Dishwasher, Movin to NYC

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hey guys. This is my first post, so forgive me if I picked the wrong forum to post this thread.

I've been a little bit nervous for the next month coming up, and I was hoping maybe I could glean some advise from y'all more experienced folks.

I currently live and work in far upstate NY (near Montreal), and I've been lucky enough to move up from dishwasher to working lunches as salad/sandwich guy a couple days a week, even though I still dish on the weekends. I've been working at this place (probably the most upscale place in this area) for about five months, and tomorrow already the chef is talking about getting me trained to do salad station for dinners.

My problem is this: I graduated from college up here, and my girlfriend of four years is finishing up school at the end of this month. She will be moving down to NYC in January to complete her student teaching requirements for her degree. We already have an apartment already set up to move in. My fear is leaving my current job, where the staff has been kind enough to put up with my inexperience, and trying to find another one in NY. Now I've heard a lot about the NYC cooking community and about how ruthless it can be, but I'm trying to get a better impression of what to expect while looking for a job there. I can only prolong working at my current job, at max, until February.

I guess my question is what kind of job I should expect to get, or what job I should be pointedly looking for. Is it too much to start looking for an entry-level (re: salad) line cooking position with as little experience as I obviously have? Should I start at prep and work my way up from there? Or, as I fear most, will I have to restart the whole process I started months ago, and begin back at dishwashing? I got no problem busting suds, as long as I have some food duties, or a reasonable approximation of when I'll be working with food full time.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated and help a lot with the mounting anxiety I'm having over this move. Thanks y'all.
post #2 of 12
Fear is the only thing keeping you from a great new life with your girlfriend in a vibrant culinary environment where you can really expand your skill and knowledge. It's all opportunity, an exciting future, the unknown! You are exactly correct, you will get the job that you expect to get.

If you walk into a place and tell them you're a dishwasher, you'll be a dishwasher and have to work your way up again.

"Act Like What You Want to Become" is my rule. I'd advise you to target the restaurants you may want to work at, contact them on email, US mail, or in person with the reason you want to work THERE in particular. You're VERY excited to join their team because of the reasons you've previously researched. As a matter of fact, you'll be glad to bring your salad/cold station/garde manger experience to their establishment. Here's a written recommendation from my former chef saying what a great SALAD prep person I am. (no mention of dishwashing). Now, you'll achieve what you pretend like you already are.

When you're positive, confident, and show interest in THEM, you're a much better candidate for employment.

Go for it, don't let fear hold you back. Now's the time to take risks. In New York, "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, it's up to you...."
post #3 of 12
Well put Todd!

Go for it Zapayou... I am sure you will find a job in NYC doing what you want to do!
OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
Reply
post #4 of 12
What did you go to school for, ie what is your degree? Is there some reason you'd rather work at the bottom end of the food service industry instead of in your field of study? Bear in mind I'm not judging, just curious why you're looking for a kitchen job at all.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #5 of 12
Its an opportunity for you that from dishwasher into salad chef. Don't be afraid, try it maybe you've got the hand of a chef. And maybe you can make it better that you though. Just believe in yourself. Goodluck.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
I like the kitchen atmosphere and the pride of having a craft and seeing the physical products of my labors. I discovered in my first year of work after college that pushing paper around (which I am not bad at, btw) is not my calling. Most importantly, of course, is that I love the food, the work, and the people.

Why "bottom end?" Why not "entry level positions?" Give some respect for those of us willing to put aside our pride and work for minimum wage until we can achieve a position we want. Just joking, of course, but I do find myself explaining away my English degree to a whole lot of baffled coworkers. I'm going to start telling them I'm living the American dream.

BTW, thanks Chef Todd; your advice was most appreciated. Cheers!
post #7 of 12
That's cool, I totally understand where you're coming from. I've worked as a chef my whole life but a couple years ago I took a step back from it to return to school. Now I'm a line cook to pay the bills while I study IT (network administration). I do worry a couple years into school that I may not like it nearly as much as I always enjoyed being a chef...

I respect that you're willing to start at the bottom; so many kids coming into the kitchen expect to start at the top. ChefTodds advice is good. I've said many times over the years that I'd rather start with a dishwasher with a good attitude and no bad habits than an experienced guy who thinks he knows it all.

Good luck on your kitchen quest!:thumb:
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #8 of 12
BTW, I used to work with a guy in the kitchen that had a master's degree in elementary education. He graduated, taught for a year then realized he'd rather be in the kitchen. So it happens.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #9 of 12
I am a career changer as well. I have an arts degree, but just found that the office atmosphere was not to my liking either. Kitchens are a ton more exciting and I like the personalities you find in a kitchen as well. I mean plus food is somewhat of an interest. ;) I have also found that there a ton of people out there that have switched careers. Not everyone is a Thomas Keller, starting in kitchens at the age of 13 and working their way up to culinary superstardom. Rick Bayless , Robert Del Grande (who was actually working on his Phd when he decided to become a chef) and Mario Batali all have post secondary education. Like you said, it's a calling and sometimes it just takes a little time to hear that calling. I say go for it man. Just give it 150% and NEVER lose sight of why you got in and what you want to accomplish. Good luck!
post #10 of 12
Also, if you can track it down I would highly reccomend reading Out of The Frying pan by Gillian Clark. Extremely inspiring, moving and chock full of delicious looking recipes.
post #11 of 12

I'm a career changer too.

Me, too. Career-changer.
I had a very lucrative management position in Advertising. Company car, expense account, closet full of Italian Suits. I woke up one day and said "this sucks", sold my house, sold everything I had acquired, enrolled in culinary school.

From six figures to six dollars an hour in one afternoon. It was terrifying! The love and support of a good woman got me through.

I've been 1000 times fulfilled working for myself, but it was really tough for a few years.
post #12 of 12

Hi, and good luck

Great advice from Tod. I admire that you're willing to start at the bottom and many of us who didn't go to culinary school started there. I did, I started out front of house waitressing and then became the kitchen slave. Eventually I worked my way up through different stations, the line, sous chef, saucier, etc. I really admire your determination and that is one half the battle, believe me. Good luck to you and your girlfriend.
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