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post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Last night, I went to a restaurant and my mom knows the chef. She imports cheese, wine, and other products from Europe, and sells them to different chefs around U.S including Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, and a few more to name, and that's how she knows this man. She introduced me to him, and he said I could work there, so last night he let me see what it's like. And, it was tough as hell. I'm prepared to do that job over summer, yesterday was just a trial run. I'm 14, so it'll be an early start, but I need to learn some more basic cooking techniques,time management, pastry etc. Another part of it is the money. I want to get some copper pots, immersion circulator, a car, save up for a restaurant when I grow up, and knifes. Speaking of knifes, heres my question. It was a slow night, so he let me work there, instead of waiting for another time. I was cutting carrots with a paring knife, and even on a slow night, I was behind. And, that paring knife is SO much better than mine at home. It cut the carrots like butter. If I screwed up, I would have chopped my finger off. What do i do, I was pretty busy the whole time, and I'd like to ease the pressure. So, I went to a local Chef's Warehouse and bought a good paring knife. Can anyone give me tips on safety, quickness, reducing time, and other things that you wish you had known for your first job. It seems I'll probably know most of the answers, but when I'm in the kitchen and going at that pace, I can't get my mind to think straight.
post #2 of 28
MGChef: Speed comes with time in grade. Your concern now should be with accuracy and developing all your knife-handling skills. Then, the more you do, the faster you'll get.

You've already discovered the key: a good quality knife that's kept sharp.

The one thing to keep in mind is that you do not want to sacrifice safety and accuracy in the name of speed.

Given your circumstances, I doubt that the chef expects much more of you then you're prepared to give.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 
 I'm not bad, I can cut pretty good. I don't cut slow at all, but the chef cut like 1 carrot in about 5 seconds into about 15-20 piecies. Or something like that. The point is, I was supposed to go way faster than that. In the end I kept up pretty well, but, it's still hard work, any tips? Don't underestimate me because im 14
post #4 of 28
Practice will increase speed. To me a paring knife is not the right tool for slicing carrots. I use my 10 inch chefs knife.
post #5 of 28
definatly knife cuts are important. knowing how to hande a knife is the key. get you a steel and hone it everytime, you use it and it will stay sharp for a while. get u a good knife and practice. and then the best part comes, cooking what you just cut up.
Chef it up errrrday!!!
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Chef it up errrrday!!!
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post #6 of 28
A paring knife is not what I'd use either.  Paring knives are generally for using when the knife isn't going to touch the cutting board.  I'd suggest a solid chef's knife of 8 or 10 inches to start building your knife skills.  Many young cooks start out buying knives before they collect a good set of stones but in my opinion that is a backwards approach.  If you can keep a set of cheap knives razor sharp then you'll be ready to appreciate truly great steel.  Cheap knives don't become obsolete either.  I probably carry a thousand dollars in knives but I still keep a pair of $6 chinese cleavers in my bag that get used daily and have a better edge on them than 90% of the knives in a typical professional kitchen.  You're way ahead of the game asking for advice at age 14.
post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 
thanks alot for the help, and usually I use a chefs knife to for cutting carrots, and he'll probably let me if i ask when i go there for a job this summer. Does anyone have any tips for time management? Like today I made the most stupid, basic mistake. I made a boston cream pie, and instead of making the creme patisserie while the cake was in the oven, i did it before hand, an then made the cake. Could've saved myself about half an hour. I knew it to while I was making it, but once you have a creme patisserie on a stove top you don't stop stirring.
post #8 of 28

Quote:
 
I'm not bad, I can cut pretty good. I don't cut slow at all.
You're "not," you "can" and you "don't," compared to what?  In a professional kitchen, you are, you can't, and you do.  Otherwise you wouldn't have to learn.  That you do have quite a bit to learn was the the chef's point.  Take it.

Quote:

[T]the chef cut like 1 carrot in about 5 seconds into about 15-20 piecies. Or something like that. The point is, I was supposed to go way faster than that. In the end I kept up pretty well, but, it's still hard work, any tips?

 

Tips:
  • First rule of knives.  You don't buy a sharp knife, you sharpen one.  If you can't sharpen a knife sharper than most kinves came from the factory you can't sharpen very well,
  • Buy a copy of Chad Ward's An Edge in the Kitchen, or Norman Weinstein's Mastering Knife Skills.  Chad's covers sharpening better. 
  • Learn to "pinch," "claw," and "cut and retreat."
  • Most male pros use a 10" chef's knife.  You might as well try to fit in.  In addition your roll should include a parer (you just bought one), a fine edged 10" slicer (for portioning), and a bread knife.  They don't have to be the same brand or quality.  Invest in a good chef's knife.  The slicer should also be good, but you can use your chef's until you can afford something nice.  You should also carry a rod hone (aka "steel"). 
  • Buy bags of onions, potatoes, celery and carrots, and practice your little adolescent tush off. 
  • Buy a sharpening kit which is appropriate for your knives and learn to use it --  very well. 
  • Learn the basic cuts -- blocking, planks, sticks, and dice. 

That should keep you occupied until the summer.  But the biggest tips?  For you specifically, the two most important things I can tell you are:
  • Keep your mouth shut; and,
  • Learn to know less.

Quote:

Don't underestimate me because im 14.
Trust me.

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 4/2/10 at 12:37am
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post


That should keep you occupied until the summer.  But the biggest tips?  For you specifically, the two most important things I can tell you are:
  • Keep your mouth shut; and,
  • Learn to know less.
 Reread BDL's post again, and make sure that you realize that this cat is one of the most helpful posters on this entire board - what he says isn't meant as a jab at you, but to really help you out in the long run. 

When I was about your age, I really wanted to be a professional musician.  I was taking my first professional jobs when I was 14 years old, and I was getting through the night, but just barely.  I was also sitting next to guys who had been practicing 4-8 hours a day for 2 or 3 OR EVEN 4 times as long as I had been alive!  I was VERY good for a young player - in the course of 2 to 3 hours of playing, I would make between three and five mistakes - and I was playing a lot of notes.  The guys sitting next to me, playing the harder parts, were missing ZERO notes.  They were also playing with a better sound than I was, a better sense of style, and were just generally far better musicians.  I cannot tell you how important it was to my development as a musician to continually be reminded of how far I still had to go.  Furthermore (and more important as far as my pocketbook goes), knowing where I stood (where I REALLY stood - and sometimes this was that the top, sometimes at the very bottom) really allowed me to find my own niche within an ensemble - much as a new employee much find a niche within the kitchen.

How does this relate to you?  Well, look at what BDL has to say about it being relative.  For a 14 year old, you are probably in the top 1 percentile (let's just say that you are - why not?).  But as a professional cook (and we aren't even talking about where you are relative to a Chef), you are probably in the BOTTOM 1 percentile.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but RECOGNIZE IT!  It's not a position to be ashamed of or upset about, but one to be excited by.  At no point in your career will it be easier for you to make huge leaps of improvement!  Never again in your life will you have so much new stuff to explore.

Like BDL said, Keep Your Mouth Shut and Learn To Know Less.  Words to live by.  Not just for you (though ESPECIALLY for you, given the position you're putting yourself in and the age that you're at), but for anyone looking to really excel at anything.

Best of luck to you!
RJM

Someone told me that the fastest way to lose weight is by eating home-cooked meals.

They aren't eating what I'm cooking.
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RJM

Someone told me that the fastest way to lose weight is by eating home-cooked meals.

They aren't eating what I'm cooking.
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post #10 of 28
Totally agree with BDL. You have been offered a rare and valuble gift. Don't get your feelings hurt if the next time in the kitchen you are scrubbing pots. Take every job you are assigned and be the best darn whatever they have seen. This is what will impress the other cooks and will gain a untold amt of respect for your 14 year old self. Keep your eyes on the task at hand and your ears open... and remember, it is better to slowly slice a carrot and have each piece perfect than to run through it quickly and end up with a sloppy mess on the board. 
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks all, I know you're not trying to jab at me, just trying to help. I already have all the knifes BLD suggested to get, and I know the basic cuts. But with this economy, and having to feed a familyof 6, I can't just go buy onions, carrots, celery etc. just to learn how to cut. I just use whatever is at home, and make large salads, or make a mirepoix, or something else based on whats at hand, sometimes I even just cut up bananas. But I have one question. Why should I learn to know less? 

post #12 of 28
Nobody perfects knife skills without working in a professional kitchen.  Just stay safe and clean and if you land a job working with pros, speed will come.

 

Learn to know less because you are a 14 year old who wants an immersion circulator.  BLD's advice applies to 21 year olds coming out of culinary school.  It applies 100x more to you.  The most impressive thing you could possibly do is exactly what you are told and ask questions.

post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
I still don't get it, are you saying I'm moving to fast?
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgchef View Post

I still don't get it, are you saying I'm moving to fast?
Possibly, rephrasing, learn to know more about less.

In other words, if your job is prepping vegetables, learn EVERYTHING about "prepping vegetables" and set aside the opportunity to learn other things until the correct opportunity presents itself.

It is far better to be highly skilled at one or two tasks than semi-skilled at many tasks, you really do not want to be a "Jack of all trades, Master of none", it is far better to be a "Master of, oh, carrot cutting and willing to learn other skills at the proper time".
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #15 of 28
I totally agree with what Pete just said.

Need to walk before you can run.  Learn the basics first.  Ask those who know.  This forum is a great place for advice and encouragement, so don't feel intimidated.  The idea of this community is to help and advise.

You deserve praise for what you are taking on at tyour young age - good on you.  If you have questions, just ask
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #16 of 28
Hey - MG

I think everybody here is pleased you've decided to hang out with us; you can get a lot of encouragement and advice from this gang.

Don't underestimate me because im 14

Nobody's gonna do that - you sound like a real go-getter with enthusiasm for the culinary world.  A lot of us will line up for reservations at your first restaurant! 

Meantime, pay close attention to BDL. If you're very lucky, he will offer more suggestions based on his considerable experience. Not that there won't be other valuable assistance. There will be - there is  plenty of experience available here.  (Not from me - I'm just a klunk in the kitchen, but I like the community.) 
 
Welcome.

Mike
travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgchef View Post

Thanks all, I know you're not trying to jab at me, just trying to help. I already have all the knifes BLD suggested to get, and I know the basic cuts. But with this economy, and having to feed a familyof 6, I can't just go buy onions, carrots, celery etc. just to learn how to cut. I just use whatever is at home, and make large salads, or make a mirepoix, or something else based on whats at hand, sometimes I even just cut up bananas. But I have one question. Why should I learn to know less? 


Because:
  • You're incredibly lucky to have landed a job in a kitchen run by an apparently successful chef. I know people two and three (and four and five) times older than you that never had that opportunity. If you stay in cooking, that's great. If you don't that's fine too, but wherever you go, if you get the chance to work under someone who is truly great in their field, it will change your life forever, and in all cases, the golden rule is to "be reliable, be on time, be quiet, listen, and do what you're told." It doesn't matter if you're working for a Chef, Scientist, Cardiologist or Welder. The rules are the same.
  • When you're 14 it feels like you know everything because you haven't been exposed to much of anything. If you're really bright, you now know 95% of about the 2% of the world that you've been exposed to, and even less of everything else.
  • If you keep your mouth shut and your ears open, you'll learn a lot. If you do it the other way around, you'll be applying for jobs elsewhere, that involve standing at a grill making the $2.99 breakfast special for 18 hours/day.
  • If you want stuff to practice with and can't afford it, make friends with the guys at the farmer's market or the grocery stores with the best produce departments (and if you get really lucky, the seafood and meat department). They throw out all sorts of things that would be great for practicing, although the big stores tend to have rules prohibiting giving away the discards, so it might take some luck and finesse.
  • You don't need an immersion circulator right now any more than you need a yacht.. You need a few knifes (not expensive because you'll ruin them before you get good at sharpening), a steel and a set of stones.
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks. I'm not saying I want an immersion circulator now, but when I'm older, I plan to own a restaurant, and that's when i'd want one. Also, I don't think I know everything, in fact it's the opposite. I feel like there's to much to learn, and I don't know where to start, and I don't know how other famous chefs got where they are, so I don't know what I should do first. But I've come up with a plan, which consists of 3 months of spending time learning about cateogories of cooking that I decide to do. Once it might be grilling, the next it might be sauces, then comes pastry etc.
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgchef View Post

Thanks. I'm not saying I want an immersion circulator now, but when I'm older, I plan to own a restaurant, and that's when i'd want one. Also, I don't think I know everything, in fact it's the opposite. I feel like there's to much to learn, and I don't know where to start, and I don't know how other famous chefs got where they are, so I don't know what I should do first. But I've come up with a plan, which consists of 3 months of spending time learning about cateogories of cooking that I decide to do. Once it might be grilling, the next it might be sauces, then comes pastry etc.

I'm not your father, but I do have the advantage of having been where you are, and of watching all my friends make the choices you're facing.

My suggestion would be to treat this job like a Gift From Heaven, even if it's months before you get any closer to the food than the trash can, sink and a scotch-brite pad. Stay there as long as they'll let you, and do whatever they ask and be the best "whatever" that ever walked the face of the earth.

Everything else will follow in it's own time.

One of my friends supported his family and himself and paid college tuition by working at KFC while going to school. He started sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms and changing the grease in the fryer. He wasn't a 3 star chef, but he showed up every day on time and did what he was told, and whatever was needed. Within a couple of months, he was cooking and within a couple of months after that he was manager. Then a real restaurant hired him away from KFC.

Be the best you can be at whatever you're doing and everything else will happen when it's supposed to.

Terry
post #20 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks, I'm not one to give up when the going gets rough. I undestand that it'll probably take about a year or so to actually handle food once I start my job.
post #21 of 28
pay attention and DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF YOUR TASK!!!  believe me, i just cut off the tip of my thumb this weekend because i turned to look at my boss when he yelled at me.  at least i was wearing gloves, it would have really sucked to have botched the entire lug of tomatoes i had just finished.
post #22 of 28
You have been given some excellent advice here and you sound like you're eager to learn and get into the business.  I have to say that two of the strongest cooks in my kitchen are 19 and 20 years old.  They have a strong work ethic and can really concentrate when the stuff hits the fan.  Both of them have been in kitchens since they were your age and bring alot to the job.  They got to where they are by doing just what BDL told you.  Don't be offended if you end up doing dishes.. you're at least in there and you can keep your eyes and ears wide open. 

Be careful with knives... I fileted my finger in the fall because I wasn't paying attention.. definitely a bloody mess that was.. one of the owners taped me up and the other looked like he wanted to either pass out or throw up because of all of the blood.  I should have called someone in to finish my shift as I really wasn't feeling well after that, but silly me finished my shift anyway. 
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??
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post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgchef View Post

 Why should I learn to know less? 


Because, if you are convinced that you know something, and you are wrong, you will never learn how to do it right.  On the reverse, if someone shows you how to do something, and that's how you would have done it, then keep doing it that way.  

For example, when I first started out, I was wasting a lot of time prepping things like celery.  I would cut the whole bunch and pick out the yellow bits from the heart afterward.  I thought it would be faster.  The someone told me to cut the root end off, take out the parts I didn't want, make stacks, and then cut.  Much faster that way.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgchef View Post

Last night, I went to a restaurant and my mom knows the chef. She imports cheese, wine, and other products from Europe, and sells them to different chefs around U.S including Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, and a few more to name, and that's how she knows this man. She introduced me to him, and he said I could work there, so last night he let me see what it's like. And, it was tough as hell. I'm prepared to do that job over summer, yesterday was just a trial run. I'm 14, so it'll be an early start, but I need to learn some more basic cooking techniques,time management, pastry etc. Another part of it is the money. I want to get some copper pots, immersion circulator, a car, save up for a restaurant when I grow up, and knifes. Speaking of knifes, heres my question. It was a slow night, so he let me work there, instead of waiting for another time. I was cutting carrots with a paring knife, and even on a slow night, I was behind. And, that paring knife is SO much better than mine at home. It cut the carrots like butter. If I screwed up, I would have chopped my finger off. What do i do, I was pretty busy the whole time, and I'd like to ease the pressure. So, I went to a local Chef's Warehouse and bought a good paring knife. Can anyone give me tips on safety, quickness, reducing time, and other things that you wish you had known for your first job. It seems I'll probably know most of the answers, but when I'm in the kitchen and going at that pace, I can't get my mind to think straight.

Safety and accuracy first, don't worry about speed.  Learn the proper knife skills and then develope them.  Patience Grasshopper.  (Yes, I know I have dated myself with the Kung-Fu referrence.  I suppose in this day and age I should say "Patience Padawan")  BTW, I think it's great that you are interested in a culinary career at such a young age.  Work hard, always strive to do your best ,and I have no doubt that you will go far.
Edited by cyberdoc - 4/12/10 at 3:16pm
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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post #25 of 28
To me the most important quality a cook can have is the real desire to learn and cook. As much as this horse has been beaten (it must be flat as a pancake by now), you should go into every place assuming you know nothing because the truth is you sure as hell dont and never will know everything. They may have certain ways they like things to be done and they sure don't want the punk new guy telling THEM how it SHOULD be done. (Not saying you're doing any of this.) Show up early for your shift. I have been cooking professionally for 3 years and have been showing up for work an hour early for three years. Why? Because I would rather be in a kitchen than wherever I would be for that hour. And chefs DO notice when you should initiative like that. Never assume anything is below you. Asked to bust some suds? Roll up your sleeves if they're not already rolled up and dive into that dish pit brother. Everyone likes a team player.

As for speed, it will come with time. Hours, days, months and years of repeating the same cuts and applying the same cooking principles will be so ingrained in you'll be able to cook a 9 course tasting menu in your sleep.

Read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, Cooking Dirty by Jason Sheehan for fun. Read cookbooks and magazines for ideas and inspiration. Saveur is a pretty one. Food Arts is good as well and is geared more toward industry people.

And that is my contribution to this thread. Oh! And if you find yourself reaching for your Sharpie in your shirt sleeve only to discover it is not nor should it be there, or saying "behind!" to someone in front of the supermarket do not be alarmed.
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBoyarG View Post

... saying "behind!" to someone in front of the supermarket ... 
 


I've actually done that    more than once
post #27 of 28
I am so lost without my sharpie. Any time I need to write or label I reach for my left arm I finally started keeping one in the pockets of my jeans so when I am not in the kitchen I still always have one on hand. 
"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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post #28 of 28
BDL... just FYI... I learned to know less early in life, I also just went and bought the book "An edge in the kitchen" after you noted it. Got it for about 22.00 shipped. I'm excited.. I've sharpened my chefs knife with a wet stone (and a little olive oil) before, and it helped a lot, but it will be nice to get all that other information!
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