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Unpaid Pastry Experience?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I am hoping to become a pastry chef and hopefully attend the CIA when I graduate high school.  Since I am only 14, its really difficult to get a job at a bakery or restaurant right now.  I was hoping to instead, offer to volunteer at a bakery/restaurant for free in order to gain experience and to really see if I am cut out for the job.  How do I go about this?

 

*I placed this question in the professional pastry chef forum because I thought that since you are all professionals, you may have some tips on what to do and what not to do when going about this. 

 

Also, if any of you work at or own a bakery/restaurant/cake shop etc. on Long Island, NY specifically Nassau County, I would love to know if you or your work place would be interested in me volunteering my time in exchange for assisting and learning from a pastry chef.  Thank you ! :]

post #2 of 6

All the people under 16 who had come to volunteer in my bakery had asked either a parent or an older sibling to ask for a job on their behalf.  All of these people were good customers- It is hard to say no to a good customer when they ask you can their son or daughter come to work for a week or two. 

 

So if a family member is a loyal customer of a particular bakery, you could perhaps ask them to ask for you, you could follow this up with a phone call so you could then iron out the working arrangements yourself.

 

 

post #3 of 6

There are a couple problems with this...

 

1) I don't know you. Neither does the person you'll be asking to "help." If you do end up in the food service industry, you'll realize that training someone to help you do your job ends up doubling your work load. Not only do I have to keep track of my own tasks, I have to constantly keep an eye on you, solve problems that you have caused, and pay for your mistakes (food cost is ALWAYS something to keep in mind)

 

2) You're 14. In Colorado, minors aren't allowed to operate mixers, slicers, fryers, robot-coups, even ovens. In some states, until you turn 18, your are a legal liability for the kitchen you're working. You may say that you're responsible, but accidents do happen, and no body wants to mess with child labor laws.

 

3) You're volunteering. Volunteers have no accountability. If I'm going to go though the hassle of training you, dealing with mistakes, and potentially breaking laws in the process, i want to know you're not going to flake 4 weeks in. I want someone who's going to show up on time, every day, and stay until i tell them to leave. I don't want the person who thinks they're getting free school, and can play hookie whenever they want.

 

... That said, I started out doing unpaid work. I got lucky. Really lucky. If you can land a job great. If you want to ensure that you're even a candidate, start at the bottom: washing dishes, cleaning, hostessing etc. Anthony Bourdain put it very well when he said (paraphrasing):

 

"I don't want some stuck up kid who grew up thinking the world owes him a living. Give me a guy who can show up on time every day and do his job. I can teach you what I want you to know. I can't teach character."

 

Any chef will be more willing to listen to you if you tell them that you're working double shifts at McDonalds while trying to get a better job, than if you tell them that you will work for free.


Edited by Igannon - 6/7/10 at 7:45am
post #4 of 6



I agree with the above, especially the concerns about your age.

 

I do NOT agree with the stuck up WHITE guy vs a Mexican, that is presumptuous and ignorant. Bad employees come in all shapes and colors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Igannon View Post

There are a couple problems with this...

 

1) I don't know you. Neither does the person you'll be asking to "help." If you do end up in the food service industry, you'll realize that training someone to help you do your job ends up doubling your work load. Not only do I have to keep track of my own tasks, I have to constantly keep an eye on you, solve problems that you have caused, and pay for your mistakes (food cost is ALWAYS something to keep in mind)

 

2) You're 14. In Colorado, minors aren't allowed to operate mixers, slicers, fryers, robot-coups, even ovens. In some states, until you turn 18, your are a legal liability for the kitchen you're working. You may say that you're responsible, but accidents do happen, and no body wants to mess with child labor laws.

 

3) You're volunteering. Volunteers have no accountability. If I'm going to go though the hassle of training you, dealing with mistakes, and potentially breaking laws in the process, i want to know you're not going to flake 4 weeks in. I want someone who's going to show up on time, every day, and stay until i tell them to leave. I don't want the person who thinks they're getting free school, and can play hookie whenever they want.

 

... That said, I started out doing unpaid work. I got lucky. Really lucky. If you can land a job great. If you want to ensure that you're even a candidate, start at the bottom: washing dishes, cleaning, hostessing etc. Anthony Bourdain put it very well when he said (paraphrasing):

 

"I don't want some stuck up smart white guy who was brought up to think the world owes him a living. Give me a Mexican who can show up on time every day and do his job. I can teach you what I want you to know. I can't teach character."

 

Any chef will be more willing to listen to you if you tell them that you're working double shifts at McDonalds while trying to get a better job, than if you tell them that you will work for free.

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post #5 of 6

The quote is a little out of context, and possibly in bad taste. I apologize.

post #6 of 6

I believe that Igannon's comment about operating equipment at 14 will limit the work you are able to do, however here are some other suggestions - 

 

-Find out if there is non-profit in your area that operates a soup kitchen or the equivalent.   They will be more likely to let you get your hands dirty.  It may not be doing pastry-related cooking, but it will expose you to the techniques used to cook in volume and would give you valuable experience that will help you get work when you are 16.

 

-Apply yourself to developing your skills at home.  Search this site for recommendations on great cookbooks and work your way through different techniques.  Practice making pie crusts, pastry creams, creme anglaise and other pastry fundamentals.  Take pictures of your work if you do cakes.  Even though I have been working in pastry many years, I still learn new things by trying other people's recipes at home. If you are able to try at least one new recipe each month, you will be far ahead of your classmates when you do go to the CIA.  You will also have an easier time of finding work in a bakery setting when you are 16 or 17 if you can show them that you have already mastered some basic skills (it never hurts to take a sample when applying for a job).

Good luck.

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