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My new cooking career

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

As I explained in my "Welcome" post, I'm a burned-out musician/instructor who has decided to change career paths and get into cooking professionally.  I have previous restaurant experience and some cooking skills/knowledge, and am fortunate enough to have landed a job at a good restaurant that is willing to train me.  I am currently in my fourth week there (part-time), and it's been a wild ride!

 

If there's interest, I'd like to use this thread to talk about my experiences as I learn the ropes, and I'm sure I'll have plenty of questions for the pros out there.  In addition, I'd love to hear from anyone who has questions or thoughts about cooking professionally, changing careers etc...

 

Look forward to hearing from you!

post #2 of 18
Thread Starter 

To start off, here's a little "injury rant" I wrote recently:

 

One thing I have had to accept with this new job is that my hands and arms will never be the same again; burns, scrapes, cuts, bruises and more burns are part of the game.  The outside of both of my forearms are marked with burns from the oven doors. My knuckles are scraped and cut from things like peelers, mandolins, and fish fins.  I lacerated the top of my index finger when a knife got bumped into it.  And most of my fingertips are burned or just sore from handling hot items.  On days off, my right hand aches from handling heavy sizzle plates with a pair of tongs for hours on end.

Livin' the dream....

post #3 of 18

Cuts, burns, and bruises will act as a reminder of what you did wrong and we learn from our mistakes. 

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 

Quite true Headless! 

 

It's that whole "part of learning what to do, is learning what *not* to do" thing...

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

Well, it's been a solid month now (part-time), and a lot has happened at the restaurant; I used to joke that whatever I lacked in experience I'd make up for in hustle and reliability...turns out to be no joke, as I've just seen someone get himself fired for unreliability and having a lackadaisical attitude.

 

There is some restructuring going on with both the stations and the menu.  As such, I am no longer going to be cooking on the line (oven station).  I'm a little bummed about that, as I liked working nights and it was fun (except for Sat nights haha) and made me feal like a "real cook" even though I know I'm still a newbie.  I am now moved to day shift for lunch/brunch, in charge of the sandwich and salads station.  It's where I was supposed to be all along actually, I just sort of fell into the line due to a personell shortage.  It feels like a bit of a demotion to go from cooking things like duck breasts and pork loins to making snadwiches, but I understand it's a better position for me to be in at this time...

 

While the hours are unforgivingly early, I see the advantages of this move; I'll be in charge of my station, everything from prep to inventory.  And it's the start of me being in charge of making things, like the sandwich salads and various sauces and dressings, savory jams etc..  One cool thing is that everything here is made from scratch, so I'm really *making* things, not just opening and assembling.  That makes a big difference to me. 

 

And the best part is that I'm now full-time!  It feels good to know that I've proven myself and earned a spot on the roster...the owner took a chance on me, and I didn't let him down.

post #6 of 18
Hey, Jazz'...

Look forward to more accounts of your experience in the food biz.

Hope you'll keep us posted and - best of luck!

Mike
travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #7 of 18

   Jazzcook, it's great to hear you tell your story.  Please keep us updated. 

 

 

 

 

   So where did you play at?  What instrument?

 

   best o'luck!

 

 dan

post #8 of 18

 

 

Nice, and good for you.To bad you got the brunch, but brunch, is a good starting point; I learned that Sat. nights begin around 12.15am.To be in the kitchen Sun.at 8am. I discovered if I could really handle this type of work. Especially if brunch is for 180+ pers.Mind you I had precooked bacon, so that was easy.So was the 3 doubles, 3-4 beers, couple of lines and a small tribute to Mr. Marley.However, 45 lt. whipped eggs is ??? As soon as you walk in pull the eggs, separte cold ones..... Along with countless sunny side up, easy over, sausages, brown, no butter, steak and eggs, and of course the other 30 portions of leftovers that needed to be incorparated into this mornings menu is really  what I loved. Making this evenings dinner of prime roast with baked, mashed which I put through the meat grinder......OMG why would anyone want to work in a kitchen. The challenge, pace and havoc of those mornings, offered me an oppurttunity to further develope obsessions, compulsions, and unusual behaviors. "No" is my response when others say to me I'm thinking of making a caarreer change, and I'd love to be a cook."Cheers" you have reacheaded to the level of chefs de partie and you are in charge of garde manger. Cuts and burns are painful..........I tend to lie about them

As for injuries, I've beenworking in kitchens 31yrs. If I where a doctor I'd be able to tell, yuor knees hurt and crack when rising and lowering, my calfs tend to have an outburst sometimes joined with the arch of my feet, ussually when sleeping, arthretic fingers, along with a bout of shooting pains in wrists and fore arms. Last, yet first wash my hands, wash the sink waqsh my hands.

Welcome Taj.

Quote:
Except for Sat. nights...

 

 
 

Originally Posted by jazzcook View Post

Well, it's been a solid month now (part-time), and a lot has happened at the restaurant; I used to joke that whatever I lacked in experience I'd make up for in hustle and reliability...turns out to be no joke, as I've just seen someone get himself fired for unreliability and having a lackadaisical attitude.

 

There is some restructuring going on with both the stations and the menu.  As such, I am no longer going to be cooking on the line (oven station).  I'm a little bummed about that, as I liked working nights and it was fun (except for Sat nights haha) and made me feal like a "real cook" even though I know I'm still a newbie.  I am now moved to day shift for lunch/brunch, in charge of the sandwich and salads station.  It's where I was supposed to be all along actually, I just sort of fell into the line due to a personell shortage.  It feels like a bit of a demotion to go from cooking things like duck breasts and pork loins to making snadwiches, but I understand it's a better position for me to be in at this time...

 

While the hours are unforgivingly early, I see the advantages of this move; I'll be in charge of my station, everything from prep to inventory.  And it's the start of me being in charge of making things, like the sandwich salads and various sauces and dressings, savory jams etc..  One cool thing is that everything here is made from scratch, so I'm really *making* things, not just opening and assembling.  That makes a big difference to me. 

 

And the best part is that I'm now full-time!  It feels good to know that I've proven myself and earned a spot on the roster...the owner took a chance on me, and I didn't let him down.

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonefishin View Post

   Jazzcook, it's great to hear you tell your story.  Please keep us updated. 

 

 

 

 

   So where did you play at?  What instrument?

 

   best o'luck!

 

 dan


Hey Dan, thanks for the interest! I play jazz guitar for the most part, anything funky/jazzy/groovy is what I'm into.  Most of my gigging is either restaurants/coffeehouses, bookstores or private work like receptions, cocktail hours and the like.  Ironically I have gone from playing brunches to making brunches haha...

post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by (private user) View Post

 

Nice, and good for you.To bad you got the brunch, but brunch, is a good starting point; I learned that Sat. nights begin around 12.15am.To be in the kitchen Sun.at 8am. I discovered if I could really handle this type of work. Especially if brunch is for 180+ pers.Mind you I had precooked bacon, so that was easy.So was the 3 doubles, 3-4 beers, couple of lines and a small tribute to Mr. Marley.However, 45 lt. whipped eggs is ??? As soon as you walk in pull the eggs, separte cold ones..... Along with countless sunny side up, easy over, sausages, brown, no butter, steak and eggs, and of course the other 30 portions of leftovers that needed to be incorparated into this mornings menu is really  what I loved. Making this evenings dinner of prime roast with baked, mashed which I put through the meat grinder......OMG why would anyone want to work in a kitchen. The challenge, pace and havoc of those mornings, offered me an oppurttunity to further develope obsessions, compulsions, and unusual behaviors. "No" is my response when others say to me I'm thinking of making a caarreer change, and I'd love to be a cook."Cheers" you have reacheaded to the level of chefs de partie and you are in charge of garde manger. Cuts and burns are painful..........I tend to lie about them

As for injuries, I've beenworking in kitchens 31yrs. If I where a doctor I'd be able to tell, yuor knees hurt and crack when rising and lowering, my calfs tend to have an outburst sometimes joined with the arch of my feet, ussually when sleeping, arthretic fingers, along with a bout of shooting pains in wrists and fore arms. Last, yet first wash my hands, wash the sink waqsh my hands.

Welcome Taj.


Hey Taj, great post I enjoy hearing others' experiences (a big reason I'm here).  Having come from the night-owl world of music, showing up for work at 7am and immediately using knives and such is probably the hardest part of this transition.  I used to sleep till almost noon, now I get excited when I don't have to show up until 9am cuz I get to "sleep in" haha...

 

It's true that lunch/brunch is a good starting point; being new to the profession, I understand about paying your dues.  I'm not on the stove/sautee yet, so not cooking eggs but I am grilling chicken and still using the oven for some things.  It's not your typical brunch here, there's Korean hotpots and fancy casseroles and such...I'll get there in due time, that's the plan, for me to work my way up.  It's funny about saying "No" to someone asking about getting into cooking, as it's commonly what I used to say to students of mine who wanted to be professional musicians.  It's not for everybody, probably not for most, but for some of us these types of professions are the only ones that seem to fit...

post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzcook View Post
  Ironically I have gone from playing brunches to making brunches haha...


   that is funny!

 

   Keep the music alive!

   dan

post #12 of 18

thanks for your posts jazz its great to read about somebody following this carreer path and to see how its all progressing! Keep up the good work.

post #13 of 18

 Thanks for your posts, Jazz and welcome!  I work in a breakfast  place and for me the bonus is.. we close at 3pm so no late nights and it makes it possible to enjoy friends and family.  I was trained on the egg station to start and now I can work every station in our kitchen... some I enjoy more than others but you gotta do what you gotta do to get the job done.

 

This is a second career for me too and I am loving every minute of it.  I have always loved cooking and all things to do witfh food.  Twenty years ago I would have been eaten alive in the kitchen but I am a much stronger person than I was then and I can definitely hold my own, even when the stuff hits the fan and I find myself in the weeds or worse. 

 

I applied yesterday for a casual cook job at the Convention Centre here... I'm not sure if I will get a call as stuid me left out the education part of my resume (I was doing it on the fly as the deadline was fifteen minutes from when I saw the ad!)  but who knows.. if I get a call then it's up to me to sell myself in the interview and I'm not holding my breath for a call but if I get it and I land the job.. it would be awesome experience.

 

Keep us posted as to your travels in the business~!

 

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 #14 of 18
Thread Starter 

leeniek - Thanks for your post and good luck with the new job prospect!

 

It's true that there's a lot to like about the lunch/brunch shift, and for me right now it's cool to get some working experience in the ways of the kitchen, even if it doesn't include a lot of actual "cooking" per se...

 

It's a whole new lifestyle as I adjust to not only the new work but the new hours and routine.  While I have commented on some of the similarities between food and music as a profession, there are also some significant differences.  Obviously if working a day shift, it's opposite hours...and I'm kind of liking it, actually.  I've always been a night-owl insomniac, but with this job being so physical my body has had no problem getting to sleep at a decent hour - something I was worried about.  Getting off in the afternoon and having my evenings free is something I've never had, and I'm quite liking it.  And as for income, while I've had to take a considerable paycut compared to teaching, it's great getting an actual steady paycheck!  Before I was self-employed, so I also had to play the part of bill collector, which I hated.  Especially things like arguing with rich parents over $20 for a missed lesson - ridiculous.  And teaching was seasonal, basically following a school schedule, so summer's were lean times.  I will feel rich this July when I'm still getting fully paid!

 

It's still kind of weird being one of the oldest yet most inexperienced people in the kitchen, but that's minor; I have no ego about it, just an observation.  I'm there to work and learn, and like with music it's about ability and experience, not your birthday.  Everyone likes me and says I'm doing a good job, that's the important thing.  I figure if I'm making sandwiches, I'll make the best sandwiches I can.  Apparently that's been noticed, as I've gotten compliments from the servers about how much better they look compared to the last guy's! :-)

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 

Finished my third week at the new shift/station, and I am finally feeling it all come together.  I know the sandwiches and where everything is, so the mechanics are getting more automatic, freeing my mind to handle the ticket juggling.  I'm still getting flustered a bit when we get slammed though, same as I would when working the oven at night...not with the food itself, but organizing multiple tickets in my head and keeping "in control" of it all mentally.  I know this will get easier and easier as I go, but for now it's still kind of frustrating.  If someone asks me a question while I'm in the middle of making multiple sandwiches for multiple tickets, I can't even answer or talk because it takes all of my concentration and focus to make sure I'm making the right things at the right time.  I'm totally able to do it, it just overwhelms me still...

 

It's funny how I've gone from feeling "lost" (as far as being in a new environment doing new things) to now feeling somewhat comfortable, both in the kitchen itself and with my new station.  I've already instituted some changes to the way things were being done, what I consider improvements or just performance tweaks.  A personal thing I've started doing is marking all of my items on big tickets with a pen; that way when I'm looking up at tickets in the middle of a rush, my eyes go directly to my items, no more wasting time running down the entire ticket looking at things that aren't mine.  That's really helped!  I'm also no longer trying to force the long rolls through the toaster like I was shown; half the time they get caught in the back and ignite/smoke, making me have to turn the toaster off, unplug it and then fish it out with a chopstick or something.  There's no time for that in the heat of battle!  So now I just throw them on the grill for a few seconds each side, heating them up nicely and giving good looking grill marks as well. 

 

On a personal level, the owner really likes me and has complimented me numerous times for doing a good job and being dependable.  Likewise, the other cooks have accepted me and are treating me more like a co-worker than the FNG (F'in New Guy).  I have to say the level of skill and experience the main cooks here have is truly impressive; it's both humbling and motivating at the same time...

post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 

A little over a month now, and I've made it through the holidaze without quitting or cracking haha! ;-)

 

New Year's is always a time for reflection and projection, and I've been doing a lot of both lately.  In the past two months I've completely changed my life, done so in perhaps the most abrupt way possible.  The first month was so jarring and hectic there was little time for reflective evaluation; the second month has been a process of re-assignment and routine building. 

 

Two months is not a long time, yet it has been long enough for me to start treating my co-workers like family, and the restaurant, home.  I've never worked so hard physically in my life, yet it really hasn't felt that noticeable.  Aside from my new (and ever-evolving) collection of cuts, burns and calluses, my achy lower back and earlier bedtimes are the only persistent reminders that I am no longer who I once was, for better or worse...

 

The amount of work that gets done during a shift is still bewildering to me. Granted it's not exactly brick laying, but it is a lot of work nonetheless, and it's constant.  Generally two projects at a time, while mentally planning the next couple tasks to follow.  I start everyday with a mental gameplan of the things I want to knock out first, and the projects I want to work on.  Usually the clock is not on my side, and those prep hours just fly by.  Before I know it I'm at my station ready for service, with materials for a side-project right nearby, to work on as I go. 

 

It's downright comical to describe my day to someone; it's only when telling others that I realize just how much I actually do.  For example this past Sunday I went in at 7am, cooked off a few sheets of bacon, cracked a couple hundred eggs, made a huge fruit salad, whipped cream, sliced up a bunch of different meats and cheeses, made avacado and bleu cheese spreads, prepared salad fixings, setup and restocked my station...all by eleven o'clock lunch service, and I've probably forgotten some things. 

 

Gone are the days of waking up whenever I wanted, to go and teach teenagers how to play guitar while sitting in an office chair drinking coffee, for considerably more money.  I now work harder, for less money and almost no "prestige" to the job title, and yet I think - for the moment - that I'm happier.  It's still too early to try and project or predict where this all might lead, but for now I'm just trying to enjoy the ride.

post #17 of 18

    WOW Jazzcook!  I'm so happy things are working out for you.  Such a risk, it sounds as if it has come with good reward.  Congrats!

 

 

 

     dan

post #18 of 18

Hi Jazzcook,

I have been following your posts. Congrats on your career change. No risk, no reward!!

I just wanted to throw this out there and totally just my opinion. It really doesn't matter what station you are working on.

As you've learned, wheather or not you are in preperation, executing, ordering, taking a leak,

it all comes down to a matter of TIMING. I think once this is controlling the thought process, it will surprize you

that the transition into other stations will be smoother then expected.

  Thanks for taking the time to post, gives the old farts a warm fuzzy feeling of the past.

Good luck

Jeff

PS. try to buy the best shoes possible. When affordable, get a second pair and switch daily.

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is To Short!!
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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is To Short!!
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