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Young chef looking for advice

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

hello. my name is adam. I'm a young chef recently in my first head chef possiton.  I started off as a dishwasher and over the past few years have moved up the ranks learning a great deal from some very great chefs.  I held the sous chef possiton for about a year and a half and have worked under a number of chefs in the small company i work for. Recently I was given the opportunity to take over the possiton of head chef in my resturant. I am still young and do have a lot to learn, if there is any advice that some of the veterans of this industry could give about the food and busniss stand point of all of this i'd love to listen. I'm determined to succeed, no matter what it takes.

post #2 of 17

Dont take a Head chef position. Thats my advice. I say the same thing as anthony bourdain in "medium raw" if you want to become a GREAT chef go work somewhere good. challenge yourselfe and learn a lot of skillz, dishes, and prep before you start cooking your "own" food.

post #3 of 17

Nobody can give you advice without knowing more about the restaurant in which you work.  For instance, if you told me you were just made 'head chef' at a Thomas Keller spinoff of the French Laundry my advice would be completely different than if you told me you'd just been made head chef for the morning shift at Denny's.

 

Tell us more.  A lot more.

post #4 of 17

1: Remember where you came from.

2: Don't be afraid to hire talent.

3: Always leave a Chefs job at the top of your game, never when you have out lived your welcome.

4: If you have to ask for a raise, your working for the wrong people.

5: Be your biggest food critic

6: be humble and realize everything you make isn't the greatest in the world.

7: never stop learning

8: Give all your employees credit, make them apart of the daily process of a successful Restaurant.

9: look at a long working day as a gift you got to work longer at your craft.

10: Work side by side with a person when they are learning something new, don't just hand out Recipes.

11: Walk out into your Restaurant and meet your customers, it solves a lot of problems and makes you more approachable.

12: Make sure you surround yourself with people that believe in your vision, you need people that are doers and thinkers, not just people who  show up for a pay check.

13: never loose your Passion.


Edited by ChefBillyB - 2/18/11 at 4:00pm
post #5 of 17

Thanks for this thread, that list is advice I will keep as well.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NordicFood View Post

" if you want to become a GREAT chef go work somewhere good. challenge yourselfe and learn a lot of skillz, dishes, and prep before you start cooking your "own" food.


I concur with this, but maybe someone could put my attention in the right place. I started working with pizza and sandwhiches. No specific position. What had to be done I got done. No job to small or great for me. Now I work a corporate restaurant where I cook mostly steaks on a flat-top. I'm trying to stay passionate about what I do and trying not to get too comfortable, but I'm starting to feel the challenge fade away, even as menu changes are made. Can you suggest what kind of place would be a good next step?

post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by NordicFood View Post

Dont take a Head chef position. Thats my advice. I say the same thing as anthony bourdain in "medium raw" if you want to become a GREAT chef go work somewhere good. challenge yourselfe and learn a lot of skillz, dishes, and prep before you start cooking your "own" food.



I hundred percent agree with nordic, I am only 24 and am currently the production chef overseeing a lot of responsiblity ...with worknig my way up under some great chefs and no culinary schooling under my belt i should not of taken this job.

I am no longer learning anything culinary that is stimulating or what i used to learn except for what i do on my own time or if i have a little time to experiment However I am learnnig the finanical aspect of it which really puts another point of view on using every piece.

Im actually applying for this apprenticeship that i will gladly give up my nice salaried comfortable job for 7.50 an hour for 3.5 years of grinding and learning all i can so I will confident and comfortable in everything i do and with this apprentice ship I will end up with a resume that will leave most people in my big corporate establishment in aww.

 

post #7 of 17

This is inspiring! I may have to print this up and post it in my office.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBillyB View Post

1: Remember where you came from.

2: Don't be afraid to hire talent.

3: Always leave a Chefs job at the top of your game, never when you have out lived your welcome.

4: If you have to ask for a raise, your working for the wrong people.

5: Be your biggest food critic

6: be humble and realize everything you make isn't the greatest in the world.

7: never stop learning

8: Give all your employees credit, make them apart of the daily process of a successful Restaurant.

9: look at a long working day as a gift you got to work longer at your craft.

10: Work side by side with a person when they are learning something new, don't just hand out Recipes.

11: Walk out into your Restaurant and meet your customers, it solves a lot of problems and makes you more approachable.

12: Make sure you surround yourself with people that believe in your vision, you need people that are doers and thinkers, not just people who  show up for a pay check.

13: never loose your Passion.



 

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by pcieluck View Post

Thanks for this thread, that list is advice I will keep as well.
 


I concur with this, but maybe someone could put my attention in the right place. I started working with pizza and sandwhiches. No specific position. What had to be done I got done. No job to small or great for me. Now I work a corporate restaurant where I cook mostly steaks on a flat-top. I'm trying to stay passionate about what I do and trying not to get too comfortable, but I'm starting to feel the challenge fade away, even as menu changes are made. Can you suggest what kind of place would be a good next step?



You can take one of a couple choices, but as I see it you can:

A) Find a small boutique operation with a personable, dedicated chef/owner/partner who will take you under his/her wing and show you everything they know. Plan on 2-3 years with them, then move on to a similar person with different skills. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times until you feel you have the range of skills you need.

B) Find a 3 or 4 star resort or hotel and work you way up the ladder, getting yourself into every department over time. Spend 3-4 years with a couple of different chefs and do this 3 or 4 times. You will see a lot of different things and learn a lot of large scale practices that can be taken into any size operation.

Good luck and follow the advice above. leave the job before you get burned out.

 

post #9 of 17

I'm sorry. I'm sure I'll be called out for this post, but I'm going to say these things anyway. (ChefBillyB, you're off the hook. What you said was prime.) Don't work out your career by what guys like Anthony Bourdain say. His credentials are there, but he's a television personality at best. You will always learn things, so don't worry about it. You obviously don't suck at what you do or you wouldn't be in the position you are now. There is not any mass group of top-line chefs looking to take any new young kids under their wings. I don't know of any city with any excess of 3 or 4 star resorts/hotels that are beating the brush for new young chefs. The economy sucks. The want-adds are not flowing over with open positions. Be happy that you got where you got. Be YOU. Be the best you that you can be. Be the best new young head chef your company has ever seen. 

 

Go back and read ChefBillyB's stuff again. It's AG my friend. (AG = all good)

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post #10 of 17

can I add

14. It's not your job to do all the work, it's your job to see that all the work gets done.

15. Do not put any of your personal business/opinions in the streets. It will usually come back to bite.

good luck

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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is To Short!!
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post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by panini View Post

...14. It's not your job to do all the work, it's your job to see that all the work gets done...

AMEN!
 

 

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 #12 of 17

Your title says you are a Pastry Chef. But you said you were a Sous? You said 'young'... How young are we talking? 21? 25?

 

I have spent well over 12 years working in restaurants, under many great chefs. I have gone to culinary school. I spent almost 8 years working as a sous chef. I JUST NOW am ready for a head chef position, and have been interviewing with a company for what seems like months (Final interview today!!).

 

I know what needs to be done to have a kitchen run the correct/smooth way. Each new job holds a learning curve, but that's to be expected.

 

I am going to say what the second poster said... Don't take the job. Be a sous chef for a few more (5) years. Learn everything you can. Work for great and interesting people. Hell, work at someplace you HATE. Just so you know. I have worked for chefs who were not confident or comfortable (though some of them were GREAT people) and it never worked out in the end for them.

 

But if you DO choose to keep the position, make sure you know your food costs. Make sure you work well with your team. Please don't be one of those chefs who ditches your line cooks on a Friday night, when the stupid young fry cook has called out, and you're slammed. Don't even think about starting a new personal relationship. Leave your drama at the door, and try to get your team to do the same. Get along with the front of the house, as they really need to sell your food. Think outside the box. Try new things, and don't be afraid to screw up, because it happens to everyone.

 

Good luck!

post #13 of 17

Im a young chef as well and I know the positon your put in I went through the same thing. But as young chefs we also have alot to offer. Just because you take the head chef doesnt mean your not going to learn anymore, it just means your going to have to work a little bit harder at it. I find myself always learning new things from books, magazines, tv and taking those ideas and putting my own spin on them making them my own and giving that to customers knowing that I was able to take something I have never done before, saw it done, then reproduce and serve it to my guests they loved it makes me want to just keep challenging myself with new ideas. Being the head chef is alot of responsibility but it also comes with a big sense of accomplishment. Wish you the best of luck and just keep doing what you do best, cook!

post #14 of 17

Being ready to be an Executive Chef is like being ready to be a parent, YOU NEVER ARE it just comes to you with time.  You have to know the basics of how to manage people and money, inventory and personalities but you are never 100% prepared for the chaos surrounding being in charge.  Thats just my humble opinion...

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post #15 of 17

"Dont take a Head chef position. Thats my advice. I say the same thing as anthony bourdain in "medium raw" if you want to become a GREAT chef go work somewhere good. challenge yourself and learn a lot of skillz, dishes, and prep before you start cooking your "own" food ".

 

No.. if you want to be a great cook... go learn under everybody and never become a Chef. I know many fantastic cooks that would curl into a ball under the prep table if they had to take over for the Chef for more than a day.

 

If you want to be a great Chef, become a good cook, and then spend a lot of time becoming a great manager. Take courses... learn the HR side, learn basic accounting skills, learn how to control inventory, learn how to deal with people... suppliers, customers, other managers, grow a thick skin. Hire people who are better at what they do than you are... your job isn't to do it, it's to hire people who can do it. Which is not to say you can be a chef without being a good cook... but you can hire better cooks than you.. it's your job to manage them, to ensure that your numbers are met, that your labour is line, that your FC is line.

 

Make sure you meet your commitments to your staff... if the schedule is supposed to be up on Wednesday, make damn sure it is. If you make promises.. keep them. Ask no one to do anything you wouldn't do yourself... and prove it to them before you ask. Shut down any and all chest pounding and front/back of the house B.S. immediately. Listen to suggestions... accept the good ones, and shut down the bad. Confront and deal with any and all "grumbling" immediately. Cut out the cancer in your kitchen immediately upon discovery.  Be transparent and open.

 

Get angry when you have to. Be nice when you don't feel like it. Your cooks are your knives... keep them sharp.

post #16 of 17

Part of me wants to agree with the posters that said "Don't take the position" and another part of me wants to agree with the ones that said to do it. Personally, I hold the "Head Cook" position at the coffee shop I work at (they're trying desperately to become a restaurant and I'm trying to convince them otherwise) and don't particularly like it. Maybe your position would be different, mine gives me no freedom to do what I want to do.

 

I'm going to bite the bullet and say don't take the position. You'll be a better chef later if you wait.

 

(My title on this site says "server" because I don't see myself as the head cook at work, it's a coffee shop and I still mostly make drinks and bake up the pastries. A monkey can do my job)

post #17 of 17

To repeat what many have already said: Go and work with other people from whom you can learn. Don't be too eager to get out on your own yet. If you work at great restaurants with great cooks then you will have what you need to do it on your own.

 

Ken

http://www.chopchop.ca

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