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Is this normal to treat your apprentice like this?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Started the very first day of a chef apprenticeship yesterday and wow what did I get myself into?


I'm 31 started as a mature age and have had previous experience in washing dishes and minimal prep work but never on a grill or deep fryer. No I don't watch Chef shows like master chef and Ramsay.


For my first day (Very First Day Ever) I was thrown onto the grill, salad and fryer section by myself with one other girl working the other section who is not a Chef but a previous second year and arrogant as all hell.I have never been to Tafe before, I don't know the menu and was expected to do 40 covers for lunch and around 45 again for dinner as I was told I needed to learn how to swim.


Now I stuffed up a lot, got sworn at and told off as I didn't know what to do in a few situations forgetting items like lemon and tarter sauce, over cooking calamari and various things. I was frowned upon all night and made fun of.


Is this normal to treat a first day apprentice with no training? I thought I was there to learn over a four year period beginning at the very bottom? It's turned me off the whole kitchen scene, What a &^% joke of a place.


Well I never went back so my name is probably mud now and there goes my new career goal. And I know it's hard work in the kitchen. Fryer oil burns all up my arms!! Awesome!

post #2 of 15

It doesn't sound as though that particular kitchen has put much consideration into where you should be starting. Were they short staffed? If so maybe they were just desperate to get a body onto that station. I would not judge the whole industry by that one experience. That being said, do not expect it to be easy. The pay is low, the stress is high and its a helluva lot of fun. There are still chefs out there who yell, and though some may do it cause its what they see Ramsay do, there are many who do it because they are just THAT passionate about food and demand nothing short of perfection. I find you learn the most and quickest from these chefs just because you have to, though you may not want to spend your whole career working for one.


Whenever I have found myself in a restaurant I didn't particularly think was doing it for me, I would think to what my father has told me over and over -- that you can ALWAYS learn something from a new experience, whether it be what to do or what not to do.


I have always thought ahead to when I will open up my own place or lead my own brigade and ask myself what traits from the current chef I am working for do I admire and what should I keep in mind is particularly demoralizing or unnecessary and in the mean time just keep my head down and do it the way he/she wants it to be done.


I personally think it is ludicrous they stuck you on the grill your very first day with no training on the station. Stick with it, you'll find a place you really mesh with. That's one of the best parts of this industry -- your co workers pretty much become family. I've never felt closer to fellow employees in an office. On that same note, I think it's because I could never really be myself in an office; kitchens are pretty tolerant of eccentricities and personal quirks so long as you pull your weight.


I hope you can glean some sort of advice and encouragement through all that jibberjabber. I also started late (26yrs old) and have never been more satisfied.



post #3 of 15

Just wanted to say, your Jibberjabber was very inspiring, words I myself plan to take to heart in future endeavors.


So thank you for that post ChefBoyarG. thumb.gif

post #4 of 15

I see 2 schools of thought here.


First you could have been thrown in to "sink or swim" and to see just what you are made of.

Second, you tell us that you are training to become a "Chef's apprentice." Just by using that word we already assume that you are being trained to take command.

The fact that you were ridiculed frowned at and made fun of tells me that the place you were at was not that professional a place.

Professional cooks don't act that way towards on another. If they saw you having problems, the correct way to handle this would be to take you aside and explain things so you can have a better understanding of your job.


You saw a bad example of our industry and I regret you had to go through that.

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your honest answer. I was expecting some people to come back with toughen up and your soft but I took in what you said as it inspired me.


My back ground is logistics and warehousing and I boxed as a professional for around 15 years while washing dishes, doing prep and training and sparring people in various gyms across the state. So believe me I know about hard work and being fair with certain people.


But this I never got, throwing me into a position to see if I could swim? Then smiling and laughing at me when I panicked and made stuff ups. No wonder we have a very large trade shortage here in Australia with people like this around. My GF is a Chef from new Zealand and she is like WTF? haha


Yes they were understaffed and I should of went back for round two but the past is left where it is and I'll move on. Maybe back to the fight game where I belong.

post #6 of 15

Just curious, which restaurant in Australia are you referring to? If you don't feel like naming names. What city and cuisine was it?

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Sydney at an RSL Club.


Club food - Chips, salad, burgers, steaks, Chicken, fish, veges, mash.  All mostly fried.

post #8 of 15

I am going to say yes.


Depends a lot on the chef. My ol' chef used to ask me everyday "Still wanna be a chef?" Which is stupid question when you're still there, after a 16 hour day, at the end of a 70 hour week.

So yeah, the "Sink or Swim" method is quite popular from my own experience, usually, when they determine you're not entirely worthless, you'd usually get shown the ropes a bit more thoroughly (Boxing metaphor right there).


Personally though, I've always felt that if you're out of your league, or you don't know what you're doing, there's one piece of advice that never fails: Ask!

This is most commonly shared with new dishwashers, eg. the "People-won't-be-mad-if-you-ask-but-they-will-if-you-break-stuff" speech. And if you get told off for that, leave and don't look back. Find a place that's actually willing to teach you.


You'll get thrown in the deep end more then once, you'll get told off, scolded, yelled at and corrected more times then you can even imagine. Don't let it get to you, basically what every chef is telling you even when he's in your face, trying to trade spit with you, is "You fucked up, this is what you did wrong, please correct it next time" - It might not always come across as that, but it's basically nothing more.

I think we've all had days where we've come home and thought "Never again, first thing tomorrow I'm finding something else to do", few of us do. Be it the chef de cuisine that's having a bad day and taking it out over everybody else, or a lousy service where didn't prep enough, and find yourself having to do everything a la minute (My personal favorite, and something that always gets the juices flowing). We still get up every morning and labour through another day, because as ChefBoyarG said, the kitchen is your family, and you don't let your family down.


What you've experienced is not unusual, I don't recall hearing about someone in your situation (and age) being treated like that, but it does happen. Still, keep soldiering on, but be engaged, don't just take it lying down. Ask questions, do your best and communicate. If you still don't click, well - move on, don't look back. I've been to several places, where, for one reason or the other, I'd just never fit in. It does happen quite a lot in this industry, because you work so many hours, in tight spaces with each other, it's really important that you're comfortable with the tone in the kitchen and the other chefs. Otherwise you're never going to be happy. Don't worry to much about your first day, or even first week, or 3 weeks for that matter. You're going to acquire skills, and everything will get easier, and fast. Worry about the people, why did they do what they did - If it was with malice intent, or just to fill a spot, then think hard about if you want to stay there.


That's my two cents, the work environment trumps the actual work, especially in your situation, where you are still unsure as to what you've gotten yourself into.

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Yeah welcome to the kitchen b****!!   ;)


That's just how it is.



As they say, if you can't handle the heat in the kitchen get out.


post #10 of 15

Uhm, that menu?  It's a step up from McDonald's.  So yes, in a place like that, perhaps it's normal.  Find another place.

post #11 of 15


Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Lets not forget a basic word called..




If I got told this only a few times after a day of slaving in the kitchen I would be happy to go back. I don't expect my a** kissed but little things like that after you have worked your a** off make you feel good coming from the leader. (if you have done a good job of course) And makes you want to go back and try hard for them.



My chef girlfriend thinks I'm to sensitive for expecting this.  lol


What you posted Pete is spot on, thank you! of course there is break downs and blow ups like any job but you have to respect your staff. I won't put up with being called an effffng idiot on my first day with no training and I'm sure as hell you professional chefs wouldn't tolerate it either.

post #13 of 15

I've never understood the thinking behind throwing people into the deep end and the "sink or swim mentality" in terms of training, especially for a job where customers are eating and paying for the product you're putting out.  I can understand if the entire staff walked out on the restaurant and all you've got left are a couple of green cooks and a few hundred covers to do, but not under normal circumstances.  First of all, as a chef you're willingly sacrificing the quality of a diner's experience by either making them wait (due to the poor guy overcooking a steak three times in a row) an abnormally long time for food or sending them sub-par food just to "teach" a cook a lesson or to humble them or to break them down.  Chefs like that aren't deserving of respect and I'd quickly plan an escape route.


And Pete, thanks for posting that poignant post, I think it sums up what I hope most, if not all of us feel.

"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks, this is a new world to me and I'm green with it I'll admit. But this swim thing didn't seem right.


However I'm not going to give up on it and have applied at many more places and offered my services for a trial. Dislike friers but that's the way it's going here, casual dining is the new thing.

People can't afford to fine dine much anymore.

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your honest answer.


On an update to my complaint. bounce.gif



I've secured another apprenticeship at a new place and have been there four days now and love it. You know how you get to a place and you click with everyone and they let you be yourself? The head chef and sous are really good people and they show me and share there knowledge.

They're letting me add a few things to the menu in a few months time which I'm excited about. 


It's not fine dining or a restaurant but a small chocolate/coffee cafe in the city here which does really well with breakfast and lunch service. No more fried garbage except chips of course for some sides.


For some unknown reason I have this urge to be in this scene. ????  A kitchen calling.

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