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Which Job?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello, I'm hoping that you guys can help me.


I currently work as a prep chef in one of the best independent restaurants in my city, and also one of the only places willing to take me on as someone with no experience at all. They have pretty much told me that within 12 months I'd be doing a commis position there.


I started there 6 weeks ago, after contacting a number of places.

I got a call from another place, pretty much offering me a job as a full time commis chef, but the restaurant probably isn't as good. Its a 'chain' but it is a good chain if that makes sense. (Not the kind of place that just reheats everything and gets stuff delivered pre made, from what I know.)


Now my options are obviously, stay at the place where I'm doing prep and roughly one day service every 2 weeks, or go to this new place as a full time commis.


What do you guys think I should do? They are both very highly rated restaurants, I'd just say that the independent one is probably better, but I'm getting unpredictable hours (50 one week, 10 the next kind of thing) and I'm not learning any service skills really.

post #2 of 10

A couple of things to take into consideration.


- are you working to build a resume and hopefully move on to bigger and better things?


- are you working to learn how things are done (experience)?


- are you working solely because you need the money?


- are you working at the first place because you really like the food and want to learn how to do it their way?


Answering these honestly might help you find the answer to your question of where to work.




As for not learning any service skills that is kind of your fault.   Every time you finish or have a transition in your prep work grab a bucket and a cloth and go wipe down the line... hang about a bit and see what the station is doing.  Ask a couple of questions if he/she is not in the weeds.  Learning in a kitchen is a very pro-active thing, you must go and find it.  If you have a spare minute ask if they need something or grab a pitcher of water and learn as you fetch them a drink.  You have to let them know you want to learn.   Soon you'll get known as the guy who wants to learn and the cooks or even the chef will start asking you to drop the peeler and come watch or lend a hand. 


You have zero experience so I'm amazed that they let you do any service at all.  To put it another way you have been there for 6 weeks and have done 3 service shifts?   It doesn't make much sense you might have forgotten to add some information in.


The place you are at said you would be a commis within a year - i'd bet they probably forgot to add ..." if you bust your balls and show us how good you are at prep then we'll let you begin to learn on the line under a chef de partie"

The reason for this is when you are on the line under someone learning you are essentially in training and getting paid to do not a whole lot of work.   They want to ensure that you will be paying very close attention and that they aren't training someone that is going to jump ship or do a crap job.  The only way they can gauge your work ethic is by watching you do prep.


As for the hours thing - it sounds like they hired you as a part-time kitchen hand or assistant, never heard of a prep chef tbh.


In short stay where you are at - learn everything you can and if you aren't moving up - then move on to the next job.  

If you just need steady hours and better pay get a better job, likely not in a kitchen. (kinda sad but true)



"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold





"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold


post #3 of 10

Whereas I wouldn't phrase it the same way, I agree with Mike.  He poses valid questions and makes solid points, right down to "If you just need steady hours and better pay get a better job, likely not in a kitchen. (kinda sad but true)".  If you want to succeed in a kitchen, you've got to be constantly learning.  If you're not learning anything, move on to another place.  Guess that's my answer, in a nutshell.  However just so you know, I would much rather teach a dishwasher that tells me "One day I want to run a kitchen" how to do basic things, or anything he asks, than a culinary school graduate that says "I'm not doing that, it's the prep cook's job.  You hired me to cook, not to prep."


That actually happened.  I fired him on the spot.  Kids these days....


post #4 of 10


Edited by rdm magic - 5/13/12 at 4:04am
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

- are you working to build a resume and hopefully move on to bigger and better things? Yes, I do want to move onto better things


- are you working to learn how things are done (experience)? See question below


- are you working solely because you need the money? Not at all, the money really has nothing to do with it. I want the experience, which means both places I'd be working as minimum wage


- are you working at the first place because you really like the food and want to learn how to do it their way? No, I don't actually like any of the food on the menu. I'm working there because it is so highly rated in my city, and they would offer me a job. The other place I feel like I'd enjoy the food more, but I may not learn as much from there in terms of 'how to run a kitchen'.


I am trying to learn by watching, but most of the time when I'm on service they either have me doing prep work, so I can't be asking too many questions because I need to focus on my own work or they don't require me to be in. For some reason the boss gets quite funny if you go in when you aren't supposed to or I'd just go in when I'm not working to watch and try help out.


I think he's giving me service etc because right from the start, I told him that my goal is to be a head chef, but as I have no experience I understand that I have to work up from what is basically a dishwashers position. At the moment, it seems like I do prep just about every morning, and cover one guys station when he has the day off (there is only 5 chefs in the whole kitchen, and his station is the easiest), and cover for dishwashing if one of those guys is off too.


@ Rbandu; I've never expressed any unwillingness to do anything he's asked me, even when he tells me I'm working a Saturday close at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon (when they wouldn't call the chef who had the day off because it was rude). I also show next to no basic knowledge, even though I feel I have a good grasp on the basics so that they can show me the way they do everything.


I know I should stay at a place where I am learning, but as I'm so new (only 6 weeks), isn't it more a question of where I'll be learning more? Which is surely the place that would have me as a full time commis chef, rather that the place where I am now (I don't really know what the term is for what I do, probably a kitchen hand or something)

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Ok, so I had my trial shift today.

Everything went well, and the sous basically offered me a job, saying he just needed to talk with the head chef just to confirm everything and I'll be contacted.

After going to the job, even from the 6 hours I was there I don't think I will gain as much experience in the prep as I currently am, but I'll be learning much more overall as I'll be doing the 'full' job (prep, however limited, alongside service and everything else), rather than just learning one half of the job (current place, with only prep). 

I also think I'd enjoy the food at the new place more, as it is food I'm more interested in cooking (Italian, opposed to French).


I think if offered officially the job I'll take it, unless someone else could offer me some insight into why I shouldn't?


I'm worried that perhaps I'm being short sighted, but I don't really have anyone to ask, because I'm worried if I ask any of the people where I am currently working, they will get pissed with me and think that there is no point teaching me as I will leave at the first chance I get. I can't really ask at the new place, because no-one will tell me its total garbage, even if it is.

post #7 of 10

I agree that you're being short sighted. Were I the chef and crew at your current place, I would be irked that you left after only 6 weeks. Burning bridges n such. Steadfastness is admired in this turnover pron industry.


It takes time to get the knife skills needed to excel in this line of work. It's best to get them as a prep guy. Otherwise, you're going to be the line cook that is slow and sloppy on prep and ends up dragging the entire line down.


It also take some time to learn the various techniques and methods, not just of cooking, but how to work the line and in a pro kitchen in general. Start laying a good foundation so you can move up the line smoothly.


When I was a fresh greenhorn, I bullshitted my way into a line cook job, and totally embarrassed myself and the guy that turned me on to that job.


That said, the undependable hours is messed up, so if you need to switch jobs for financial reasons, you should do it.

post #8 of 10

I'd actually be irked, myself, if someone left after 6 weeks as well, but there's a huge HOWEVER.  I'd still respect the kid for being ambitious, wanting a more definable schedule and all that.  When I hire people, yeah, I look first for their longest-held job.  That shows some form of dedication, maybe even a glimmer of work ethic...but you can still be a lazy SOB and keep your job for 10 years.  It just means you didn't call out sick all the time, you showed up on time and did your job "adequately enough" for the chef to not fire you.


I think the job switch will end up being a very good thing for you.  You'll be immersed, forced to learn on-the-fly.  That's the best way to learn a language, and it carries over.  You're going to cut yourself a lot at first.  Knives, slicer...and *shudder* mandoline.  You're going to get a lot of blisters, callouses and so forth.  Everything will help you learn, though.  I can tell you that I really developed my knife skills the most as a line cook, when I understood WHY things had to be shaped/cut the way they are.  It helped me perfect my techniques because there was a reason behind the method, whereas before that I had no idea.


You're green.  The Sous understands that.  He sees a glimmer of hope in you, or he wouldn't have tentatively offered you the job.  That means he'll also be willing to help train you and shape you into a valuable member of his kitchen.  I've always respected my Sous chefs' decisions and backed them up, hopefully this chef will be the same way.  It seems like this would be an invaluable learning opportunity.


Also, as a side note, I worked in an Italian kitchen for close to 10 years once.  I used mostly french techniques however, and I never had any complaints.  Consider both, don't ignore the French cuisine.  Read French cookbooks, Italian cookbooks, Chinese cookbooks, etc.  It'll help you be more rounded as a future chef.  Second point, a Chef is merely a chief, he manages a department, a kitchen or sometimes the entire restaurant.  The line cooks are the ones that actually practice the art.  Enjoy that while you can.

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

While I understand that my current boss may be somewhat annoyed by me leaving, and disgarding the chance he has given me, I can't really let that stop ME in moving to what I feel would be a better chance in the long run for me. 

The place I am currently as is advertising for a Commis chef, and with the few services I have done I can see no reason that he can't just offer me that job on a 1-3 month trial (if I do decide to quit, I will put this option to him).


This may come across as slightly arrogant, but I feel that I'm a fast learner and will be able to keep pace with learning lots. In the 6 weeks I've gotten reasonable knife skills (obviously they aren't fantastic, but they are a hell of a lot better than they were when I started)


Whilst staying at my current job may as RBandu says, show dedication and loyalty, won't the fact that I've left a job to better myself show that I'm ambitious and driven, and not afraid to take what I want as it were?


I'm not really sure still, I feel like that 12 months before I could start working the line, when I'm already 21 (I dont think I mentioned that previously) is quite a long time, if I can go somewhere straight away to work the line.

Both places know that I have no experience whatsoever, (so they shouldn't expect me to be THAT great, should they?) and I wasn't actually seeking a job when offered this second one, but got a reply from my original letter that I sent to around 20 restaurants.

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

So I had my interview 2 weeks ago on Tuesday. I haven't officially heard back from the second place, offering me a Commis position.

I've visited twice, both times the sous has been off. I had a text or two from the guy, saying he firstly needed to contact his boss (its a chain, I presume they have some sort of GM) and then one saying he would call me tomorrow (this was two days ago, he hasn't called me). Is it possible he has just been busy, or is this a discouraging sign that he doesn't want to call me and break the bad news that I'm hopeless and don't have a job?


Obviously I'd like the other job, but I'm more than happy to stay where I am (I actually prefer the work environment there, I'm just not being offered the position I desire - hes advertising for a commis after all. Could someone point out to me what the down side of him giving me a trial of whatever length is? Is he looking for me to take the step and ask for this position?

(the only reason I haven't asked is because he seems to view me more as a potwasher than a chef, and I'm worried that he may just tell me to get the f*** out if I ask for a 'promotion' after 2 months)


I have to admit, I've declined two shifts this week. One because I did actually have plans, but one because I would have been pot washing, and I cannot stand potwashing. All the people who are doing it have been at it for years (3 is the minimum) and I just don't see why he has me doing it. I'm rubbish at it, even though I try (its a compromise between being clean, and being fast).


I really could do with some advice from someone who knows the business. Is he giving me potwash to gain experience, or is he doing it to 'punish' me for not going to college? He gave a guy who went to college, and has 3 'years' experience a full time job, on no doubt more pay than me (again, I don't really care what the wage is, my plan is a 10 year one and I have a personal wage set for 10 years time). But, in my unexperienced eyes, this guy is no better than me. When I'm on potwash, he does the jobs I'm given. When I'm on prep, we are given the same list and told to split it as we see fit.


If you don't want to read all that, the long and short of it:
I haven't had any contact back from the place with the commis job, but the place I am being a porter at both has me doing more potwash, and has employed a new commis with experience, but I feel I am better than him (not being bigheaded, I just feel this way.)

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