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Expectations for Campus Dining?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Recently interviewed for a job at a University under the Compass Group. What should I expect going in?

I figured for the most part it would be large batch cooking focusing on mostly braising, baking, an roasting. I also don't believe any large scale prep (i.e breaking down hundreds of chickens, half a cow, etc). I'm not expecting much on the creative side but after listening to various cooks and a few chefs they all seem to agree it's in my best interest to "follow the money" sooner than later.

post #2 of 6

Honestly, by the time you left the interview, you should have been able to answer these questions.  You made the same mistake that a lot of people make, across all professions - focusing so hard on trying to get the job, they never investigate enough about whether the job is right for them.


Whether you should "follow the money" now and take this job, or work for...independent restaurants, all depends on what your goals are for your career in this industry.  If this is the sort of thing you want to do for the next 40 years, then by all means, start now.  If it's "just a job" that you're not gonna be happy or satisfied are you doing even interviewing for it, provided you have other options to pursue??


My feeling is that if you work this job for the next 3 years and then decide you want to work in fast-paced restaurants, it's gonna be harder to score a job, and a harder transition for you.  Just my opinion.


Not saying you shouldn't take it, but since you're so early in your career, you need to evaluate what you want your professional arc to look like.

post #3 of 6

While I agree in principle with you Dave I have to remind you that the op is still a student and may not posses the abilities to discern what you or I may be able to.


Rainliberty...working for food services is a great way to get experience in quantity food production.

Depending on where the company puts you, you will be preparing large quantities of food for the students there.

There may be some creativity there if you get yourself involved with the college VIP's

They are the ones who have the special dinners and receptions where more upscale food is prepared.


I for one believe that this type of experience combined with further upscale service in the future is a great way to gain well rounded experience.

With such knowledge, you become a valuable asset where ever you go.

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

I might have misspoken, when I said I "figured", I actually meant I did know I will be doing those tasks. When I asked what to expect, I meant the other things? Pay rate, general atmosphere (more relaxed or restaurant "I don't care how you do it just get it done attitude"), etc, etc.


To put things in perspective I have been working as a line cook for a year and a half. It's an upscale, seasonal/weekly menu restaurant and everything is from scratch from the pastry's and pasta to the sausage and terrines. I can't say that I know a lot or much of anything, in fact I would describe myself as at best an average cook in a good restaurant. I won't know for sure until I experience it myself but judging from everyone around me I've learned that no matter what restaurant I go to the "core" of what I do will never change. Only the creativity, professionalism, and whether or not I plate with my finger or with tweezers.


In any case, I don't think I'm old enough to know for sure what I want to be doing 10 years from now but I do know that going off my feelings now it won't be in a restaurant. The "professional arc" most people fall into is probably work the line until someone gives you a chance at sous or do something completely different in or out of the field. I don't want to fall into that group of people who realize at 28-30 that $13/hr just isn't enough. I'm sure most people want to believe that they will be an Exec or Sous early and young, but I see that there only 1 chef/1 sous and the odds aren't in your favor. It's a lot of time to sacrifice on "maybe's" and "what ifs". I wouldn't say I lack passion per se, but restaurants are scary for those who are smart enough to look ahead. I'd rather have the flexibility, financially, and socially in a place where it seems to be a more systematic rise to the top then restaurants. Not to say it wouldn't be as hard in a different place but judging myself now I don't believe I have the necessary characteristics to be a "great" restaurant chef, and if I can't be great why stick with it.


So when people tell me that if they could do it all over again, they would learn what they needed and go work "corporate" earlier in their lives because the day to day task won't change a year or two years from now, I listen. I can't tell you exactly what my goals are because they change...sometimes daily. But I do not want to be that "guy" of which there are so many that burned out and then decided chains and what not are the next best thing.


Sorry for the rant btw

post #5 of 6

This is an interesting thread and very topical as I am starting in the dining services of a small university on Monday as a prep cook. The school is a fairly wealthy catholic university so the menu is a bit more upscale than your typical university dining hall. During my interview they gave me a tour of the kitchen and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they cook everything from scratch and quality is not sacrificed to quantity. I will post more as I get my teeth into this job but it is exciting to find this kind of kitchen with fairly predictable advancement opportunities.   

post #6 of 6

Alright guys.  I'm young and haven't personally worked in dining services but I have grown up with many people that are working for Cornell University dining services which is a very top notch company to work for.  Here is what I know.  Obviously serving a kid/asshole < serving a client.  If you can get into the catering side of dining services, that's where its at.  The problem is, there are SO many politics involved.  You have a ton of kids that are related to a ton of higher ups which helps them out tremendously.  There are unions.  There are board meetings where people call you out on not being able to do your job and can challenge you for it if they think they are better than you. (this can be a good or a bad thing depends on how you look at it)  The job is given to the guy who does better on the practical.  As chefdave said, maybe if you are looking to work up the ladder for the next forty years, then it would be a good idea.  The only room for advancement in a university dining service is if you stay in it for years and years because this is what many of those workers do.  In restaurants people come and go, you can find the job opening you want.  In the dining services you have to understand that there are a lot of benefits (another thing that can be good or bad) in the case of it being bad.. this is why people stay there for fifty years! to acrue the benefits.  this makes it harder for you to advance.


on the up sides after working for a few years you can go to school for free, you get health care, 401k, the pay is very good generally.  I know that I could be working at Cornell right now and making 16 bucks an hour but all that I would probably be doing is chopping carrots. not because I don't have the skills to be grilling on site (what I do at a reputable restaurant in town) but because I couldn't get the job.  All of the good jobs in the dining services are hired internally.  that means if you are not a part of their faculty already the job that you are being hired for probably sucks.


I hope I didn't scare you or anything these are just the truths.

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