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post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I'm currently conflicted. I started quite 'late' being a cook (21), when I compare myself to the great chefs you can read about; I don't want to sound stupid or anything, but what I really want to do in my career is to work in michelin standard kitchens. I understand that its pretty unlikely and everything, but I feel that I need a goal, and while that is a difficult one, its not so farfetched as to say I want to be the next Gordon Ramsay/MPW etc. There is no real reason that it should be unattainable.

 

Now, I want some advice. I'm not sure if anyone here can really help, but advice is advice, and it will all be taken on board.

 

I feel that in order to advance my skills quickly, gaining a complete knowledge I should be moving around to new and different restaurants and cuisines. Some of the chefs I've spoken to agree with that. But, I also know and have been told that if you move every 6 months, chefs are cautious of taking you on, as they expect you to move on. This is obviously a problem, as I want to be moving as not to stagnate, but I also don't want to ruin potential employment in places because of this behavior. Whats the subjectively better route?

 

How is best to go about actually getting work in one of the places that I want to work in? What experience should be gained before working there? What sort of restaurants should I seek to be working in, beforehand?

 

I live in England, but I have a very, very basic command of French; would it be worthwhile going to work in France?

Moving to London seems like it will be a given at some point, when I feel that I am capable of getting through the door in one of these places, as it has the highest concentration in England. (There are 3 michelin restaurants within 50 miles of where I live, where I'd love to work, but I just don't have the experience yet.)

 

I really would like some advice from an accomplished chef who has worked in michelin establishments and can advise me, but as I said anyones input is greatly appreciated.

post #2 of 14

Whew boy, you're going to get a lot of information on this.  First of all, I don't think youre late in the game in regards to starting in kitchens.  Perhaps by European standards, but 21 is young enough to do anything.  I love the ambition that you have in setting your standards high, but like most people who are not in restaurants (especially younger people), the perception is skewed.  

 

First of all, to be a proper chef I can say with confidence that 'moving around a lot' is not going to "advance your skills quickly'.  Sure, you can hop around to all the Michelin starred restaurants you want, but you will never learn all you need (or should) learn in a 6 month period.  You'd be lucky to move from a meager prep cook to cooking anything with heat in 6 months.  My suggestion is to find a chef you admire put in your time for 2 years or so and learn as much as you can from him/her and use that chef as a reference to move you along to a better kitchen.  These days all kids want to do is forage for some plants, sous vide a piece of meat and whip some stuff in a canister and they think they have the skills to be a chef.  

 

Have you gone to eat at starred restaurants? A great way to see if this is the kind of path you want to take is to sample the product.  I've eaten in restaurants that total about 26 or so stars, some of them multiple times.  I know that I'm probably cut out to be a chef of a 1...MAYBE 2 michelin starred food.  I could work in a 3 star place, but its not something that I want to do.

 

France, England, Spain...wherever you want to go the experience will be great, as long as you find a chef you respect and are excited about. Just don't let TV dictate what you want to be or the path you should take.  Perhaps you should find the toughest starred kitchen in your area and work there for a week and see where it takes you. 

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

I should have mentioned that I didn't mean moving around once I got a job at one of these places, but more in the time that I'd put in to learn skills that will benefit me. If I were working in a starred restaurant, I'd stay there for as long as possible.

 

I haven't eaten in any starred restaurants; I've tried, but I'm from a fairly low class area, and even when offering to pay for people to come with me, they refuse to go, I feel because they are intimidated by the perceived expectations they have.

 

If I offered to stage at my closest michelin restaurant, even with my limited experience, do you think they'd even consider it? I was estimating a good 5-8 years of 'working the circuit' staying places 6-12 months before really going for it.

post #4 of 14

Instead of focusing on time spent, focus on skills learned.

 

Establish your short and long term goals. Select a kitchen that will help you achieve some skills that you feel you are missing. In the process you will probably discover other skills that you need to learn. When the learning stops, find a new place to go, whether it is in a month, three months, six months, two years or whatever.

 

Having a plan such as that will provide a valid negation for charges of "jumping around" as well as a built in "reason for leaving".

 

Why did you not stay? Because I learned everything the chef had to teach me.

 

Time becomes irrelevant, skill level replaces it.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #5 of 14

AGREED WITH PETE. 

 

 

Well , i guess 21 i pretty young ( my opinion isnt valid since i started at 16 im 18 now )...

 

If you have the opportunity or the connections i would suggest being mentored by a well trained and experienced chef. Im currently being trained as an apprentice and line cook by a great chef (i dont even consider her my boss ) she literally has taught me a hell of alot , and sees the ptoential in me. Now if you dont have this opportunity i would definitely suggest moving a bit and getting some real world experience but not to the point where ever 6 months you are at a new place. My chef and mentor lived 10 years in europe going between france ( 1 year ) Italy (7 years) and Barcelona ( 2 years ) , she has worked in about 7 restaurants while in Europe  , and while she studied here in brazil she internshipeed in 3 . So yeh moving and learning new things is fundemental but in no way should this be taken to extremes where you are moving every 6 months to a new restaurant not only can it give future employers the wrong idea , but it isnt any good for networking either.

 

Next thing you should take into consent is that it takes time to get a decent track record ,  you may want to progress but talent is something your born with. You have to go past your limits in a kitchen so i would advise you to get a job ( not in a michelin restaurant ) but in the cooking industry just so you can get a taste ( even if it may be a litte one ) of what cooks do on a daily basis just to see if you are cut out for the real world. 

Read books ( i have read a good amount ) i believe they help alot in understaning certain concepts and different cultural cuisines. 

If possible travel outside of Europe , i Live in Brazil but lived 12 years in the USA , i can definetly say the difference in cuisine is huge , and the cooking methods as well. After im through with Latin America i would love to go to Malaysia or Thialand and just study. 

I believe this industry requires dedication , passion , talent , blood , sweat , and tears ( and a sense of humor lol ) , along with alot of study.

 

Next year probably around March or so i will be traveling around Latin America i plan on backpacking and working in a few restaurants in Argentina , Chile , and Guatemala i just wanna imerse myself in the culinary world and i think im at a good start. 

So far im a line cook at an okay place , with an amazing chef that i end up substituting on her days off. I work my ass off responsible for 11 dishes with a menu of 36... 


Edited by KaiqueKuisine - 2/6/14 at 12:18pm

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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post #6 of 14

I guess I'm sticking with my guns when it comes to longevity at a restaurant.  I supposed 'skills learned' is just as arbitrary as 'time spent'.  KK, if counting the years of service your chef has dedicated you can total up at least 13.  Not a small number by any means.  We all know that time at any restaurant is personal.  I found depth and understanding by spending at least a year and a half at most of the places I've worked.  You get an appreciation of the nuances that make it special.  You understand why people are scheduled the way they are.  Why certain people do what they do.  The best way to order, organize, dictate duties to people, etc.  These are the things that make one a solid chef.  Don't take this the wrong way, but I would rather get a deeper understanding of a handful of places than a multi-faceted view of cooking form numerous spots, and not get to the root of the reasoning. Neither is right, neither is wrong, its up to you.

post #7 of 14

Michelin stars.... man, they give those things out like candy these days.

Oh, and I agree with cacioEpepe. Find a decent restaurant, and stick around a while. Do a good job, and the Chef will go out of his way to set you up with something better when you're done.

post #8 of 14
Not to play the chorus, but Pete summed everything up perfectly. I actually did start late in life, at 30. My best advice to add on to KK and Pete would be this: Don't shoot yourself in the foot by overthinking what your career path "should" be. Find that thing that makes you obsessively love food, that thing that makes you feel like you've won after dragging yourself through the kitchen mire after 17 hours- find that thing that makes you sick in the head like the rest of us. I think they romantically call it passion. Find it, hold on to it for dear life, and work for chefs you personally respect. If you can do that, the rest will fall into place.
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem View Post

Not to play the chorus, but Pete summed everything up perfectly. I actually did start late in life, at 30. My best advice to add on to KK and Pete would be this: Don't shoot yourself in the foot by overthinking what your career path "should" be. Find that thing that makes you obsessively love food, that thing that makes you feel like you've won after dragging yourself through the kitchen mire after 17 hours- find that thing that makes you sick in the head like the rest of us. I think they romantically call it passion. Find it, hold on to it for dear life, and work for chefs you personally respect. If you can do that, the rest will fall into place.

Yep , today for instance i worked 115 meals just me an my head chef..... imagine me working sautee ( which is my station ) and grill ( not my station ) while cooking rice , quiche in the oven , and having that flame almost burn your eye brows off. When your in the weeds doing overtime wishing you had a 5 minutes break just to go kill yourself and you still end up working through it...with a smile on your face at the end of your shift , you know you belong in the kitchen. 

 

P.S. i wasnt gonna kill myself , but the offer was tempting LOL 

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdm magic View Post

If I offered to stage at my closest michelin restaurant, even with my limited experience, do you think they'd even consider it?

 

 

Nothing ventured nothing gained. We all started some place. The biggest mistake I see young Chefs make is job hopping or just emailing stage requests/resumes. You need to sell yourself and the best way to do that is face to face. So how do you get there? Boots on the ground asking to speak to the Chef. I could have a stack of resumes on my desk but if some one walks in the door and shows enough interest, presents well, stands tall and proud with out being cocky I was far more likely to give them a shot instead of spending hours on end with call backs, interviews etc.

Some times a lack of experience is a positive attribute. It's far easier to train some one than try to help them un-learn bad habits they have developed elsewhere. Let the Chef know you are quick on your feet, reliable, a quick learner.

Forget about Michelin stars. What you want to find is a Chef that you gel with that's willing to teach you.

Never take a job you don't intend to keep for at least a year. If you can Travel and learn that's a great way to go. You get exposed to more technique and style but it takes $$$ to do this. Often your expenses are greater than your earnings so it's just not possible for every one.

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 

Some answers coming now, along with more questions.

 

As a chef, if someone has a legit reason for leaving a job after say a month, would you hold it against them? Would it just be better not to mention it on a CV? At my new job I'm seeing some practices that I'm very weary of, and as a commis I don't have the pow to actually do anything about it, other than refusing to do so myself.

 

I'm currently working in kitchens, I've been doing it just over a year now. I stayed in my first kitchen for a year. I learnt an incredible amount in one respect, but I still know how ignorant I am in others. The place I worked was very busy, and without wanting to come across as arrogant most other places that I've had trials at, and the place I'm working now have been unable to shake me on service. However, due to the business of my previous kitchen I have some badness too, that I am working on. I feel I can identify some of my weaknesses and know what i need to do to correct them. I love being in the kitchen. Other than feeling tired, I have no issue working as much as I can, and I can live with being tired. Working in the kitchen makes me feel like I'm doing something good; hopefully giving people a simple moment of happiness, purely from putting something out to them. I find it satisfying to think that making someone who I will likely never speak to, or know is happy for however long because of me.

 

FWIW, I wasn't meaning for it to come across as the situation where I would hit 6 months and be leaving irregardless of the other circumstances; if I was enjoying it and still learning, I've no issue staying somewhere for however long.

 

You guys are advocating staying until I stop learning, but it seems to me that it would be better to move not once I stop, but once the learning significantly slows. When you start a new job, you're learning 15 things a day. 3 months later, 10 things a day, 12 months later you're learning 2 things a week. You're still learning, but isn't it kind of a law of diminishing returns?

 

This might be a stupid question, but what do you look for in a chef that you want to work for? Do you eat in the restaurant and see if you enjoy his food?

post #12 of 14
Rdm, that's kind of the thing about this business- you can ask for all the advice in the world, when you really need it, and you'll usually get nothing. Being left to follow through on decisions you've already made is kind of the point. If you want to leave your current job, then do it. Just keep in mind the old adage: Work smart, then hard.

As far as qualities I look for in chefs? Sincerity, accountability (in finances and stock), and a touch of mad genius.
post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdm magic View Post

 

You guys are advocating staying until I stop learning, but it seems to me that it would be better to move not once I stop, but once the learning significantly slows. When you start a new job, you're learning 15 things a day. 3 months later, 10 things a day, 12 months later you're learning 2 things a week. You're still learning, but isn't it kind of a law of diminishing returns?

 

This might be a stupid question, but what do you look for in a chef that you want to work for? Do you eat in the restaurant and see if you enjoy his food?

This may be true, but I've found it to be the quality of the knowledge that matters. You might learn 15 things your first day but if 10 of them are peoples names, one is where to put your stuff and 4 of them are recipes you already know changed to suit a chefs pallet then you've done nothing for your self, but if a year in the 2 things you learn in a week are things you can take with you and apply elsewhere that's something to stick around for.

post #14 of 14

A useful trait is being able to understand what you don't know so you can figure out what you need to learn.

 

The time to move on comes when you figure out that those around you don't know the same things you don't know.

 

The major error for those who are learning is when they think they know more than those they are learning from.

 

When is it time to move on? When you chef says so, and s/he will, otherwise they're not a chef, just a kitchen manager crazy.gif
 

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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