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Advice for a Sous Chef who Wants to Learn More

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

After being in the kitchen for 2 years  at a couple restaurants I find myself as a sous at a casual place for the last 6 months. I have learned a lot business wise (food costs, personnel management, dealing with upper management, menu development and learning what customers like and don't like). I still feel like even though I am at a management level I feel inadequate.

 

I work in a casual restaurant and proper technique, quality ingredients and the cooks around me aren't very talented or knowledgeable. I am much more talented than our head chef/owner who has been in the business for 30 years at mostly old school places. I have no one over me to teach and grow and tell me better, I am learning a lot of it on my own as I go and through textbook style books (CIA, jacques pepin essential techniques, FCI textbook etc). I consider myself very hardworking, smart and use proper technique whenever I know how to and never take shortcuts.

 

I feel like on one hand I am in an OK place career wise having just turned 23 and being a sous chef with only 2 and half years kitchen experience. I get to implement ideas on our seasonal menu and for special events. I feel like I have a mature palate and create balanced well composed dishes with the ingredients I have available. Sometimes I do make sort of "rookie" mistakes and I hear about these mightily from our head chef when they do occur, which is not too often. On the other hand I feel like I need to move on because while I am learning I need to do it quicker and a better more upscale kitchen will do that for me. I want to be the best and be challenged. I know I have confidence issues and don't give myself much credit and sort of view myself through negative glasses but I also know in reality I could be doing more.

 

I am making a little more as a sous than a line cook right now and I think that is part of what is preventing me from leaving, I feel like a sell out but on the other hand I also need to survive financially. Transportation is also an issue as I can only travel via public transportation which limits me a lot. I feel like I just want to escape to a resort type of place where my living arrangements would be secure and I could learn and grow in the kitchen.

 

I don't know what to do, am I just over-thinking this? Too anxious to know better? Too scared to make the change?

 

I would love to hear your own personal stories and any advice for people once in this situation?

post #2 of 7

I think you're off to a great start. You are not over thinking but just analyzing the situation like any pragmatic person would do. I would stick at it a while longer. Get more experience as the sous at that restaurant and make sure to stay on good terms with Chef. Have him write you a recommendation letter (Maybe time this one out at a more appropriate moment.). Stick it out, but look for jobs in the meantime. Stay there a year or more and get that recommendation letter so you look awesome to other potential employers. See what's out there but don't jump on just anything. If the perfect sous, or maybe even higher up position comes along, you'll know it after looking at jobs for quite some time. You are still very young but further along than most. Keep your nose in the books and play around with food at home as much as you can.

You'll end up fine... but don't overreact. 

post #3 of 7

Great advice from Vic.

I would add that it's important to excel at what you're currently asked to do, master it.

Why leave a place that still affords you a learning opportunity if you're otherwise happy?

That, and it's more important to chase knowledge rather than the money.

Don't be too concerned with taking a lower position elsewhere if you feel you'll be able to learn more.

If you back up your decision, it would be a rare employer that wouldn't respect that.

But, I'll look at time on the job immediately after looking at experience.

Given an opportunity at sous and leaving  6 months later doesn't look good.

You admit you don't quite have it down pat.

Sounds like you're being given a fare shot to succeed.

I would stick it out.

Another 6-12 months and you may feel different about moving, maybe not, but you'll have a better looking resume and more self confidence from mastering what is before you.

My 2 cents, spend it as you wish.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #4 of 7
I'm sure alot of people may disagree with me but this is my opinion and I'm sticking to it! smile.gif
I feel people that climb the ranks to quickly are shooting themselves in the foot...
You say you are the best cook at your restaurant and have no one above you to learn off? After two years exp? That is not a good thing at all.
This leaves you with yourself.... To teach ... Yourself.
I've read a few of your posts before and you seem like a smart guy. I'm sure you can still teach yourself and expand your knowledge fine where you are and you'll get good exp running a brigade.... But!
Why the rush?
Unless you have a family to support $$ should not matter. if you want to be the best you can be.... Work for the best .
I would work there for 6 more months ( short stints don't look good) and get a job at the best kitchen you can get into. With superiors you actually respect that can really cook. And people you can learn from. Why learn to run when you should be walking? This career IMO is definitly not something you can rush. If your in it for the love not $ smile.gif
Oh and as a side note there are plenty of jobs worldwide in resorts in nice locations with great restaurants that pay for food, accommodation , power, etc etc and a semi decent wage smile.gif
Another side note . Here in oz to cook is a 3 year apprenticeship with an absolutely terrible wage until you can call yourself a "commis" / #}#t kicker smile.gif again, why the rush?
post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by geo87 View Post

I'm sure alot of people may disagree with me but this is my opinion and I'm sticking to it! smile.gif
I feel people that climb the ranks to quickly are shooting themselves in the foot...
You say you are the best cook at your restaurant and have no one above you to learn off? After two years exp? That is not a good thing at all.
This leaves you with yourself.... To teach ... Yourself.
I've read a few of your posts before and you seem like a smart guy. I'm sure you can still teach yourself and expand your knowledge fine where you are and you'll get good exp running a brigade.... But!
Why the rush?
Unless you have a family to support $$ should not matter. if you want to be the best you can be.... Work for the best .
I would work there for 6 more months ( short stints don't look good) and get a job at the best kitchen you can get into. With superiors you actually respect that can really cook. And people you can learn from. Why learn to run when you should be walking? This career IMO is definitly not something you can rush. If your in it for the love not $ smile.gif
Oh and as a side note there are plenty of jobs worldwide in resorts in nice locations with great restaurants that pay for food, accommodation , power, etc etc and a semi decent wage smile.gif
Another side note . Here in oz to cook is a 3 year apprenticeship with an absolutely terrible wage until you can call yourself a "commis" / #}#t kicker smile.gif again, why the rush?

 

+1

post #6 of 7

Everyone is giving great advice.  I was a sous chef at 23 at a restaurant in Los Angeles, but I knew that I had to grow by leaps and bounds.  Sure, the money is fine now, but it will get better if you improve your skill set.  I took the plunge, quit my decent paying sous job and moved to NYC to make $11 an hour in the most expensive city in the country.  Yeah it was hard, but I also learned SO much.  I got my ass kicked, learned what its like to work hard, play hard.  I had talented and knowledgable line cooks around me showing me new tricks and techniques and my chef, CDC, and sous were all amazing.  

 

Make sure you find the right place.  I went with my gut on most of my jobs and I landed on top.  I learned discipline, cleanliness, standards.  Get a job at a place that almost makes you uncomfortable.  I went home on Thursday nights for weeks, freaking out because the weekend was going to be hell, and i knew i was going to get worked like a dog for hours.  But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger right?  Sounds like you have your head on straight, just go with your gut.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Geo, Vic, Jim, cacio thank you all for your input.

 

I think you are all right in suggesting that I am rushing things, giving a full year as the sous is probably the best idea. I think I am my own worst enemy and constantly think if I am not rushing things and making huge strides quickly I am not doing enough. I want to be really good but it doesn't happen overnight no matter how much work or effort you put in, time is the greatest teacher. I constantly compare my skills and knowledge to others and never feel like I'm good enough.

 

That being said I still want to learn more on my days off, still looking for a place to stage one day a week.
 

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