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Not happy with how my culinary career is going...

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

i loved every minute of culinary school, and i learned a ton. but unfortunately graduated school around the time when job outlook was at the "bottom of the toilet" so to speak. i took a job in an amusement park as a prep cook, cause it was the ONLY thing i could find. to be honest i dont use much of anything i learned in culinary school there other then time and temperature stuff. (*i do cook a lot on my own time, and love reading anything culinary, so ive been able to continue to stay somewhat educated*)  I stayed there for as long as i have because it was full time and it paid the bills. eventually i became bored and depressed that i wasnt in an actual kitchen and started looking for a new job. But now i am faced with the fact that i am at the bottom of food chain, and no one seems to want to take a chance on me. id be willing to start as a dishwasher and work my way up if that opportunity was given (as a second job) but chefs act like im short selling myself by me saying that, yet some have said that i dont have enough experience for a position at their restaurant, etc. which i dont understand if im to "unexperienced" to be a prep cook, but im to "experienced" to be a dishwasher. that doesn't make any sense to me. 

my parents are starting to stress that im not doing enough with my life now that i went to culinary school, and keep giving me crap for it. Not that i dont agree with them, i am unhappy and i want a job back in a restaurant. i just dont know how to get anyone to take me seriously or even give me a slight chance anymore. 

any actual chefs or former chefs, would love to hear advice or stories about the people you hired or took chances on who may have been having the hard time i am and why you did? how did it turn out, etc? or any advice on how i could sell myself, to make hiring people take me a little more serious. heck any kind of advice on this would be nice. 

post #2 of 19

I actually entered the industry due to a leap of faith an owner put into me. 


After working 16 months in a hotel and doing part time in the same hotel as a bar man , i ended up doing a culinary course , followed by a few other courses in wine and culinary tendencies. I had been in the kitchen all my life but never getting paid for it. 


One day i was without a job and so a sign in a restaurant needing someone to run expo , i wouldnt have to cook just be able to call out orders. 

I took the job and told the owner i wanted to be in the industry , and that i wanted to learn as much as possible. 

I worked a week doing expo , that week the person on Garde Mange got sent home and then i started working in the kitchen , working 4 hours in Garde Mange and 4 hours in expo. 

1 month later my chef started teaching me how to work the line. 

1 month after that a cook quit and i took her position as the full time line cook and then i never stopped cooking been a line cook since then. 


Note thought the owners of the restaurant took a leap of faith but at the time the head chef ( who is an amazing friend of mine now ) told him she could and would train me. At that point everyday she would teach me a few things even while i was on expo.  From then on she taught me as much as possible and because of her i have had the training i needed. 


She was a culinary grad and then got a scholarship to obtain a 2 year degree at the Le Cordon Bleu Paris , along with the fact she is a Sommelier as well , so imaginemy luck. 


Now im going after my bachelors in management , while i work in kitchens , then ill think about my masters in hotel management. 



I always thought that if you had passion and love for the industry , and could demonstrate it to others they will put more faith in you. 

At least thats how it ended up for me. It was luck , but my bosses always knew i did it for the passion and drive i had in this field , that if they gave me the chance i would do my best to not let them down. Sure i have worked my arse off , but in the end what i achieved and learned made it all worth it. 


Even if you have to work for free or stage to prove that your determined do it. More experience it always welcome in this field. 

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



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


post #3 of 19

Funny how it seems that many who "happened into it"  just got their foot in the industry as

DW or almost anything but cook, when there were no openings for that job--and since they were

already THERE, when something opened up like that they expressed interest, were given a chance

and got the position anyway. Sure there are those who sought it, persevered and got it too, just sayin.

post #4 of 19

Meez its so strange how some of these things happen. 

I always wanted to cook , but didn´t know if was something i would be good at , or if no one else could see that i had what it took to be in the industry, then it happens and i got a job. 


One thing i learned though , in this industry it helps networking....

When a positition opens up , they dont go searching through the pile of resumes , they ask the staff if they have anyone in mind that could do the job better or just as good as the person before. 

If the staff has no one in mind , they will ask family members , and close friends....

Then if after that they have no one in mind , the boss , owner , GM , head chef etc... will search through the pile of resumes or just get the first few in the bunch and see if anyone has what it takes. 


At least in the restaurants i have worked , people dont get cooking jobs so easily unless they really put themselves out there. 


You have to really put yourself out there , to get some experience , even if it means working for free. 

I worked for alot less before earning minimum wage. 


Now i can pay the bills but before it was tough , lived of instant ramen for awhile lol. 

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



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


post #5 of 19

I myself aways say, make sure you know where you want to be heading!!

like, when you are going on a holiday, you make plans, where you want to go, how long you want to stay, how you want to travel....

do something like that for your job.

where does your passion lie? what kind of kitchen? anything particular that you would love to learn? what restaurant or chef would you LOVE to work for.


it gives you something to hold onto!

no good looking for "anything" because you really need to be driven and passionate in this job to get somewhere...

its what I did. in one year, from zero to a very good restaurant....gastronomy level.

believe in yourself and your talents! what are you good at??? develop and keep learning!!


good luck!

post #6 of 19

I'll chime in here. What stands out in your post to me is the phrase…"(as a second job)".  If you said that to me while looking for work, I would be thinking, Do you want to move onward and upward or don't you? 

 You have stayed where you are for a while. That's good. Now it's time to go.

     Some chefs have said you don't have enough experience for a position at their restaurant. Some chefs, not all. 

Go look for work full time and be ready to leave your old job behind.  

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

if i was told to start as a dishwasher and work my way up i would keep my old job as well as the new one, simply because i have bills to pay. and knowing that dishwashers tend to get paid less some places, i wouldnt be able to survive on a dishwasher income. i do want to move on and upward, but i have to be realistic money wise, in this crappy economy. i have no issue starting with dishes. but yes, i wouldnt leave a 9.50/hr job for a 7.00/hr job (unless i could do both) id be beyond broke, and practically homeless if i did that, orlando is not a cheap place to live.  but this is kinda straying from my original question anyways. 

post #8 of 19
Have you tried getting ahold of someone in the Career Services department at your culinary school. I don't know you whole situation but most have resources for alumni. They may be able to find you an "intern/extern" position which may or may not pay but as you are looking for something supplemental that could work for you. An excellent way to get your feet wet and earn some stripes. Who knows, next time someone calls in sick, there you are kickin ass and they just found a new cook. Best of luck. smile.gif
post #9 of 19

Find the Chef/Restaurant that everyone would kill to work for in your area.  Keep your old job and ask to stage (intern) at this place 1-2 nights a week for free on the days you would usually have off.  Accept that you're devoting your free time to your career.  Do this for as long as you can take it.  When there is an opening you'll be the person they call if you work hard and show a willingness to learn and take direction.  I got my first job in this industry by staging at place 2 nights a week for 2 months, then they hired me part time and eventually I made junior sous chef at this restaurant.  I now work at a different restaurant for a James Beard award winning Chef in the Seattle area.  Good luck and remember that the hard way pays off in the end.

post #10 of 19

a small addition to GruntCook's comment: is there a chef in your area YOU would kill to work for?

that's how I went.....I tried three times for an job interview, went to dine there, had a chat by coincidence because he sat at my table for a while...

I REALLY wanted to work for him and it meant a LOT of chores everyone else would hate but it brought me where I am now....

just a thought.

post #11 of 19

Isn't it ironic?  In my very small town in the south I find almost nobody with the desire and capability to learn my restaurant business and do a good job.  I'm three short in the kitchen as we speak.  It's been years since I've had a crew where everyone pulled their weight and at least attempted to excel.


Been trying to back off working for several years (been doing this for 40+ years), but can't find anyone interested and capable enough to take the reins, or spend the extended time to learn how.


And here is a person with the same problem, but in reverse.


Go figure.

post #12 of 19

I agree with kaybizzy, have you tried contacting your school for job positions? They should be able to help you with something, at least point you in the direction of some job fairs. If you have potential restaurants that you would like to work for keep bugging them. Ask to talk to the kitchen manager. Sell yourself to them: tell them why they would not regret hiring you. If there are fifteen known restaurants that your are repeatedly knocking on their doors then chances are something will come up. Sometimes it takes time, don't give up. I have also found that it really helps liking alot of restaurants you are interested in on facebook, because they often post job openings on their.


Also, just like everyone one else was saying, if you talk to a manager that says they don't have any kitchen openings ask if they have anything at all available and then continue express your passion to cook. I think it says a lot to employers if they realize you can work front or back of the restaurant anyways. Management material. ;)

post #13 of 19
Well I had 0 exp when I went to apply for a chefs assistant position xD

I was just so excited to finally take a leap of faith and leave my old job to work in the restaurant biz.

There were 6 other experienced Thai cooks that went to the interview alongside me.
Well , the owner had taken a like to me and saud theyd give me a chance if I would accept a dishwashing position , full time.

I agreed and about a year later I was checking inventory , knew all the stations duties, had my Sanitation certificate and handled the health inspector and was allowed to modify menu recipes .The way I sold myself was that I lacked exp, but made up for with hard wotk and drive.

The owners took their chance with a young man straight out of retail.As we speak Im arranging interviews with potential rmpliyers this week and I will have to show strong personality and confidence to get a good job.At least this time I have almost 2 yrs exp !
post #14 of 19

So many questions...

Where do you live? By that I mean what city, state, country? If you are in the US consider relocating to a large city, NY comes to mind. Since you posted about servsafe I assume you are in fact in the US. 


How much actual real restaurant experience do you have? 3 months, 1 year, ....? The more real experience you have the greater the likelihood that you will land a job you want. By real restaurant experience I mean actual restaurants not fast food joints.


When I look for someone I want a person that demonstrates passion, commitment, a desire to learn, punctuality, and professionalism. The truth is as long as you have a burning passion for professional cooking I can teach you the rest.


I know that when I make a hiring decision those candidates that have actually done a stage or two get more consideration than the ones that haven't. The reason is that if you are willing to find a way to work for someone for free and commit to the experience then I know you are going to work well in my kitchen. By the way, I give more consideration to candidates that have done a stage in Europe.


The chef that trained me when I started out always told me, "work in the best kitchen that you can."


About me: I have cooked all my life and have over 25 years of professional cooking experience. I am an Executive Chef and I consult on the side. Culinary school in Italy and stage in Italy and France.


I'll leave you with that. Best of luck.

post #15 of 19

what madchef says above, is the same as the chef of the restaurant said where I was hired a few weeks ago.

but they at least prefer you have some cutting technique under your belt.

all the rest, can be learned.

post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 

this would lead me to my next question. Staging? or interning? do chefs like when people come in looking to stage at their restaurant, to try and get some experience. ive staged once. but would love to do it again since im having a hard time finding something more permanent. i would figure most places fine dining wise would have no problem doing so since its free labor, but what is the general consensus on doing that. 

post #17 of 19

Staging is a great way to get your face out there and open up the chef network (because chefs talk to each other) as to the fact that you are available.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #18 of 19

i have hired people with no experience and no culinary training (attitude and work ethic is more what I look for). Some went on to become my sous chef. Some went on to culinary school. Some went on to own their own restaurants. There are chefs out here looking for people like you. Have faith, be persistent, and go for it. Make it happen.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #19 of 19

as for staging: there are good things about it and bad things.

you have to get lucky…. if you find a place with a chef who really wants to be a teacher , then good.

but if you find a place where they just want free labor, be warned….. you will find yourself doing chores, dishwashing, and not a lot of cooking unless you fight for it.

I started with the last example then landed in the first one…. 

good luck!!!


BUT no matter what place you go staging, you definitely will learn things!!

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