A sous chef at a mediocre restaurant with a pretty good reputation, or bottom of the ladder at a good up-and-coming restaurant?
Which is better to be for a growing cook?
Poll Results: Well?
100% (1)Sous Chef
I think it depends on your personal skill level. If you have been doing grunt work for a while, and are confident with various skills like balancing flavors, recipe creation, production, menu planning, and food costing, then think about the Sous Chef position. If the restaurant is mediocre, maybe you can make it your mission to improve what you can from your position. Getting the title of Sous Chef on your resume (event though many people here believe a title for a titles sake is worthless), can help you step up in your career. Especially if you can tough it out for a year or two in the same restaurant.
But, if you are a novice, then by all means start from the bottom in the nicer restaurant. They'll be more to learn there, and in a much better environment.
If you are wanting to grow in understanding food, I'd go for the best restaurant you can get into regardless of position. My best learning experience was many years ago as garde manger in a five diamond restaurant. I was the lowest man on the totem pole, but it taught me more than all my other jobs combined, at least as far as food is concerned. I don't use many of those ingredients, but I use a lot of the techniques and knowledge still today. Ask questions, and soak in all you can. Most people will be happy to teach you what they're doing on other stations, so it doesn't matter what your job is. You're getting info you won't get in lesser restaurants. It will open doors by having it on your resume also.
As far as learning numbers, chain restaurants will open up your eyes to that end of it. It may not be glamorous, but it will give you an insight to profit and loss that most places just don't understand. Of course you have to be at a management level there to get this info.