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"You have to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up." Why do I always hear this?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've been hearing and reading this a lot in the industry. Celebrity chefs say it, executive chefs say it. Newly-hired commis chefs say it. Some of my instructors in culinary school say it. I seem to hear it everywhere.

 

It's not that I don't agree with it, but really, isn't it the same in any line of work? Are there really chefs that just want to start at the top? Why do people make it sound like this is something unique to the restaurant business?

post #2 of 11

The restaurant business is the one business that I am familiar with so it is the one that I talk about. I would certainly imagine that it shares similarities with other businesses and is not unique in most areas but I can't say for sure because this is the one I work in.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by createasaurus View Post
 Are there really chefs that just want to start at the top?

 

During the course of my career, I have encountered many people just starting out in the business that think they are chefs, but this doesn't make it so. Because they think they are chefs, their opinion of their abilities, skills, and place in the chain of command is usually somewhat skewed from my opinion.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by createasaurus View Post
 Why do people make it sound like this is something unique to the restaurant business?

 

It is my conjecture that this scenario develops more often than not due to human nature rather than the terminal uniqueness of the restaurant business, but then again, I don't know other businesses so I can't talk about them with any substantial authority.

 

I would imagine most people are like me and just talking about what they know. It also could be that perhaps it sounds that way due to the way you hear it.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #3 of 11

IMO it is the same for every new hire into the working world.

Just that some (industries) move you up a little faster that others.

The old axiom "see one do one teach one" is applied way too often in medicine.

It takes a minimum of two years working closely with a mentor in order to be able to fly (compared to how long to advance in a brigade style kitchen?)

Think about it next time you happen to stay overnite in a hospital...always question.

By fly I mean you can work a nite shift deliver babies, stabilize patients and KNOW the doc in question (who most times has no clue that he gained a patient during the nite) will come in the morning and cosign all the "telephone orders" you wrote for his patients.

It all boils down to being able to complete your shift without being micromanaged because the boss knows you will ask for help and clarification if need be.

 

mimi

post #4 of 11
Quote:
Are there really chefs that just want to start at the top? Why do people make it sound like this is something unique to the restaurant business?

 

Of course! 

 

Well, not really "chefs", but cooks that is.  See, a "Chef" is judged by how well they run a kitchen, a "cook" is judged by what they put on a plate.

 

Who are these people?

 

Well, culinary school graduates who have never worked in a kitchen before entering culinary school, are a major source

.

People who have relatives or influential friends in the work place are another source.

 

And there are just people who are born with the mentality that they have the right to govern and supervise without ever knowing what it is exactly that they are in charge of. (Dilbert syndrome).

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #5 of 11
Working as a consultant, I have seen many fresh grads from culinary school get hired in as an Executive Chef for some restaurant opened by someone they know who has more cents than sense.

It almost always ends the same, with a bankrupt restaurant and a chef who has more experience than practical, successful knowledge. They end up bouncing from one exec chef or sous chef job to another never figuring out why it is no one thinks they are as talented as they think they are.

Occasionally, a chef/cook WITH experience will go to culinary school to get the certification and will actually be ready to run a kitchen properly upon graduation.

Ultimately though, there are no short cuts. Opportunities for shortcuts are plentiful, but you can't learn how to run a successful kitchen without working in a successful kitchen. Taking those shortcuts just lead a chef to burn out.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by createasaurus View Post
 

I've been hearing and reading this a lot in the industry. Celebrity chefs say it, executive chefs say it. Newly-hired commis chefs say it. Some of my instructors in culinary school say it. I seem to hear it everywhere.

 

It's not that I don't agree with it, but really, isn't it the same in any line of work? Are there really chefs that just want to start at the top? Why do people make it sound like this is something unique to the restaurant business?


Yes, there are  really "chefs" who want to start at the top. These are usually culinary graduates, not chefs, who think their knowledge and skills are superior to everyone's because they earned a dime a dozen diploma from LCB. These are usually the ones who:  A) I Fire after a few months because they are terrible B) Constantly critique the line cooks around them about technique when in fact they can't even cook a burger to temp C) Get so flustered and frazzled by tickets they never advance past garde manger and finally D) Have such a sense of entitlement because they have a "culinary degree" they think they are just too good for the restaurant around them despite being the least-skilled and worst employee in the kitchen.

 

I hate to rant on culinary grads because not all of them are bad but I've seen so many terrible ones (mostly from LCB) that I almost will not hire any more fresh out of school kids without previous experience in a kitchen. I used to be very critical of myself because I was not classically trained but after years in the kitchen and being around cooks from numerous prestigious schools (French Culinary Institute, CIA etc.) I can tell you my grasp and understanding of cooking is better than theirs. Not to mention skills wise they are no better than those around them with similar years experience in the kitchen. It's experience that matters!

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by linecook854 View Post
 


Yes, there are  really "chefs" who want to start at the top. These are usually culinary graduates, not chefs, who think their knowledge and skills are superior to everyone's because they earned a dime a dozen diploma from LCB. These are usually the ones who:  A) I Fire after a few months because they are terrible B) Constantly critique the line cooks around them about technique when in fact they can't even cook a burger to temp C) Get so flustered and frazzled by tickets they never advance past garde manger and finally D) Have such a sense of entitlement because they have a "culinary degree" they think they are just too good for the restaurant around them despite being the least-skilled and worst employee in the kitchen.

 

I hate to rant on culinary grads because not all of them are bad but I've seen so many terrible ones (mostly from LCB) that I almost will not hire any more fresh out of school kids without previous experience in a kitchen. I used to be very critical of myself because I was not classically trained but after years in the kitchen and being around cooks from numerous prestigious schools (French Culinary Institute, CIA etc.) I can tell you my grasp and understanding of cooking is better than theirs. Not to mention skills wise they are no better than those around them with similar years experience in the kitchen. It's experience that matters!

Yes, I've read much about the bad reputation of LCB schools in the United States.

I was so discouraged by the reputation LCB schools had that I narrowed my schools down to European schools (not just LCB). I wanted to travel anyway. I'm currently attending Le Cordon Bleu in London.

 

I've read similar to what you expressed on this forum and all over the net. Aside from the "I'm a masterchef" attitude new grads might have that you mentioned, would an operator rather hire (for a true, no experience, entry-level position) someone without any experience and no school than a culinary grad student with no experience?

 

If someone without a diploma and no experience starts at position A, why wouldn't it be possible for the culinary school grad with no experience to also start at position A? From what I've read, it seems easier for a person without a diploma and no experience to get an entry-level position than a diploma holder with no experience. Wouldn't the non-diploma holder  without experience get flustered with tickets their first days/weeks/months on the job as the diploma-holder would? It seems obvious when comparing a student fresh out of school to someone with two years experience. Of course anyone in any industry who has two years of experience compared to the guy who has none, is going to be more comfortable at their job.

 

It almost seems new culinary grads would be better off pretending they didn't go to culinary school, and starting off in the absolutely no experience position A. Then, the rest of the kitchen would look at the new guy as the humble, self-starter who happens to be familiar with elementary knowledge, technique and theory.

 

I can't imagine 90% of the students currently at my school having that kind of attitude of knowing it all. It seems we're all aware that we're entering a new field and know that our place is at the bottom of the brigade.

 

A little background: I've been in the bar business for 10 years, and my family has been in the bar business for 30 years, though all our bars have been wet bars (no food). I've also owned businesses in publishing, advertising, design, etc. I have a new project coming up in a northeast Asian city. I was originally planning to hire the entire kitchen out (I probably still will), but found that the more I did research and preplanning for the food aspect of the project, the more interest I had in food. Long story short, I decided to go to culinary school to gain a basic understanding of food preparation techniques, food safety, equipment, ingredients, theory, etc. I've since decided (just this week), that I'm going to hold off on my project for a bit to get some kitchen experience to have a better understanding of how a kitchen operates.

 

I've done a little research on some countries whose governments have officially announced a chef shortage (New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, etc.). I plan on moving to one of those countries this summer to find work. I did a little sample job searches online and it seems almost all entry-level positions require two years of experience. There seems to be very little sign of a starting point. Since I'm not really doing it for the money, I'm now considering a low-paying internship or possibly an apprenticeship.

 

To anyone that has responded to this thread, what advice would you have for me?

post #8 of 11

Some good questions asked there, creatasauarus.

 

Firstly we are N.A. with N.A. attitudes and philosophies.  Europe is different with different attitudes and philosophies.

 

How different?

 

Well, for starters there are no "real" culinary schools in Europe.  Most of the European cooks did apprenticeships, and did not go to culinary school, but rather a trade school which is part of that particular European nation's education system.  Typically at age 15 school children are "streamlined" into those who choose apprenticeships, and those who go on to higher education. Normally the apprenticeship lasts 3 years, and then the apprentice has passed examination.  I stress that apprenticeships in Europe are part of the national educational program, and therefore are not available to foreigners or non-residents.

 

Bonuses of this system:

1) At age 18-19 the former apprentice has nationally recognized qualifications

2) "                                                " is earning a real salary and not minimum wage, nor at the bottom of the ladder

3) Upon completing the apprenticeship, the former apprentice can choose to remain employed with his current employer, or look for another employer

4) The former apprentice has incurred no debts or student loans pertaining to his education during his apprenticeship

 

LCB was originally formed for  hobbyists and non-residents.

 

 

In N.America we have the culinary school.

-Very few  culinary schools request a minimum of 2 years related working experience prior to entering the school

-Culinary Schools operate on the "Front end loading" system.  That is:  You cram the student full of knowledge and demos of techniques.  There is little time to master these techniques or to apply aquired knowledge during the curriculum.  Then the student is let loose on the employer and left to develop technique, timing, and work habits on the employer's coin.

 

While Canada does have a nationally recognized standard for cooks, the "Red Seal", it differs from province to province, with some provinces having much more stringent examinations.  Still, it is a nationally recognized standard, and one that employers will use to filter through the applicants.

 

Hope this helps

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 

Some good questions asked there, creatasauarus.

 

Well, for starters there are no "real" culinary schools in Europe.  Most of the European cooks did apprenticeships, and did not go to culinary school, but rather a trade school which is part of that particular European nation's education system.

 

LCB was originally formed for  hobbyists and non-residents.

 

You cram the student full of knowledge and demos of techniques.  There is little time to master these techniques or to apply aquired knowledge during the curriculum.  Then the student is let loose on the employer and left to develop technique, timing, and work habits on the employer's coin.

 

Thanks for your reply. You're right about the original apprenticeship programs. I've also read about the old ones in France in my textbooks and have known about the programs in Australia from a chef friend who has completed a program in Perth. If my goal was to be a career chef, I would probably take the time to take that route, but I'll always be an entrepreneur first to any role in the kitchen.

 

It may be different from the LCB schools in America, but most of the students (in my class anyway) are not looking to be career chefs. Most seem to have had long, full careers in other industries and are exploring options professionally related to something else in the food industry (like food writing for example) or are interested in just remaining a hobbyist. I haven't seen anyone straight out of high school here looking to work as a career chef.

 

There are however quite a few instructor chefs (from France and the UK mostly, who have worked in the industry 15 to 25 years) that speak of starting off in culinary school. One instructor chef said, "It took me two years to learn what you guys are doing in six months, I wish I had done something like this."

 

I've been here only one month so far, but I agree, there is little time to master some techniques. In my program, we're at school about ten hours per day, six days per week, so it is very much a cram atmosphere. There are quite a few things we do over and over though (classic cuts, sauces, particular cooking techniques, etc)

 

So what advice would you have for me in finding an entry-level position, who will be fresh out of school with absolutely no experience in a kitchen? I'm considering a year-long paid internship/externship.

post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by createasaurus View Post
 

Yes, I've read much about the bad reputation of LCB schools in the United States.

I was so discouraged by the reputation LCB schools had that I narrowed my schools down to European schools (not just LCB). I wanted to travel anyway. I'm currently attending Le Cordon Bleu in London.

 

I've read similar to what you expressed on this forum and all over the net. Aside from the "I'm a masterchef" attitude new grads might have that you mentioned, would an operator rather hire (for a true, no experience, entry-level position) someone without any experience and no school than a culinary grad student with no experience?

 

If someone without a diploma and no experience starts at position A, why wouldn't it be possible for the culinary school grad with no experience to also start at position A? From what I've read, it seems easier for a person without a diploma and no experience to get an entry-level position than a diploma holder with no experience. Wouldn't the non-diploma holder  without experience get flustered with tickets their first days/weeks/months on the job as the diploma-holder would? It seems obvious when comparing a student fresh out of school to someone with two years experience. Of course anyone in any industry who has two years of experience compared to the guy who has none, is going to be more comfortable at their job.

 

It almost seems new culinary grads would be better off pretending they didn't go to culinary school, and starting off in the absolutely no experience position A. Then, the rest of the kitchen would look at the new guy as the humble, self-starter who happens to be familiar with elementary knowledge, technique and theory.

 

I can't imagine 90% of the students currently at my school having that kind of attitude of knowing it all. It seems we're all aware that we're entering a new field and know that our place is at the bottom of the brigade.

 

A little background: I've been in the bar business for 10 years, and my family has been in the bar business for 30 years, though all our bars have been wet bars (no food). I've also owned businesses in publishing, advertising, design, etc. I have a new project coming up in a northeast Asian city. I was originally planning to hire the entire kitchen out (I probably still will), but found that the more I did research and preplanning for the food aspect of the project, the more interest I had in food. Long story short, I decided to go to culinary school to gain a basic understanding of food preparation techniques, food safety, equipment, ingredients, theory, etc. I've since decided (just this week), that I'm going to hold off on my project for a bit to get some kitchen experience to have a better understanding of how a kitchen operates.

 

I've done a little research on some countries whose governments have officially announced a chef shortage (New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, etc.). I plan on moving to one of those countries this summer to find work. I did a little sample job searches online and it seems almost all entry-level positions require two years of experience. There seems to be very little sign of a starting point. Since I'm not really doing it for the money, I'm now considering a low-paying internship or possibly an apprenticeship.

 

To anyone that has responded to this thread, what advice would you have for me?

 

As a sous chef I would definitely hire a culinary school graduate with no work experience for an entry level position over somebody without schooling or experience. That's kind of a no-brainer. Also, it's not like there's a stigma attached to culinary grads, I wouldn't not put it on a resume. It IS a good advantage to have. The point I was trying to make is I and a lot of other chefs have a very hard time with recent grads (particularly those from LCB in the USA) because they are pumped full of non-sense from schools like "You'll be qualified to be a sous chef once you graduate" or "You'll be able to demand a salary and and management position when your graduate" and my favorite "You've learned everything you need to work in a professional kitchen". These are things schools tell potential students so they enroll and spend 50K+ for an education they've crammed into in 6 months and never apply these theories or techniques in a professional kitchen. It's once these students step out of their sheltered class room setting they get eaten alive in a professional kitchen setting with real responsibilities and real expectations (and those expectations are simply too much for these kids!). These kids have no idea what its like to work in real kitchen, they simply usually don't adjust to 12 hour shifts with zero breaks, many 7 day work weeks, terrible wages (expect a dollar over minimum wage) extreme stress and pressure, taunting from more experienced line cooks, and generally being treated like slave labor (because you are!).

 

There ARE good culinary graduates even from diploma mills like LCB, they're just hard to find. If you care enough to want to be good and have realistic expectations of how kitchen life is you probably will make a career out of this.

 

Not trying to scare you off just telling you why culinary grads are usually clueless! Be in the minority and prove to yourself and your chef that you can hack it!

post #11 of 11

I have a comment that addresses the original poster's query.  I

t is quite common for Chefs to hire young ones out of culinary school true, but as a Chef he/she will work with this young person, recognize what talents exist and try to develop them.

As a Chef, it is their responsibility to do this.

It makes no sense to place a recent graduate in any position in a kitchen first with out analyzing potential.

But...then again......common sense is not all that common.

 

As a graduate, the person MAY have had some experience in a working kitchen, but most do not and the curriculum has limited hands on experience.

While you may have watched teacher Chef make a Hollandaise Sauce and may have even made it yourself, it is not the same thing as having to make it on the fly, while on the line, in a busy restaurant.

That can't be taught.

It must be hands on experienced over and over again.

 

Newly hired cooks must start at a place in the kitchen that is best suited for their talents at that moment.

As they show more and more abilities, and are clean, and organized, then it may be time to enable them to grow to the next level and learn new things.

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