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Feeling Lost as a Cook

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I want to be a chef, so badly… but not just any chef, I want to be the best. I just don’t know that I’m good enough… Today, I got sent home, four complaints on dishes in one hour… I hate admitting it, I hate having to face it, but I suck. I have never been sent home, from anything like that. And I can’t even be mad, because I deserved it, I don’t think I even deserve to be in a kitchen 90% of the time, but today, today it was worse. I thought… I could handle it, I thought, I could be tough enough, but today I can’t tell if I want to cry, or vomit, or scream… I haven’t been cooking long, not even a year yet, and I'm on one of our main stations, but the excuse feels so weak. Like if I can’t step up when I need to now, how can I turn around and act like it will be different any other day. It was busy, but I just couldn’t do it, and now I feel like I should just give up, not because I can’t handle it, but because I feel like I’m dragging everyone else down. When I went back to the kitchen to tell them I was sent home, I wanted to just stay and try to fix things, but I felt like I was just helpless.


Even worse, is that I got this big time internship, one of the best restaurants in the world… said I could come and work in their kitchen for 3 months… Why? Why did they even accept my application? I have been thinking this for months now, ever since I got it… I can’t even make it at as a line cook in the restaurant now, how am I going to manage a stage at a place like that… a place with Michellin stars, a place that gets voted best restaurant in the world?! They are going to end up laughing me out the door on my first day… and I’m going to have to come home from a foreign country and look my friends and my family in the eye and say what? I’m sorry? I’ve wanted so badly to just email them and say, I think you made a mistake… but I’m already so committed that how can I pull out now? I just don’t even know what to do with myself… I want to just work harder, but it isn’t that I don’t try. I’m one of the first people in every day, and one of the last to leave, but sometimes it’s just good enough.


I felt like I had to get this out, but I couldn’t do it where I knew people would see it and feel bad for me. I don’t want my friends to feel bad for me, and or my coworkers to act like my chefs a jerk. I don’t blame him; I blame myself more than anything. I just feel really beaten down, and like I’m making a mistake doing what I’m doing. I don’t know I just needed to get this off my chest. How do you deal with feeling like you just can't succeed in a kitchen?

post #2 of 20

I think it's so admirable that you're expressing your most honest and rawest feelings and lack of ability in an industry that is so narcissistic. I'm assuming that you're still young by the fact that you're an intern. If you continue with this passion and honesty within yourself, I can see you going very far. Your goal for perfection is exactly what it takes to make it big (artistically) in this industry. Please don't fret, these blows and humiliations are exactly what makes great chefs.


I have to admit that this is the first time I have exhibited pure humility in this business, especially from a man. I really have no other advice than to take the punches as they come and don't let them knock you down.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde



“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde



post #3 of 20
That is one heck of a post Prags1088. Let me offer you my perspective as an owner/chef on what I saw happened, in my minds eye.

Your chef and co workers let you down. Period. A kitchen, actully the entire restaurant, should work as a team. So what did this team leader do?

He put someone/you, in a key station, with very little expierence, less than a year, and let him crash.
He let 4 customers, in one hour get substandard meals. Plus lets keep in mind the people that just ate their substandard food and didnt complain, cause there sre lots of thise people out there and if you were having problems it is bound to have effected more than those who complained.

Your co workers arent blind I assume. No one have the common sense to help you out, even if you said no thanks? Again you have less than a years expierence.

I have never let anyone crash and burn om their own, esp a newbie, help, switch postions, guide, taste, encourage, check. What was the chef doing while you went down? The sous? Same question. They are the ones than let you drop the ball, abd then they said"GTFO" probly in a shrill screaming voice so they could feel good about "not my fault, that guy F
d everything but I showed him and everyone else and tossed him out"
What a load of crap that is.

I have never tossed out someone in the middle of a shift for crashing, and I surely dont let it get to the point where I would let it affect so many customers. I may move you to the dish tank for the night but tossing someone is unprofessional. Sounds to me that you were left to fail.

So get a good nights sleep, nurse your ego and then leave it home, go back to work snd keep pluging. Talk to the chef, ask for help, ask to move positions, figure it out, also start looking for a better place to work cause this dont sound like a real good place to be.

Your stage? Going to Noma? Ive ate there and i assure you that they, or any stared restaurant will not let you or any other stager/ intern gave a negitive effect on their guests. Why? Cause they will teach, guide, inspect and taste everything you do. They will not let anything out of the kitchen sub standard, unlike the people you work for now. So go do your stage, learn, enjoy, network, take in every last drop of knowledge they offer and then ask for more. Also, if you are going to Noma, Coph, is a great city to hang in, good food, culture, beer, concerts, and those scandavian women are the bomb. I should know I married one, but dont come near my daughters smile.gif I'd never let them date a chef.

Now go cook again.
post #4 of 20

Don't be too hard on yourself.  You're young and fairly inexperienced.  I can honestly say I'm pretty much a badass on the line, but I didn't start out that way.  Everyone is a "fish" when they start out.  Be humble, work hard and always strive to be better than you are today.  You might feel like you're beating your head against the wall for awhile but eventually it will "click" and you'll start to get it.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #5 of 20

I'm new to the forum, but I know from first hand that MOST kitchens become like second families, and it was the chef's responsibility as the CHEIF of the kitchen to properly train and delegate tasks for the line cooks to perform. Maybe your chef watches a lot of those food network shows where the real life chefs will freak out and become hostel at someone for cutting their julienne scallion 1/16th of an inch too thick or something, who knows? I don't because I can't stand those glorified cooking shows...

What I do know though, is that practice makes perfect, and sometimes you do truly need to struggle at something before you can truly flourish. Ehh.. You have to see rock bottom so you can truly appreciate what it is like to reach the top? I'm not the best with analogies, but I'm trying to say in a less blunt and possibly offensive way is that you first have to be stupid in order to be wise. Simply put though, If you weren't ready for that specific duty, than you weren't ready for it. The chef or maybe manager would be a better name, shouldn't have sent you home, they should have assigned you a part on the team that would have you performing a job that you do well. You just haven't found your ninch in the kitchen yet I don't think, and you won't if you give up.


Also, if you have a stage in a michelin restaurant, you must be a good cook, that or you're paying them money or working for free.


Just don't give up, keep on chugging, and don't be afraid to fail every now and then, it's how you get anywhere in this industry to be honest. Haha look at the invention of Caesar Dressing for example.



post #6 of 20


this is going to be a different kind of post…...

I SO totally feel for you …..and I do understand.


I too am one year in the kitchen, made it to line cook now but believe me… I TOTALLY know how you feel.

you set out with drive and passion and then you run across people like the others did mention above, what should have been, a TEAM.

and which it wasn't.

and no, it is not a rare thing to happen. I have seen it too….


and YES the one supervising at least, should have "picked you up" and get you some help or get you a different place which would have been more fitting (like garde manger…)

also, the rest of the team might be "old dogs" as we say here in my country, meaning, working years in the industry and thus everyting has become "protocol" or "automatic handling".

or they are real ego trippers and don't give a shit about their collegues going down.


yep. been there seen that too.

and yes then you go home and you find it hard to get a grip on yourself.

and wonder what to do with your drive and passion.

and go mad at yourself and become frustrated, wanna go back right away and at the same time not.

am I on the right track? ;)



promise me ONE thing: by all means, don't let them talk you down, and KEEP UP WITH IT.

its hard work and you really have to go on your knees at times.

but your time will come, and you will laugh.



chin up and remember, you have a few people here at CT, encouraging you.

that's not because we think you are not worth it.

you ARE worth it.

do whatever is needed to make yourself feel better, cry if needed, we ALL have had our moments….the next day straighten your shoulders, chin up and off to work again you go.

be blessed and stand up for yourself sweetie.  :)  you're gonna get there.

post #7 of 20

I cant say much to add more insight than some of these awesome responses....

But we've all experienced similar feelings and problems in kitchens, some of us

more recently than others....

and I will say that in many of these discussions in here, many experienced Chefs and cooks and

owners have repeated a basic concept a number of times.....

that in this trade it is VERY common to have worked at several, if not many places in the span of only a few

years.... and I've gleaned from it that this is like a long "quest" , a hunt to find just the right fit--a kitchen

where we can stay for a long period of time and remain reasonably fulfilled. And in the end like a lot of things,

even job hunting itself, it comes down to a numbers and timing game.

post #8 of 20
Originally Posted by Meezenplaz View Post

That in this trade it is VERY common to have worked at several, if not many places in the span of only a few

years.... and I've gleaned from it that this is like a long "quest" , a hunt to find just the right fit--a kitchen

where we can stay for a long period of time and remain reasonably fulfilled.


Sometimes it's you, sometimes it's them - in the end it just has to work.





PS- if things really suck.. just leave. btw your post made my eyes slanted! No seriously.

You can always leave those 3 or 5 months out of your resume.  No need to add everything, especially as you get older, you just won't have room.   If asked about 'missing time' be honest ...'those were 3 months that i'm trying to forget about...(for whatever reason)'


If  you don't believe me ask me to post the story about my cocaine dealing chef who used the delivery trucks to run his drugs.  Let's just say I left rather quickly after the first murder. :crazy: the '80's were something else....



"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold





"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold


post #9 of 20

Aw dude, I spent time early in my career at a high pressure, famous-chef big time kitchen restaurant, and I gotta tell you, there was time when I felt like quitting every day. I wasn't good enough, wasn't fast enough, didn't know anything, couldn't do anything right, had to do shit over (and over), etc. It brought me to tears on more than one occasion. But ultimately, once I rose to the pressure and learned a few things, I loved that job. It was my formative kitchen and set the tone for everything I've done since. 


My advice would be to just hang in there. I agree with the above posters--the chef(s) have failed you just as much (if not more) than you've failed them. Kitchens can be very personal places, some places just "don't fit." Doesn't mean you suck, doesn't mean they suck, it just means it doesn't work out for whatever reason. You are being hard on yourself, which shows you care a lot (which is good), so just hang in there, learn what you can and wait for the right fit. 


And listen, those dudes and dudettes at the Michelin starred place are gonna expect you to suck. They'll most likely start you off small and let you grow from there. You can't pass that experience up...even if you fail you will still learn so much. 

post #10 of 20

I'd rather wash dishes at Noma or Alinea than be the Exec of the place I work now!  Don't pass on that experience, no matter what.  You'll regret it for the rest of your life if you don't try it.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #11 of 20

Hi. Well feeling sorry for oneself never works but luckily you're in the right place to "vent." I've been there before for a split second early in my career and decided not to do it again. I think it all has to do with mindset: If you are serious about doing your job right and becoming good at it, you will leave your emotions aside and take constructive criticism with an open mind. Something weird about this profession is that, at least in my case, my spirit had to be crushed and my ego destroyed before I could start learning and growing. It might sound terrible and perhaps even violent but at the same time it's a very humbling experience that has given me a level of respect for my profession and my colleagues like you have no idea. What might be happening to you is that you are too high up in your dreams that your feet might not me touching the ground. Think about it. How bad do you want it and how much are you willing to sacrifice...Nobody said it would be easy, and if they did- they lied.

post #12 of 20
Hi there im new to this, ive been working in kitchens for a few years now, I mainly do larder and pastry but wish to move aroundthe kitchen, my first few times on garnish I founddifficult, I want to learn but the kitchen is busy and not always the time to ask questions. Im doing a level 2 scholarship and im stuck on somebasic questions is there anyone that can help me? X
post #13 of 20


If you want to move around in the kitchen why don't you ask your chef for a little talk.

He is the one to speak to whenever there are things that is about your work, willing to learn, having questions.


For basic questions you can also ask your collegues.

Why not? That is what they're there for, too. (A good BOH team helping, teaching and caring about , each other)


Otherwise, I suggest put your basic questions on this board in the appropiate places.

Or use the search function first maybe……you'd be surprised what will come up!


good luck!

post #14 of 20

 We have all been there.

 Let me just  sya that if you are going for a stage at a world renowned restaurant   you will not be allowed to fail, and they wont set you up to fail, which is what it sounds like happened.

 The Best of the Michelin places work as a team, if you are in the weeds, someone will come and  help you out, not becuase you cant do it, but because it happens to every one and its a team.

 I have been doing this 40 years now, and still have bad days on the line ( I dont work too much on the line any more :) ), , the difference is I have a Brigade that will not let anything substandard leave the kitchen, and will  do whatever it takes to make sure that does not occur, no blame, no drama, we do not shout, scream, or get upset, just an attitude that only the way it should be is the only way.

post #15 of 20

DONT GIVE UP!  If you give up, you lose.  So you got smacked down.  Cooking is life, and as such there are up and downs, we cry, we laugh, we want to murder ourselves and other people sometimes.  Maybe you need to know exactly what you did wrong, then you will learn how to do it right.  Go for the stage!  If they don't feel as though you belong there yet, they will let you know, and why.  Everything we fail at is only a temporary fail, it is what we learn that counts!  You say you've been cooking for a year.  I've been at it (professionally) for 38 years and I still fail at some things and I learn from it and move on.  I can honestly say that myself and every cook I've ever known sucked for at least that first year.  You are a student apparently, so you are learning new things everyday.  This continues forever!  Don't give up, someday you will pass your knowledge to the next generation of folks that are making the mistakes that you now are, and they will be funny and encouraging stories!  Learn from them and get on with it!  Much love...

post #16 of 20

Everybody who has worked in a kitchen has been there at one point or another. You can't expect to be as good as someone who has been doing this for 10+ years it's just not going to happen. I worked in a restaurant where one of my coworkers actually shut down the restaurant because the ticket times were reaching an hour. In our case there was only 4 of us and there was no way any of us were going to get or give any help. It just happens sometimes. However, if you were staffed accordingly and no one came to help you thats not a place you want to work. A kitchen is a team and if one person is in the weeds, it means everyone else is too. For me I don't mind working in a verbally abusive environment as long as the food comes out perfectly and everyone works as a team to make it happen. 


The best thing you can do with this internship is to go there with an open mind and admit you don't know everything because you don't, and hiring an intern they know that. You have to realize you haven't been doing this that long and theres going to be bumps along the way and you're going to have a lot of shitty days but without the struggle there is no learning. Be confident in what you know because out of all the applicants they chose you for a reason. Go in there with a professional attitude and really listen to what your chef is telling and teaching you. Ask lots of questions and show genuine passion for the career path you've chosen. My chef thinks I'm great, not because I'm the best cook or have the best technical abilities, but because I'm proactive and show a genuine interest in what he has to say and I take his criticism and advice and apply it and build on every service. Hard work pays off just don't throw in the towel just yet.

post #17 of 20

I have been in this biz a long time to me it sounds like your heart is in the right place, now having said that all you need is experience. What you have to remember is greatness comes with knowledge, I feel like that chef threw you under the bus, but what he must not under stand is that the dishes that go out of the kitchen are a refection of his work. If he was worth his salt he would have been working side by side with you to make you a better cook. This at best should be a Humbling experience, I feel like a little Humility in this biz goes a ling way. Next time you get kicked off the line go to the dish room and remember why you entered into this line of work, but remember the number one rule of being in the kitchen you have to first learn to be a cook and a good cook before becoming a chef and then a great chef............Keep you r head up and keep plugging away.

post #18 of 20

You haven't even been cooking for a year and you want to give up because you're meant to be not just a chef, but THE best chef ever?

Get humble man.

post #19 of 20

Hey buddy, I had a a chef that was the same way. At a restaurant that I waas at, he threw me on the grill/fry station on the busiest night of the week, my first week. And that was my first restaurant job. And you know what? I blew. I couldn't push out anything. The tickets were overwhelming me, just seeing the damn board full with more coming out of the printer...that first night still gives me nightmares. But you know what? I learned. Within two months, I was the only person under the sous who could work every station. Within four, I could work the line myself without help. Learn your menu the best you can, man, and stick it to that chef by being the best in the restaurant. And I promise that after that, the man (or woman) will buy you a beer and you'll have earned some respect.

post #20 of 20

you have got to work on that self image, and self confidence.  There is no way you are going to succeed, unless you are sure you will.  Failure will be a

self fulfilling prophesy, the way you are thinking now 

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