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My First Stage

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

OMG, After staging at AQ Restaurant in SF, yesterday for 9 hours, I am now ready to admit how amateur my food is. These guys are meticulous, precise, and are on auto-pilot.  That said, they meet every work day to go over the menu, food order, progress on prep, etc.  They know how many people will be eating a special diet, what wines to serve, and a communal meal commences directly afterward.

They make their own charcuterie, sprout some of their own buckwheat (I'm guessing, because a prep chef had tweezers in his hand plucking out darkened grains out of water), they half and seed kumquats (over 250; I had to do it).  I also plucked and weeded the herbs for garnish on the line and garnish for desserts (it was therapy for me).  The desserts are incredibly beautiful and equally beautiful are the hors d' vours and salads.
You will work and keep your station immaculate, which means stopping in the middle of a task and wipe up any food particles and then you will sweep, but sweep down the whole line, and that's followed up by a mopping down the whole line.  After prep is done, the entire line is literally, scoured down and sanitized.  A fresh sweep and mopping is done again, down the line.  No one has time for bickering and competition.  These guys work in unison and are very nice to me, although I had to quickly get out of their way.  I tried helping by prepping the amuse bushe, but I had nothing else to do after that, so I asked the chef de cuisine for an assignment and I was placed downstairs in the prep kitchen, working the catering section.
That was much better and I enjoyed making the stacked salads, hors d'vours, and finally until closing, the kumquat detail.  I managed to complete half of the cambro.  It was a very large cambro (about 300 tiny kimquats, sigh, but I prevailed and was happy to even be doing something). I felt like I was part of a team.
My staging was from 1:00p - 11:00p and I was exhausted.  The chef told me I did good, although he thinks I would do better at their new restaurant opening in 2 months; it's less harried.  He asked me questions about chefs I admired and at the time, I could only rattle off darn tv chefs.  I'm so mad at myself.  I've read Anthony Bourdain's books, Jeff Henderson's, Charlie Trotter, David Chang, Paul Prudomme, and James Beard on Food; I'm even reading the Peter Reinhart's book, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." I'm baking breads from it and couldn't think of it to save the day.  Unfortunately, I couldn't think of one of them.  
Finally, I thanked him for the opportunity and let him know everything I did wasn't work to me, but everything I did was another step in my learning more.  He told me before I left, that I was one of the few they invited to stay past the communal meal.  They almost always tell them thank you, but no thank you.  He liked my "can do" energy and positive attitude.
I asked a chef-instructor for his advice before I started and he said that I should do the best I could, ask questions, and work quickly; I did both and was well-received by the line cooks.  Of course, I didn't get the line cook's position I applied for, but I prepped and worked like it was one of the most important things I could ever do, and even though I knew I would not get hired for that particular job because of my inexperience, the experience has humbled me and I'm not so proud that I can't begin at the beginning.
post #2 of 5

Very smart to ask Chef for another assignment when you were experiencing down time.

So if they offer will you take a position at the new place?

Being behind the scenes of an opening is a great learning experience as well as oh so interesting!



post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Yes! It was exhausting yet, amazing. I got another invite to stage at another high-end restaurant. The only problem with that second invitation is that I have to catch three buses and a train to get there, and this second company is global; restaurants, magazine, and catering.

We'll see what happens.
post #4 of 5

Wonderful story! I have been bouncing around restaurants myself this year and joining them for a few services. Not quit to the quality you have talked about but defiantly some nice kitchens and restaurants. 


I love experiencing as I assume most of us do here on Chef Talk. Glad I have found Chef Talk to discover other peoples stories and adventures with the culinary field. 


One of my favorite chefs is Marco Pierre White and I love watching the Michelin star restaurants he was apart of and of his time. There attention to detail is what I crave for and what I aspire to. 


Would love to know if you join up with the newer restaurant down the road :).

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Okay, fast-forward 10 months, I realized I NEVER STAGED FOR THAT RESTAURANT.  I recall the owners having me do menial tasks like clean a pan crabs, peel a giant bowl of kumquats, and general station cleaning.  I did, however, make a salad with a lemon vinaigrette for the community meal.  The owner didn't interview me until midnight. 


I must have seemed like an inside joke to them.  I didn't even know what staging was back then and now realize they had no intentions of hiring me.  I'm glad I don't work there with a bunch of macho guys, who I felt didn't want me there in the first place.  


It's okay, a few adjustments have been made at my job and now, I'm "home".

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