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In need of advice

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello Chefs, I have a career question that I feel can only be answered by professionals in the industry. I'm 23 years old and I've been cooking professionally in a restaurant for 4 years(6 if you count a high volume pizza place). The restaurant is a Cali/Italian high volume( 600 covers in December) 7 room lay out. With much of its business coming from banquets of 60+. The first 3 years at the restaurant were spent learning the basic skills required on a station. In addition to working multiple stations i also worked front of house thorought the week. At one point I was working salad garde manger 2 nights, expo 4 nights, pizza/ hot apps Saturday night and pastry station the rest of the time. I enjoyed the business and the opportunity to work faster, cleaner and smarter every day. In my last few months at the restaurant I also contributed to specials in both pastry and savory, as well as running the Amuse Bouche program.
During this time the company was looking to expand and hired a very experienced chef to spearhead a new flagship restaurant in Beverly Hills. When I began working with this Chef he asked me if I was interested in working at the new restaurant with him. OF COURSE. I was thrilled to learn from him. Also there was no other kitchen staff hired for the new restaurant at this point. I had a great position to stick my foot in the door. He assured me that this new restaurant would be fine dining at its best. All I wanted was to work in a world class fine dining kitchen where I could learn from great Chefs and make my bones.
Over the next year I worked as this Chef's right hand. Learning his recipes and techniques. Eventually he started holding tastings for a CDC,Executive Sou and Executive Pastry positions. I assisted all of his applicants during their tastings and when they were chosen I was already part of the team. As the opening date drew near we got hold of a test kitchen and the four of us ( Chef, CDC, Exec Sou and myself) spent 6 weeks developing the menu. During this time I learned countless techniques and skills essential to cooking in a fine dining restaurant. Fresh pasta, gnocchi, ravioli, agnolotti, killer stocks, sauce work, marinades, sou vide and dehydration techniques as well as fermentation and aging processes. It was truley a boot camp. Together we did promotional dinners for uber VIPS and tastings for owners and partners in the project. I would also like to add that I was NEVER LATE, always early. Always taking notes, quiet and very aware of the fact that I was in a very lucky position to be exposed to something on this level this early in my career.
We finally get into the restaurant and begin training. At this point a Jr Sou has joined us and the 5 of us worked 16 hour shifts 2 weeks straight before opening... I will be honest. At this point I thought that I was in line for a jr sou position. I had keys to the restaurant, A repor with the entire company, and I knew the recipes backwards and forwards. I waited. I worked an insane amount of time off the clock. I kept my head down and worked as fast and clean as I possibly could, knowing that every day the CDC would lay into me because he was old school. I liked it. Honestly I felt like we were going to make a name for ourselves.
Now we are near the 6 month mark and everything has changed. The CDC that was so focused on technique has been let go, also our amazing pastry Chef who I was blessed to work with is also gone. With them the standards have dropped. Our stocks have been streamlined for labors sake. Our new pastry Chef is forced to put out found that she is ashamed of. The owners/partners are making the menu now, and the kitchen team is not allowed to put up anything "unapproachable". Basically if you know anything about food our menu would just confuse you. I feel the Chef who I have worked so closely with become detached. He refuses to let his name be associated with the menu, though he still runs the day to day. The new CDC ( previously the Ex Sou( with whom I did his original tasting with)) mocks me openly in the kitchen. Keeping myself and everyone I know under constant threat of sodomy. Lol this is actually kind of funny but still irritating. Worst of all he has brought in his own team of friends/sous and now my position is back to that of a lunch shift grill cook.
I realize at this point that I must sound like a bitch. Any cook worth his salt knows that you have to STFU and so what your told by your superiors. I get that and trust me I follow that every day. ALWAYS YES CHEF. But the situation has gotten to be so abusive and heart breaking, especially coming from the prospective of someone that was a part of the intire opening process. I cannot even put up food that makes SENSE anymore. Not to mention the obvious lack of soigné.
My question is what do I do? Do I stay in this kitchen until I hit the 1 year mark? Should I immediately look for another job? Should I STFU and keep my eyes on the fucking cutting board???
post #2 of 16

STFU and stick it out for the year. looks bad if you skip around.

post #3 of 16

@Equal Parts I am of the opposite of @chefbuba although I do understand the mentality of STFU and stay the course. Staying on in a kitchen that is sinking and being a part of that is not necessary a good thing for yourself nor your resume. Take a good look at the reviews for the restaurant......are they good reviews?? 

 

I find that it never has hurt my career to see what my choices are when things are not very good in the place that I am in. The old crappy mentality that you can't nor shouldn't move around lots cuz it gives you a bad rap is just that....OLD. You have to research where you want your career to go and how you would like to get there and then DO IT! Don't stay the course and kill your passion/excitement/creativity in a kitchen that treats you less than you deserve. Just say thank you to this kitchen for the amazing experience and move on when you have found another place that will fuel your learning and experiences.

 

Good luck and let us know how it all works out :)

post #4 of 16

If I read your post correctly, you have worked for the company for four years, but this particular kitchen for under a year? So on your resume, it would read that you were employed for four years with the same company. 

     I envy your experience. You are right to acknowledge the great opportunity you had with the CDC showing you all those techniques and learning so much about food at such an early point in your career. 

   Because of that, I think it's time you looked for another job and moved on. You are far better than you were in the beginning four years ago. Use that to your advantage and acknowledge you have outgrown your situation. Perhaps find a smaller property and a higher position. 

 Fwiw, in my opinion your new CDC mocking you openly is a perverse sign of respect. He knows what you've done and are capable of. As you stated he brought in his own friends. You could have gotten the job they got but have been put on the back burner in favor of his friends, not your lack of ability. 

    In any event, it's time to go. 

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you Chefs for your feedback, I appreciate it. My gut tells me that it is time to move on but I needed to hear it from a third party. Although part of me agrees with you CHEFBUBA, I feel that having the experience of opening a restaurant on my resume before leaving around the 6 month mark still says something. My Chef told me 2 years ago when we began the project that I would learn a lot opening a restaurant. I had no idea what he meant at the time but looking back I have learned so much seeing all the systems of a new restaurant coming together. I know it will stay with me through my career.
As of today I am updating my resume and applying for other positions. My instinct is to apply for a prep cook position. Obviously that will put me at a lower pay rate but I feel that it is also the best position from which to learn the entire kitchen. Is this a wise approach? Also.. 1 more question. The 2 main cities in the country for food are NY and LA.. I should stay in the city right?
post #6 of 16

After all that experience I don't know why you would apply for prep cook. Knowing you still have much to learn is to your credit but what you apply for depends greatly on where you are applying and you should give yourself proper credit for what you have learned thus far. 

I think in your position I would write the resume to reflect what you have done/learned at this job, then pass the resume to a few people and see how they react.  

Applying at Joe's average steak house as prep cook would be silly. Applying as Exec. Chef of a three star Michelin place would be a bit of an over reach. Some where in the middle for where you are.

     As for what city, there are fine dining places all over the country now. Certainly more in LA and NYC but just about every place has something you can refer to as upscale. The level of cuisine found all over the country is higher now than ever. So you could include in your search smaller places who may not be doing the level you have been used to but who still want to produce fine food done right. 

     In brief, you may be more qualified than you think to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. 

post #7 of 16

I agree with @chefwriter that you do not want to unsell yourself nor oversell. When writing down on a piece of paper all that you have done and accomplished you will clearly be able to see what you have learned, the timelines of that learning and the areas where you excel in. This way when you do up your resume and eventually in the interview you are able to give a clear and concise picture of who you are and where you are wanting to drive your career. Always be in the drivers seat, don't let anyone take that away from you. 

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you again for your input! Good points! I I think I will pass my resume to some different style and size operations and judge from the reactions. I will let you know how things turn out!!
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello again Chefs! It's been a couple months since my last posts and I wanted to give an update on my situation..
Long story short I left my old company. I went to the Chef and explained my situation and he not only agreed that it was time for me to move on but he actually helped me build my resume'. After searching for the right place for 2 months I finally landed my first choice job under a very well know Chef. He is opening a new concept in the south bay area and as of now I am part of the opening team for this kitchen!! I'm very glad to have gotten the job, even though I'm starting as a prep cook ($2 pay cut frown.gif ) I know it will be a great restaurant though as the Chef has a loyal following in that neighborhood.
I have been a but worried about myself in the past couple weeks though. I seem to have lost the excitement I felt in the last opening 8 months ago. I don't know if that's just experience or if I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the last restaurant.. I'm not giving up but it's the first time I've really doubted myself. It sucks. I'm just hoping that once this restaurant opens it will re-light that fire.
post #10 of 16

You haven't lost the excitement. You've matured.  Way back when you had the opportunity to work with a  great chef who taught you a ton of new and interesting stuff. It was your first of that kind of experience. Then you got a little shafted. Then you became pro active and moved on to a new opportunity, one you see a bit clearer because of your experience. Hopefully you end up having a great educational experience this time around as well. But it will be different in some ways because you view it differently. And as the years pass, your viewpoint will continue to change based on all the various experiences you will have collected. 

     Show up for work and keep learning. The time will come when you need to move on again. In the meantime, make the most of where you are and what you are doing, no matter what that is. Enjoy this time all you can. All too soon it will be just a memory. 

post #11 of 16

That is wonderful news! Way to go!

 

I agree with @chefwriter in regards to the feeling of experience. It changes over time always based on the previous experiences from before. Keep your chin up and don't let any negativity from the last experience follow you through this one. (that is what baggage is and we all know, just your toothbrush is the best way to travel through life...hehe)

 

Take the time to enjoy this new kitchen and the people/chef in it. Learn everything you can. When you feel that you have gone as far as you can with this kitchen, then move onward and upwards. Learn also to challenge yourself while in each position and kitchen. Become the best prep cook, then be the best line cook, etc. Do not concentrate on what others think or are doing, just focus on your skills and feedback from the head chef. This focus will give you a faster push through the ranks as your skills will shine. You are already a pro-active person......stay that way :D

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys! As usual much appreciated words of encouragement!!
post #13 of 16


Wow!

 

What a great community this is! 

 

After reading this thread just now from EP, and the replies from the chefs, I'm glad to see something so positive and supportive for not only the young guns, but also for us long termers in the business.

Keep it up folks, we need eachother!!!

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefHowzer View Post


Wow!

What a great community this is! 

After reading this thread just now from EP, and the replies from the chefs, I'm glad to see something so positive and supportive for not only the young guns, but also for us long termers in the business.
Keep it up folks, we need eachother!!!
We do need each other!
I have found in my short career that very often it is difficult to communicate with your superiors. Especially as a young cook. I am relatively new to this forum myself and I have found great encouragement from the people here. This seems to be a great place for anyone who has a passion for cooking to come together and push each other forwards!
post #15 of 16

First and foremost, I'm rather disappointed to hear that you left, EP. Your story reminds of one of my proteges'. He started working for me about 10 years ago, when he was 13. My restaurant, which was in a small suburb of Toronto, Canada, has since closed and he has moved to the city and is pursuing a career as a chef. Now, don't get me wrong; I love the guy and I wish him well. What I don't love is the fact that he switches jobs at the first sign of not being promoted according to his curfew, or when he feels he is not being coddled. This is a tough industry. It is tougher now than it was when I first entered it some 25 years ago, and it was tough then!

 

All that being said, perhaps you were being fairly/unfairly romanticised. As I said, this is a tough industry. Did they promise you a promotion when you agreed to work in this new restaurant? Did they pay you fairly, i.e. every minute for which you toiled? Were you promised everything that you dreamed would happen? Did they promise you ANYthing?

 

Your timeline is also a bit, to put it kindly, confusing. You said, "Over the next year I worked as this Chef's right hand. Learning his recipes and techniques." Then, at the end of your post, this: "Do I stay in this kitchen until I hit the 1 year mark?" And, before that, you said you'd worked for them for 4 years. Well, which is it?

 

To be fair, we heard one side of the story. To be fair, maybe they asked you because they saw a potential in you. To be fair, maybe they invited you because you were hard working. To be fair, maybe they used you because you were gullible.

 

Unfortunately, you did not stay to find out why they did what they did. 'The truth comes out in the end.'

 

Hey, maybe the whole thing has nothing to do with you, and they just ran out of money, doing all of these useless menu testings, to continue hiring all these overly paid staff! Ever thought of that? One of the most detrimental things that new restaurant owners do, is to over think and over test, BEFORE they open. ONE OF! There are THOUSANDS!

 

You're a prep cook again. You are 23 and working your way up again. That is admirable. Stick to it and don't get carried away by a pipe dream. Instead, get carried away by reality. Know what you want. Ask for what you want. Get what you want.

 

This is not an industry for the coddled.

post #16 of 16

I'm a little late, but I've skipped around plenty of kitchens, traveled to learn more. None of it hurts my career, just be passionate at the interview, do a stage, or better, a tasting To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, the only thing that matters is what a Man can do and what a Man Can't do.

 

Some restaurants, you can just say you'd like to stage without ever handing a resume.

Some restaurants, you saw they had a job open and you'd like to do a 3 day tasting.

1 day of prep, one day of tasting, one day of negotiation.

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