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Just graduated and a bit directionless after a stage

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I worked at a very nice restaurant in the U.S midwest featured in a few national culinary publications and everything was going well the first week but then I was working at a cafe under the same restaurant group and got slammed by orders and couldn't handle the volume and had a bit of a breakdown leading to me really questioning my passion and skills, I tend to get a bit temperamental when stressed so it lead to the kitchen manager telling me to "lose the attitude", even though it wasn't directed at any of them, mostly myself. I had worked in a short order breakfast chain mostly in the south east of the U.S and the owner/head chef was very impressed I stayed there as long as I did and really liked me. The other higher up chefs I worked under told me I was very hard on myself and lacked self confidence which I agree with. I was very nervous about being told "you're no good to us, you can leave now." so I wanted to be as perfect as possible with as few mistakes as possible. I did get hired though and did get paid for all my previous stage days so there's a plus!

 

Going back to the breakdown I had at the cafe, the stress stuck with me into the next day and just cast a dark cloud over me that I couldn't shake off and everyone saw it including the owner. He pulled me aside and had a chat with me to figure out what was going on. I told him I wasn't sure I could do this, but he reassured me I could and I went back to my work. A few hours later he pulled me aside again as I still couldn't shake the feeling that I had made a horrible mistake going to school for culinary as culinary is my 3rd career change and Im currently 26 and still not financially independent.

 

The way the kitchen ran was very imprecise and was told to me that it's very "relaxed" cooking. There were few measuring devices for ingredients and the standardized recipes very minimal in their direction, I will list a few examples:

I was told to make Tzatziki for a menu item and the recipe called for greek yogurt, cucumbers, tomatos, onions, and lemon juice, so I come back with my mise and told I need ENGLISH cucumbers. The recipe just said cucumbers so it kind of aggrivated me a little.

Then, as I was finishing up cutting the tomatoes, the chef walks by and says "did you remove the seeds?". I replied the recipe didn't say to do that in the directions. She said it was no big deal and said for next time to remove the seeds.

As for getting the ratios of ingredients correct, I was forced to eyeball and feel out weights as there was no way to actually measure there, coming from a short order world of ladles and measuring cups it was very difficult for me.

While julienneing bell peppers, I was instructed by another cook on the line that had been there for a number of years that I was supposed to cut the peppers top to bottom, not side to side. I as never made aware of this by chef and just felt utterly defeated once again. Chef told me it was okay but the feeling of failure and wasting product stuck with me.

After having my third talk with the owner he asked the hard question: "do you really want to do this?" which, after this point I was emotionally exhausted I replied "I don't know". Then after a bit more discussion I was told "we will not have this conversation again" and was sent back to work. The next 4 hours was a battle just to keep myself together and appear happy so that the chefs wouldn't see my distress. At around 6:30pm I couldn't take it anymore and I told the chef I was prepping for I was leaving for the day and thanked her for the opportunity, she offered me another day to get it together but I texted her that same night and told her I wouldn't be coming back.

Right now I am taking time away from working to reevaluate my career choice and very unsure I want to continue. I made an account just to post this as I have no one else to talk to about the industry and feeling very directionless at this point. Any advice is welcome, thankyou

post #2 of 8
Get a job, keep it till they fire you or you find a better one.
Your an adult now, act like it. ( I'm picturing myself talking to my child somedaylol!!!)

Work fast food for a while pics and specs and someone lookibg over your shoulder, no thinking. Who cares if you did prep wrong the first time, the third tine counts! Utterly defeated by a pepper, gah. Maybe go to retail or be a server or something else.

See a Doctor if your " dark cloud" feelings persist.
post #3 of 8

sounds like you need some inspiration.  i've have my moments of doubt or staleness, where you feel like you're not really getting anywhere, but you gotta look to the people that inspired you in the first place.  read about them again, watch videos of them cooking, relive that magic.

 

beating yourself up is useless unless you plan to learn from it.  we all make mistakes, so no biggy.  you also gotta remember that every restaurant has its own way of doing things, go into new places with an open mind and willingness to learn their way.  what we learn in culinary school is foundation, from there on out its always gonna be a bit different.  they might make their bechamel looser than what youre used to but that's the right way cause its chefs way, not yours.  but that's whats cool.  we as cooks have to learn to be able to adapt.

 

take some time and re-inspire yourself.  find the passion and don't let go of it!

post #4 of 8

@mattb17 ,

Wow! I'm not talking down to you. trust me. Getting temperamental and frustrated on small things like that is really damaging. You're funneling all your energy into a negative. Take half that energy and focus on being productive. C'mon, the Chef pulling you aside? You need a thick skin and a large pair of kahonas to survive in most kitchen. Most chef's and cooks are in the weeds all the time. I know that sounds crazy but I think that is what draws people to do this. Good Luck. Leave the house today and go find any joint with an open kitchen. Sit, eat, and watch. If that doesn't inspire you then you need to change now before it's too late.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice guys, it really does help and put things into perspective.

post #6 of 8

When I first started out in the industry I felt much the same way you do.

     I think there are several questions you can ask yourself. You don't have to answer them here but you should seek an answer to them for a better understanding of your motivations and to improve your outlook. 

     When these incidents happen (not deseeding the tomatoes, cutting the peppers incorrectly, etc.) who are you upset with? 

Why? 

What expectations are you setting up for yourself? Where did those expectations come from? 

What expectations do you have for those you work for? Where did those expectations come from? 

What assumptions are you operating under when you begin work in a kitchen, no matter which kitchen it is at the moment? Where did those assumptions come from? 

  From your post, it appears the staff are happy with your continued effort at getting it right. You are emotionally bereft when you encounter a small problem. Why? 

     Every kitchen is different in large and small ways. Some will measure everything with precise recipes and detailed oversight. 

Some kitchens are more casual about those small details. Some are sloppy, some are impeccably clean. 

     A good friend once told me at the beginning of my career, "You want the glory without all the hard work". She was right. 

     Learning to cook and run a restaurant takes many years of making mistakes, not many years of doing it perfect every time. The hard work is not limited to the hard physical labor you do.. Much of the hard work is to continue on when continually making mistakes, to accept the fact that you don't have the answers to every question, to experience the humility of knowing how much you do not know and to know that you are not now and and never will be as good as you imagine you should be. 

     Go back into a kitchen. If you can't go back to the kitchen you were in, find another. Should you change careers now, you will always have the same issues no matter what career you choose.  Doing anything well takes persistence and humility over a long period of time. 

You will have many days of making mistakes.

I prefer to call it learning. 

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattb17 View Post


I was told to make Tzatziki for a menu item and the recipe called for greek yogurt, cucumbers, tomatos, onions, and lemon juice, so I come back with my mise and told I need ENGLISH cucumbers. The recipe just said cucumbers so it kind of aggrivated me a little.

Then, as I was finishing up cutting the tomatoes, the chef walks by and says "did you remove the seeds?". I replied the recipe didn't say to do that in the directions. She said it was no big deal and said for next time to remove the seeds.

As for getting the ratios of ingredients correct, I was forced to eyeball and feel out weights as there was no way to actually measure there, coming from a short order world of ladles and measuring cups it was very difficult for me.

While julienneing bell peppers, I was instructed by another cook on the line that had been there for a number of years that I was supposed to cut the peppers top to bottom, not side to side. I as never made aware of this by chef and just felt utterly defeated once again. Chef told me it was okay but the feeling of failure and wasting product stuck with me.

 

I go through several versions of this scenario every day at work. I will experience nothing except frustration as long as I expect the place the run the way I want it to unless I am either the chef, the owner, or both. I will also let in on a little secret, even then it won't run exactly the way I want it to. Close possibly, but no cigar.

 

My frustration level drops, the more times that I try to fit me into the universe, rather than trying to fit the universe to me.

 

The world is perfectly imperfect, just as it should be. Where is the fun in perfection? It is boring and non-challenging; besides how could I possibly fit in otherwise.

 

Striving for perfection is where the fun and challenge comes in, just remember that it is a goal, never a destination.

 

I do the best that I can with the knowledge that I have up to that point, after that it is out of my hands. After it is out of my hands, I will be presented with more input by the universe that I can use in the future if I pay attention.

 

Don't sweat the small stuff. Most of life is small stuff. I just build it into big stuff in my head.

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 #8 of 8
3rd career change and you're only 26.......you need to decide what you want and stick with it.Stop being so hard on yourself and dwelling on every little thing.Lots of places don't even have recipes as detailed as the tzatziki one you're talking about.Ask questions without being annoying or better yet watch everything so you know how the peppers or tomatoes are cut when you're asked to do it.In the beginning it's difficult when everyone around you knows more than you do and it seems like quiting is the easy way out........if you continue this behavior how many careers will you be on when you're 36 or 46 or 56?
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