Before I really go deeper into the actual topic of my thread I'll give you background information on myself and my career this far.
Ever since I was young, 6 maybe 7 years old Ive been infatuated with cooking. I remember times when I would sneak downstairs at 2am to watch the food network, in particular the show "cook like a chef". The way the food looked on tv was amazing and coming from a family that usually are well done roast with some kind of packaged gravy and baby carrots over cooked to baby food in the bottom of the roasting pan these people looked like modern day alchemists to me. It was exciting, it was and is my first real passion. every day after school I would turn on the food network and endlessly watch it until my parents either told me it was time for bed or I had neglected my homework and had to get it done if I wanted to keep watching. This obsession quickly went from tv, to reading cook books, and books on cooking techniques. By 10 years old, with some parental guidance I was doing the cooking for my family a night or two a week. this continued all the way up until I graduated high school. To sum this up I didn't get my first kitchen job until I was 19. My late teens were filled with indecisiveness about what I wanted to do with my life as a job. Went from odd job to odd job for a few years before I had decided to go into the industry. Late 2011 I had gotten my first job working for some crap catering company as a dish washer/line cook for a cafeteria. I had no experience so I took the first job I could get. It was to say the least, unsatisfying. I was working 12-14 hour days cleaning, making tuna melts and mashed potatoe out of a bag. I quit my job 7 months after, uninspired to cook, to go travel, get away hoping I could refresh myself and finally figure out what I really wanted to do. I had spent a lot of time watching Anthony Bourdains shows. The culture behind the food really interested me. His traveling inspired me to travel, and learn more about the culture of cooking. through the families I met, the hospitality, the food and the overall enjoyment of the atmosphere created around the food brough back that excitement I had when I was younger. Coming back I wanted to give cooking one more shot. I had figured catering wasn't for me and that before I had actually given up on cooking I wanted to see what the fast paced life of a line cook was like.
When I got back home I went looking online for cook positions. Unfortunately all of the well known and more respected restaurants in the city I'm from we're looking for a minimum of 3 years kitchen experience. I sent in my resume anyway, but with no response back. I ended up going into a chain restaurant that a few of my good friends were working at, they were enrolled in culinary school. I had figured it would have been a good place to go based on that and really looking back on it the experience was worth it. In the 1 year I had worked there, pulling 12-16 hour days 6 days a week I had made my way from dish washer through the night shifts, working all of the prep stations to having the chef ask me to become the day sous. I declined, I had realized that really in the chain I would have been with, although they prided themselves on being fresh food and really made it feel like there was something special there, I would have been a glorified paper pusher, with no say in the opperation in the restaurant aside from maybe getting to edit the schedule. I quit, and came to my current job.
Currently I am in a still high volume restaurant, but privately owned, and a higher standard of quality. I came into that restaurant 2 years ago thinking that I was going to kill it. i was wrong. I was one of the worst cooks on the line and they had me on sauté. Over the next 6 months they wouldn't move me, I began to improve quickly, learned a lot of new things and gained a lot of confidence in my ability and myself. After that worked my way through the entire kitchen over the next 4 months to be in the end promoted as sous in my new job.
I've been a sous chef there now for a year and some change, nearly entirely self taught. I enjoy it, teaching new staff and even my staff that have anywhere from 5-10 years more experience than I do new things each day. But I find myself stuck in a rut. I don't find myself learning anything new. Being as green as I am in the industry I don't like the idea that I am not learning anything. the quality of food has been going up, quality of service has been going up, my cooks are getting better and I can see the improvements in them every day. And this is part of where my problem comes in.
We are currently in a rebuild of our kitchen staff. I've built a lot of good relationships with the staff. I am training constantly working 6 shifts a week, usually with a call in on my 7th day. I don't mind doing it knowing it is helping the kitchen get to where it needs to be sooner. I don't mind working on 2 hours of sleep every day and not eating two days at a time. They put a lot of time and dedication into me to get me where I am and in return I do the same for them. However, I don't want to feel stagnant anymore, I want to see the kitchen succeed. But I have this burning desire to move up and learn, become the bad cook again and work my way back to the top. I want to get back to what I wanted to do when I decided to get into the industry and get into fine dining.
I don't want to be that person that jumps ship, or in their eyes appears to be but I have a deadline for myself that by October 1st. I have to make a decision regardless of the state of the restaurant, Im getting tired, not because I'm being over worked but because I feel as if I have plateaued, and honestly I am stuck not knowing what I should do.
I am a sous chef who is still in my opinion is still new, I don't feel challenged at work anymore. I want to make a move however were in the middle of a rebuild of kitchen staff and I know there are a lot of senior cooks who would probably leave if I did and I wouldn't feel right about leaving the restaurant, my chef and the other sous I work with in a position where they are going to have way too much work to deal with. Along with that I am unsure how to get into the right kind of restaurants that I want to work at. (Ex. Bluehill farms, AOC, ko) that all want experience in fine dining but there isn't any places locally that I would even hold close to a caliber of places like the above mentioned. As far as I know the only options would be to apply for a stage or a longer term internship. Which I would love a better explanation on how to go by applying for a stage and all of the things you would need to do before hand to prepare for one would be. Visas, what do I work on as far as general skill goes?