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Looking for advice from experienced cooks and chefs

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I left a career as a wine rep to go to culinary school last summer. Took a MAJOR pay cut & lifestyle change. I was determined to land a job working for a particular chef... Staged at 3 of his restaurants until I eventually got hired as a prep cook. 6 months & 4 stations later I work sauté for a James beard best chef award winner.

As a territory manager for a wine distributor, I would throw out a resume if someone listed an employer that employed them for less than a year. I want to work for as many chefs as possible and learn as much as I can while I'm still green behind the ears. How can I do this without ending up with a questionable work history? Will chefs not hire me if I tell them I only want to stay for 6 months? How long should I stage before expecting to be hired?

How do I continue learning after school without burning any bridges?
post #2 of 4

@sautejen ,

    For me personally, I would not establish a firm timeline. I would research all I could before employment. I would create a fairly attainable

list of goals. Review it with the Chef, or not. I then create a mental list of items that I addressed or accomplished that day or week and make a journal entry.. When you are satisfied with achieving your list, I would then sit with the Chef, review your journal, address your accomplishments and explain the reason for moving on. Could be 2 yrs., could be 6 mths.

  A good Chef with experience will usually not question your work history. Your resume should establish up front what you're seeking to learn and accomplish by working with him/her. Your resume should also include a list of your accomplishments at each stint. A good Chef, wait, a successful Chef will usually have that certain mentoring quality. A good Chef knows when he/she does not have that mentoring personality and will usually surround themselves with people that do. Your homework should include researching those people as well. Good professional (almost never personal) communication with those responsible for you is paramount. Some of the qualities I respect and look for in an intern, stage, or new hire is stability, that yearning desire without them setting goals too high, or in too short or long a time to achieve them. I always identify those who carry a big aura. I feel that being aware of what's going on around you is a great quality. Last, keep you eye on the prize. Try not to get rutted or complacent in guiding yourself through the streets to the city(success). If you do, pack a bag and move to the next town.

  As a mentor, I enjoy the feeling of ones accomplishments as they move on. I always expect it. My last coworker had been with us for 7 yrs. She not only wanted to learn the production aspect, but also the business and customer service side. She left 6 weeks ago. She took the leap and bought a mobile food truck to sell her baked goods.. We supported her and always will.

Sautejen, HTH's Best Wishes in your venture.

post #3 of 4

     Certain things take their own course.  When you threw out those resumes', were you right to do so? Now the shoe is on your foot so to speak and you don't want your resume to be dismissed for the same reason you dismissed so many. 

     Get a job with the best chef and restaurant you can. Work hard. The chef may not like you. You may not like the restaurant. If you do a stage, you may have the job by the end of the day. Or you may not get the job at all. You shouldn't expect to get hired. You should hope to get hired.

     Why six months? Stay as long as you continue to learn, whether that is three days or three years. Work in a hotel, a catering company, steakhouse, fish house, vegetarian, fine dining, fast food and run of the mill. Develop good work habits wherever you are. 

     You continue learning after school the same way you did in school.When you aren't working, study cookbooks, practice at home, learn canning and preserving, baking, visit a farm and orchard, a slaughterhouse, a packing plant. 

   Open a book, practice, learn from others. How much you learn is not as much about where you work as it is the effort you put in to learning, which you can do all the time no matter where you work. 

     You don't burn bridges by showing respect for everyone. When you decide to work for someone, do your best, no matter what kind of place you find yourself in. When you decide to leave, give two weeks notice. Be aware of the reality that what you may end up experiencing and learning in any given place may not be what you expected to learn.

      People skills, knife skills, organizational skills, cleanliness, communication and much more are all important. Some places will have more techniques to teach you than others. Some places will be more people experiences. Sometimes you learn how to do it right. Other times you learn what not to do. Sometimes people you work with will be horrible but most of the time, they are all just trying to get through the day, just like you. 

     Strive to be a good employee always. Learn what you can wherever you can. When you feel it's time to go, find a new job, give two weeks notice, move on. If you have done all you can to show respect for yourself and those around you, you won't burn any bridges. 

post #4 of 4

How has things been progressing, are you still there? 

I know i'm pretty late to the party here. But I wanted to tell re-enforce to you what panini said about making goals and reviewing them with your chef. Hopefully your chef sees the great potential in you and welcoming you into the office to talk about work and other things in your life beyond work on a regular basis. If you are in a good stable situation at this place, I would stay there for awhile. You might not get treated as warmly or get as much of your bosses full-attention with your next job, and you can't put a price on that. 

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