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Advice re Making the most of my apprenticeship

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi all!

I'm a first year apprentice; looking to make the most of my apprenticeship, and as such, am in need of advice.

The culinary school i'm attending is unfortunately run badly:
The teacher is detached; doesn't like questions and doesn't really teach much. He has often said he has no faith in the current students in our class, and isn't open to any discussions, answering questions re the industry or cooking techniques, or to even give advice or pointers. He doesn't even inspect the meals we create or look at how we cook it to give constructive criticism.

Our class generally consists of giving us recipes to cook, and then whilst we are cooking, the teacher does cooking of their own at the front of the class and ignore us for most of the class. 


As someone with little experience outside of Pub Meals; I am incredibly keen to increase and refine my skills and knowledge, and learn as much as I possibly can outside of this class. 

I have an amazing  and knowledgeable Head Chef who goes over meals with me and is a wonderful instructor; unfortunately though, as we are a small non-traditional kitchen with a lower budget, ergo my scope of practical learning is limited to an extent.

So what i'm wondering is what would be the best approach to making the best of my apprenticeship? Would staging on my days/nights off work be the best way to go about this? If so; what know-how would be required to do this and how could I make, and hopefully exceed expectations?
Should I look into online mentoring or courses/IRL short course training to increase my education, or both? 

Any other ideas anyone has would be fantastic too. I understand I have a lot to learn but I am incredibly willing.
 

post #2 of 11

This is a difficult question to answer because there are too many unknowns. 

 

If your chef gives you recipes and then disappears into his own world, how are you graded and assessed? If you take your plate presentations to the chef, does he taste the product? Does he offer constructive advice? If not, do you request feedback? 

 

Without knowing a lot more about your situation, my best advice would be for you to have a candid discussion with your head chef. 

 

The best way of approaching your chef would be to ask the chef if he/she might have time to talk to you at a time of his/her convenience regarding the development of your culinary career. Do not make the mistake of trying to have this conversation during the middle of rush for lunch or dinner production. It's always considerate to ask for an appointment so as not to interfere with the flow of food and the orderly production of meals. 

post #3 of 11

I would get a group of same minded students together and demand to be given the chance to learn. Your paying for this education it's not like high school. Learn now to speak up and fight for your right. You will be fighting as you move up in this business all your life. This would be a good place to begin.......Good luck.......Chef Bill

post #4 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBillyB View Post

I would get a group of same minded students together and demand to be given the chance to learn. Your paying for this education it's not like high school. Learn now to speak up and fight for your right. You will be fighting as you move up in this business all your life. This would be a good place to begin.......Good luck.......Chef Bill

Whoops ... I was responding to this on a tablet and didn't realize that this was a separate window. My response is below.
Edited by DC1346 - 8/7/16 at 10:05am
post #5 of 11
I tried doing this in graduate school with a professor who was an alcoholic. He also sexually harassed several of the women in his class. We tried talking to him and he threatened to give all of us failing grades

Students are not well placed to force an instructor to do his job. They don't have any authority to ensure the instructor's compliance and are easy targets for vindictive grading.

If students must complain, they should go enmasse to the administrator who supervises this instructor. The complaints of 1-2 students are easy to dismiss. It's harder (though by no means impossible) to do the same with a class majority.
post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC1346 View Post

I tried doing this in graduate school with a professor who was an alcoholic. He also sexually harassed several of the women in his class. We tried talking to him and he threatened to give all of us failing grades

Students are not well placed to force an instructor to do his job. They don't have any authority to ensure the instructor's compliance and are easy targets for vindictive grading.

If students must complain, they should go enmasse to the administrator who supervises this instructor. The complaints of 1-2 students are easy to dismiss. It's harder (though by no means impossible) to do the same with a class majority.


DC, your right! Although in my life I never took that advice. Needless to say The establishment always won and I got thrown out. I know in my case if I ever stopped fighting for whats right I may as well roll over and die. I think your advice is good, but, the OP needs to do something to make this right. 

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBillyB View Post
 


DC, your right! Although in my life I never took that advice. Needless to say The establishment always won and I got thrown out. I know in my case if I ever stopped fighting for whats right I may as well roll over and die. I think your advice is good, but, the OP needs to do something to make this right. 

Point taken ... but if the OP wanted to be confrontational about this and went with his classmates to the supervising administrator, what might happen?  What if the administrator is also incompetent? Worse yet, what if he's best buddies with the instructor? 

 

Part of the problem with issuing a complaint is that students complain all of the time. 9 times out of 10, the students will complain that the instructor is mean. Investigation typically finds that the instructor was labeled "mean" by a lazy student who couldn't be bothered to come to class on time, wasn't properly attired, and/or didn't have his tools. The "mean" instructor may have barred the student from class since some culinary schools have a zero tolerance policy for tardiness. The "mean" instructor might have given the student a 0/F for participation and told that student to sit out because he/she was improperly attired and/or did not have the tools needed to complete the hands-on production task. 

 

I've had students call me mean because I made them sit out of the kitchen doing homework that they should have done the previous night. The homework was necessary to help understand the day's production. I've also had students complain because I wouldn't let them chit-chat with their friends. I don't mind chit-chat during production so long as production is actually taking place. Idle conversation becomes a problem when production has come to a standstill because everyone is talking. In this case, the students who complained about how mean I was were upset because after I asked them not to chit chat, I had to reasssign them to other hands-on production groups because they weren't getting anything done at their station. 

 

I've had students call me mean because I expected them to follow the production recipe. Last year a student wanted to scramble his eggs and cook them until they were actually browned ... but the production assignment was eggs over easy. The kid didn't want to make eggs over easy. He ignored me and made overcooked scrambled eggs. I took the eggs away, dumped them in the trash, and kicked the kid out of the kitchen for insubordination. The kid got angry, stormed out of my room, and made a beeline to the principal's office where he loudly complained about how mean I was. After talking to me and finding out what happened, the administrator placed the kid in in-school suspension for 3 days for failure to follow instructions, having a hissy fit about nothing, and leaving class without permission. 

 

As a chef instructor, I have high expectations of my students and I'm also quite strict. My "meanness" is often confused by students who loudly complain about the consequences for having violated my expectations. Some of them are not mature enough to understand that there are consequences for not following instructions.  Sadly this problem is not limited to me. This actually happens with most teachers. 

 

Due to all of the complaints that students make, the vast majority of which are absolutely nonsensical, it can be really hard for building admin to actually know when students have a legitimate complaint and when they're trying to deflect responsibility for not doing what they should have been doing. 

 

Given all of this, another way to go that would involve minimum risk to students (unless someone blabs) would be to take advantage of social media. Have one or more students video this instructor not doing his job. Get a recording of him berating the students for being lazy know-nothings. Get video of him ignoring the class while he's off making food. Put the clips together without commentary so that the pictures speak for themselves. Upload the video to an anonymous youtube account. Send an anonymous written complaint to the supervisor with a link to the youtube address and see what happens. 

 

Doing something like this would make it hard for academic reprisals because neither the administrator or the teacher would know who was responsible for this video. 

 

If administration chose to ignore this footage, a link to this video could be sent to local news organizations. Media attention might do what the administrator and teacher did not. 

 

The flip side to this is that many schools have zero tolerance policies against using cell phones during class. Students would have to be careful to not be caught. Depending upon where the OP is, it might also be illegal to record someone without that person's permission. 

 

I wish there was an easy solution to this problem, In an ideal world, instructors shouldn't have to be publicly shamed into doing their jobs. 

post #8 of 11
Before complaining, think about the following facts: the instructor was likely hired by the administrator; the instructor likely gets paid weekly by the administrator; the instructor, despite poor performance, keeps the administrator from having to interview applicants and hire somebody else. I know the pain but experience has proven that unless the instructor is criminal, the instructor likely has more support by administration than do the students. Too often student/parent complaints about teachers backfire one way or the other. Not that it's right, but because it happens.

Maybe a humble and subservient approach should be considered where the student asks for more help because they aren't able to grasp the concept and perform adequately without more of the wise and experienced instructors guidance.

Generally one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar!
post #9 of 11
I don't know about any of this...right now I don't even know what "apprenticeship" means. When I did mine, it was a 3 year contract, with 3 signing parties. 8hrs classroom time per week, and work, work, work the rest of the time. At the workplace, of course, there was no cooking at school.

Anyhoo...

I call the bluff with a lousy Chef threatning to give everyone fail/0 grades if complaints against him were lodged in DC 1346's scenerio. If such a thing were to happen, the failing students would have to leave, and the school would have to find replacements. Not only does this reflect badly on the instructor, (sh*tty instructor, can't teach?.) but on the school too. (Can't administrate? Can't hire instructors?) Maybe they'd reimburse the rest of the course to all thosevfailed students, maybe not. In any case, I'd call that bluff.

What we really need is a little more information from bluefoundation, the original poster on how this school functions.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
I call the bluff with a lousy Chef threatning to give everyone fail/0 grades if complaints against him were lodged in DC 1346's scenerio.

 

That would have been gutsy. The problem was, we all needed this class to graduate. Calling the bluff and getting failing grades or dropping the class was realistically not a cost effective option for most of us because we'd already spent time and money in this program AND if we were to leave, we'd have nothing to show for our efforts. Applying to another program would have required us to move ... with all of the expenses that moving entails. 

 

In the end, we simply knuckled down and suffered through this class. After graduating, several of us wrote letters to the supervising dean but I don't think anything came of it. 

 

The sad reality is that life isn't fair. 

 

Sometimes you just have to suck it up, make the best of things, and move on at the first opportunity. 

post #11 of 11

Quote:

 

Hi DC1346,

 

Fair enough, you make good points.

 

Thing is, the o.p. isn't complaining about "mean" instructors, his complaints are quite specific, and they're quoted below:

Originally Posted by bluefoundation View Post
 

Hi all!

.... He has often said he has no faith in the current students in our class, and isn't open to any discussions, answering questions re the industry or cooking techniques, or to even give advice or pointers....

 

...He doesn't even inspect the meals we create or look at how we cook it to give constructive criticism...

...Our class generally consists of giving us recipes to cook, and then whilst we are cooking, the teacher does cooking of their own at the front of the class and ignore us for most of the class. 




 

The general "feeling" from the post is that the o.p. is genuinely interested, and is quite serious about his schooling. It seems the o.p. wants the instructor to critique his cooking, and to "hover" or walk about amongst the students during the cooking  and preparing stages of the class.  In other words, feedback from a professional's point of view, as well as constructive criticism.  Again,I view this as someone who is genuinely concerned about his schooling. 

 

I do have to say your suggestion of filming an incompetent instructor and posting it on you-tube or the like is a really good suggestion

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
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