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Is it wrong that I'm more nervous than excited about first restaurant job? Is this really for me?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi - I'll try to keep this as short as possible

I have just finished my culinary school training, and I absolutely loved it and I do love cooking, but I am very aware that at college and home it is completely different to the workplace. I've always been a bit anxious about working in restaurants, and for a long time I didn't think I should (I'm 18 and a girl), but I decided as I was coming to the end of my course that I had to at least try it because I'd regret it if I didn't give it a go, and at the end of the day I can always leave if I hate it.

So I contacted a few places and went for a trial at a high end restaurant which I did really enjoy (and found terrifying in equal measures), but while I was there I kept telling myself 'it's just a trial you may as well enjoy yourself', so I did. However, they have now offered me the job (and they have been really nice and enthusiastic about it), and the prospect of working in an actual professional kitchen has very suddenly become super real. I keep having completely conflicting thoughts where one minute I'm all 'I have to give it a go! It'll be exciting, and I can always leave! And I might love it!' and the next minute it's 'is this really what I want to do? I'm going to be rubbish! The fact I'm even thinking this implies I shouldn't be doing this! Am I passionate enough?'

Essentially, I want to ask, does the fact I have these doubts indicate I shouldn't be doing this? I do absolutely love cooking but as I said, this is different. But I read all these blogs and posts online and it's all 'TO BE A CHEF YOU MUST 100% LOVE IT AND EVERYTHING ABOUT IT AND HAVE ZERO DOUBTS, IT'S A PASSION BE PASSIONATE FIGHT TO THE TOP RARGHH' and that's really not me! I do have doubts, and yes I am passionate but not in this super extreme way because I've never done it before.. I just feel that all the people you find online internet-yelling about 'f*cking this' and 'working your as* or d*ck or whatever expletive off' are just not like me - are these people really what all chefs are like? Of course I'm aware of the hours and the commitment etc, but in my mind, as long as I enjoy what I do I don't mind. I don't know how much sense this is making but basically, I just don't think I'm anything like most of the chefs I see online.. The kitchen that offered me the job is 100% men and they were all really nice and friendly when I went, but yes I'm aware of the challenges I'll face (I'm also aware that I sound like a softy-girl on here and yes, I'm not a super macho swearing power woman, but I can deal with blokes like that fine). Am I not suited to working in a restaurant because I'm not a macho shouting swearing angry smoking person? I'm a hard worker, I do what I'm told (at college I was the only person who didn't particularly want to be a head chef within three years because, in my view, I'd much rather do what someone with far more experience and skill is telling me to do than making stuff up myself!), and I have a surprisingly thick skin (may not seem it from this post, but in the situation I can deal with being yelled at). I'm just not that stereotypical angsty-angry chef type... and I'm really nervous about starting this job in case the fact I'm not 100% excited and raring to go is a glaring sign that I shouldn't be doing this. I try to remind myself that if I don't like it I can always leave, but I know what I'm like and I'm terrible at quitting things in general (don't like failing etc...), and I feel that quitting this especially would be a massive cop-out and I'd just be another one of those silly girls that couldn't hack it... so I'm also worried that once I start, even if I don't enjoy it, I'll make myself stay..

I realise this isn't really question more a panic brain-vomit, but I'd appreciate just any words of advice or experience or anything!

post #2 of 12

Sounds like you just wasted a bunch of time and money. You need to work in a cubicle, cook for fun at home.

post #3 of 12

You are over thinking it. What if? What if you don't like it?... How about what if you do like it? What then? Just do it and find your answer. I may not like all the answers that I get in life, but I dislike unanswered questions more.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #4 of 12

It's normal to doubt yourself, to feel anxiety and to feel like you made a mistake. It's completely normal. The good workers always have to doubt themselves otherwise they will grow complacent.


Take the job, go to work and the anxiety will slowly ease out. Stay focused on the work, stay focused on learning and keep improving yourself.

You are 18, go for it.


By the way, just because you are a girl doesn't mean anything in a kitchen. Look at Dominique Crenn. World's best female chef, and two Michelin stars. She's small, cute and she has anxiety just like you, just like any other person on this world. But she stuck to what she was passionate about and now she's up there.



Don't give up.

post #5 of 12

You'll be fine! take a deep breath pull up your boot straps. Your only 18 years old don't worry about anything else except this job. Don't worry about becoming a Chef for 10 years. Walk in like you did when you had your trial day. Just because you graduated from Culinary school doesn't mean anything right now. Just take one day at a time be yourself. Life has a funny way of guiding a person down the right roads in life. After working for a year or so you will know if this business is for you. Right now just look at it as a job don't worry about anything else. Good luck, be yourself and have fun.......Chef Bill

post #6 of 12

OMG just do it. 


That little trial run was just playing around. 


Taking this job and giving it a go will be the actual trial run of wether or not you should be working in a kitchen,

Stop freaking out, its a kitchen. 

Take the job, go work and test the waters. 


If you don´t like it as much as you thought, you have free will and can always leave. 


And yes to be in this industry you must love it...because why else would you do this. Working in a kitchen is only fun to those who truly love being there. 

So go work and put yourself and your feelings to the test. 


If you don´t try, the doubt may just end up consuming you. Walk in there, proud of what your doing and just go and work. Work for a few days, a few months etc.... take the time to really learn and progress and test yourself and your feelings. 


Good luck and keep us updated... 

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.



Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.


post #7 of 12
"It ain'te rocket surgery ... It's just working in a kitchen."

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.


"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

post #8 of 12

a trial is not every day after day making tomorrow seem like yesterday, and in time you may decide for another career path.


think of it like your first time with anything, yea its all butterflies in the belly and unsure, but things can change....


what will set your future is if being in this industry is like your first true love and something you will continue to love everyday or you will leave and treat like the relationship that should never have happened and your ashamed to tell your parents you made a mistake. :)


like others have said is that your young and whether you stay cooking for the rest of your life until you retire (maybe at age 60 or 65), or move onto other things only time will tell, so get your clogs on, get your tools ready, and take each day at a time.

post #9 of 12
I'm not the typical macho chef either. And no not a 100% of my time is spend working in or thinking about my job.
Honestly you shouldn't worry about how other people do their job or view you. You need to find your own way.

Do I get nervous? Sure. But I take that as something positive. I've been in the business for almost 10 years. And I still get nervous before service. If I didn't get exited I would find something else to do.

It is a hard job. But it's also very rewarding and no two days are the same.
To me that's a big plus.

I think you should try it. Maybe you'll love it. Maybe you won't. But if you don't try it you'll never know.
post #10 of 12

Here's an offshore story that seems apropos here. I cook offshore, and I was on a dive ship a couple weeks ago.


There was one young diver that spent two weeks on the boat, and then quit. He said it wasn't for him. He had just racked up $40,000 in school debt to train to be a diver over the last 7 months, and now he gets on the boat and quits. Being a diver the first few years isn't very glamorous. You can't actually dive the first four years. You just clean gear and hoist air lines and such. But he knew this up front. And then he gives up.


Was he wrong to quit after just two weeks with 40 grand to pay back? I can't say for certain. I'm not him. Maybe he can go on to greater adventures. But it sounds pretty typical of this generation to me. "I don't like something, so I'm not gonna try." There are plenty of days I don't feel like cutting up chickens or dicing onions. But I have to because I have rent.


If you are scared, then that's ok. Whenever I get a new assignment, I get nervous every single time, because I don't know the kitchen or the captain or the crew and I know it might suck. But if you're just wishy washy or Millennial lazy, then that's a different matter. Are you a quitter? Or are you going to just go do your job? Stick it through a bit and find out. You're young and have time to figure things out. 


None of us can tell you what to do. But we can wish you well. I and I do wish you well.  

post #11 of 12

You have to experience something before you can say you like it or not. Throw that f--in word passion out the window. It's a blanket term to validate that your in an industry that is different from most.

We usually work so others can enjoy their holidays, weekends, etc. and the atmosphere is somewhat primitive and the compensation usually doesn't equal your effort.

  Once you work for a while and think this is something I might want to do, you then need to separate what some consider an adrenaline rush or a dopamine rush.

  1. An adrenaline rush is when you anticipate getting slammed in the kitchen with business. You feel the heart pumping and you start feeling like, " I can serve all of these people by myself if I had to."

I'm pumped to do this! Bring it on! You get very focussed on the task at hand.

  2. A dopamine rush is when the restaurant gets filled in minutes and you start to organize you thoughts, start preparing dishes. You get this exhilarating feeling, your eyes get wide open, and you

can't wipe the sh-t eating grin off your face.


Number 1, will make you impulsive, usually yearning for something different, and finally, burn out.

Number 2, will let you enjoy the ride as your career progresses, and usually lead to greater accomplishments.


If someone tells you they do not get the uneasiness your feeling now before starting something new, there BSing you, or are accustomed to adrenaline rushes.



post #12 of 12

It isn't easy being a chef. I came into the food service industry later in life (though to be candid I also had several years of initial experience in working in my grandmother's restaurant as a kid). After burning out as an elementary teacher following 17 years of instruction, the last 8 of which involved working abroad at private American schools in the Middle East, I opted out of education, came back to the States, and went to culinary school. After graduating with honors, I worked in the industry for 4 years and found that although I loved working with food, I really didn't like dealing with customers. I especially hated dealing with pushy servers who'd bring back food to the pass over window with shrilly complaints about their orders. This was particularly annoying when we were in the proverbial weeds and had multiple tickets to process. 


The hours were long and I often worked double shifts for which I received NO ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION because I was under contract. My contract specified a minimum of 50 hours of work per week but there was no maximum. In 2005, I found myself working 84 hour weeks and because I was called in on my days off, literally only had 5 days off work. 


After being called in during my one week annual vacation , (for which I received the pathetic compensation of $250), I finally decided to do a lateral career change and went back into education, this time as the chef instructor of a high school Culinary Arts program. 


I now work about 50-55 hours per week and have weekends off. I'm currently on the end of a 2 1/2 month PAID SUMMER VACATION which is a lot better than the one week vacation I had in the industry. I also get holidays ... Labor Day ... Dr. Martin Luther King Day ... Memorial Day ... 2 days off for the county fair ... 4 days for Thanksgiving ... 2 weeks for Christmas ... a week for Spring Break and of course summer vacation. 


Given my prior experience as an elementary teacher, I was initially credited with 10 years experience and since I have a Master's degree, I got another bump on the salary schedule. I've now been teaching Culinary Arts for 8 years and am making $64,000 a year. 


I know chefs who work for casino restaurants in Nevada who make a lot more than I do ... but they work weekends, holidays, summers, and they also work long-long shifts. What's the good of making a lot of money if you don't have time to enjoy it?


So in answer to your question about whether your should be nervous or excited, I will observe the following.


1) EVERYONE is nervous when it comes to the first day on the job. Even though I'm a highly experienced teacher, I'm nervous at the start of every school year because I never quite know what my class composition will be or even what my Culinary Arts budget will be.


Chefs and line cooks are nervous about starting new jobs because they'll have to be working as part of a production team and you never know what your team mates will be like until you're actually in the weeds. There's also the issue of learning and successfully executing your restaurant's recipes in terms of quality production within a set time frame to approved plating standards ... and all within the context of always-always-always following food safety and sanitation requirements. 


2) I think it's important to note that as much as executive management sometimes thinks that we're all interchangeable cogs in a machine, the reality is that we're all people with varying interests, abilities, feelings etc. Some people on a team will click and perform Michelin quality magic with their food production ... and some will have problems as evidenced on reality TV shows like Gordon Ramsey's "Kitchen Nightmares."  In other words, people who do really well at one restaurant might not do so well at another restaurant because in the end, we have to work with other people and sometimes despite our best effort and intentions, other people will let you down. The executive chef may disappear for hours at a time into his office to "do paperwork" while he's really kicking back and letting things slide. I have also witnessed bullying, sexual harassment, and workplace theft ... all of which detract from the overall quality of the work environment. 


3) There are LOTS of culinary jobs out there ... and I'm not just talking about working for a restaurant. There are catering companies, private chef opportunities, personal chef opportunities, research production jobs, teaching positions, writing opportunities (blogs, magazines, and food critics) etc. 


I wish you well with your present job. As you learn and grow, at some point you will need to think about your career. Where do you see yourself going in ten years? What's your ultimate end game? Do you want to be an executive chef? Do you want to own and operate your own restaurant? What do you want to do and how do you plan to get there?


The job you have now will give you a starting base and if you can stay there for a minimum of two years and leave with good recommendations, this will make you more employable than if you were to abruptly quit in two months.


If and when the time comes for you to move on, think about where you eventually want to be. 


I know some people who go from job to job, taking whatever comes their way. 


A smart person will look at a given opportunity and evaluate it in terms of whether this will  help you grow as a chef. Does the executive chef have a good industry reputation? Will this chef help you learn and grow and further develop your skills? Are there opportunities for internal promotion? Are you working with the sort of cuisine you're interested in? 


I am excited that you're at the start of your career. Where your career path will lead is something that only you can determine.

Wishing you all the best,



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