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Looking for: Professional Advice/Opinions

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi, not exactly new to the forums but haven't posted for a very long time. Well, I'm coming to a fork in the road right now, and I'd really appreciate some advice, especially from industry professionals who've experienced it all.

 

Some background on myself: I'm from Malaysia, 20 years old, and I've just finished my Diploma in Culinary Arts at a private university. It was quite a good experience and overall it's made me more in love with the industry. I'm now advancing to a degree programme, and I can't seem to choose between Culinology, or an Advanced Dip + Bachelor's in Culinary. 

 

Well, I quite like science, and the scientific aspect of stuff, especially in the kitchen, and Culinology seems to be the right choice. I initially joined the university specifically to join this course after my Diploma.However, many of my seniors have told me that that's the subject for Research chefs, where you'd stay in labs. 

 

On the other hand, the university's Advanced Diploma has a more technical and skills-on aspect to it, that (in my senior's words) prepares you for Michelin Star restaurants. It also has an internship programme partnered with quite a number of Michelin Starred restaurants in France. I initially believed that this was the best opportunity for me to develop my skills and be able to achieve my goals of working in a good restaurant. 

 

 

When I consulted the Deputy Dean, she told me that that was not necessarily the case, as Culinology goes really into detail about the components of the food and how it would be more in-depth. She also told me that skills can be trained in the industry, but the basic knowledge and foundation wouldn't be as easy to find. 

 

My dilemma right now is that, I really love both courses, and I can't seem to choose one. My goal in the future is to own a good restaurant (very vague right now of course), and I know that it takes a lot of work and effort. I'm afraid that by taking Culinology, I would miss the opportunity of being able to work at a Michelin restaurant. 

 

My question is:

 

1) If there are any Research Chefs or Culinology grads out there who still work in professional kitchens,I'd like to hear your opinions on how good a transition it is (as in from doing a degree about research to working a fulltime pro kitchen job).

 

2) For professional chefs, I'd also like to ask what you might look for in hiring someone, skills, or knowledge based?

Admittedly, I've also been thinking of a third option, which I realise is very important, attitude. But, if one had a good attitude but rather average or even weak skills, would you still hire him/her? And how far would a good attitude convince you in hiring someone?

 

 

Any opinions would be much appreciated :) 

post #2 of 8

Get a job. You've completed your schooling. Congratulations. Time to move on and get some experience. 

Your Plan  should include continuing your learning by studying on your own and returning to school in a couple of years after your

experience has shown you what you find most interesting. . 

The knowledge and skills are easy to find if you are looking for them. 

Use the school and it's connections to get a job in one of those Michelin places.

    A great attitude is the most important. That includes a lot of humility. Which means when the Chef you work for tells you how to do something, keep your mouth shut and do it the way he or she tells you. Don't mention what you learned in school. 

You can put your school learning to use when the opportunity arises but you won't get that opportunity if you don't get a job. How things are done in a real restaurant and what you learned in school won't always be the same thing. 

At 20 years old, you need experience now for anyone to take you seriously. 

post #3 of 8

I agree with Chefwriter. If your ultimate goal is to own a restaurant, you need to get out of the classroom kitchen and into a restaurant kitchen. You need to develop hands-on experience. 

 

You KNOW THIS. You even said as much in your OP, "On the other hand, the university's Advanced Diploma has a more technical and skills-on aspect to it, that (in my senior's words) prepares you for Michelin Star restaurants."

 

Best wishes!

 

David

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice chefwriter and DC1346. 

 

I do agree on your points about work experience. However, as I've already paid the registration fees, I have to pick a course soon. 

 

What do you guys think about part-time jobs? As I know a good restaurant nearby that I would be able to work at after classes. Even though it's not a full time job, but I think it would be a better experience than just attending kitchen classes in uni.

post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrian Chua View Post
 

Thanks for the advice chefwriter and DC1346. 

 

I do agree on your points about work experience. However, as I've already paid the registration fees, I have to pick a course soon. 

 

What do you guys think about part-time jobs? As I know a good restaurant nearby that I would be able to work at after classes. Even though it's not a full time job, but I think it would be a better experience than just attending kitchen classes in uni.

So you have NO prior restaurant experience at all? 

 

Are you really sure you want to pursue a career in the food service industry? I've known a lot of young people who've pursued 1 and 2 year Associate's degrees and 4 years Bachelor's degrees in Culinary Arts and after they've graduated (or perhaps even during their externships, they've realized that they don't want to pursue food service careers.

 

There is after all a huge difference between being a home cook and feeding your friends and family and working in the restaurants.

 

At home, you have the luxury of time to make whatever it is you're serving up. You may plate it anyway you'd like. If you get distracted while you're cooking and the food is slightly under done or over cooked, chances are that your guests will be polite and they won't say anything. 

 

When you're in a restaurant, "in the weeds" as we call it, with two dozen tickets hanging in the window and servers banging on the pass over window to ask where their orders are, you don't have the luxury of time. You've got to be able to multitask and because customers are paying for their meals, YOU WILL HEAR ABOUT IT if they're not happy with their meal. Servers may come back to the window asking for this product or that to be completely redone ... and your ability to focus may be challenged if your immediate supervisor chooses that moment to unload on you in front of the rest of the kitchen crew for what he claims is your gross incompetence.

 

The hours can be long. If someone calls off, you could be asked to work a double shift. Do you have the ability to stand at your workstation for 16 hours (or longer) with just a couple of short restroom breaks? Can you handle working nights? Weekends? Holidays? Can you handle missing your mother's birthday dinner or seeing your sister graduate because you had to work? Can you handle working well past closing because a group of customers came in at the last minute delaying your ability to clean the kitchen prior to closing ... and this on a day when the work schedule calls for you to be on the restaurant's opening shift tomorrow which is now in (checking your watch) ... 6 hours? 

 

On top of everything else, when you work in a restaurant, you usually can't indulge your personal tastes because most restaurants use standardized recipes that not only specify how a dish will be made but also the portion size and how it will be plated. 

 

Working in a restaurant can be really stressful ... so to answer your question, yes, prior experience helps on a number of levels. If you've never worked in a restaurant, working in a restaurant will give you work experience. Work experience will help you develop your skills and it'll give you a better idea as to whether or not you really want to pursue a career in the food service industry.

 

Work will also allow you to meet other people in the industry. As restaurant staff come and go, some will move on to better jobs with more responsibility and if you keep in touch with these people, they might help you later on in your career with job recommendations or a heads up about a position opening at a certain restaurant. 

 

School is all very fine and well but schooling will only give you the basic skills needed for you to develop your career. At the end of the day it's up to you to put these skills to good use ... to evolve what you've learned and to develop your expertise and knowledge. 

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

DC1346,

 

I do actually...I was in a kitchen helper job for about 3 months, before enrolling, just to test it out. After that, I had a 4 month internship at a restaurant that did mainly buffets/banquets. 

 

I do get where your concern is coming from though, half of the group I started with have either dropped out along the way or will be pursuing entirely different career paths after graduation. However, I do think that this is what I want, and after going through the last 2 years, I'm more so convinced.  

 

Thanks for the concern though :)

post #7 of 8

You can check with the school to see if they will refund your money. Most will do that if certain dates have not passed. 

       Otherwise, by all means, take a part time job. My only advice is to make sure it is in a kitchen that makes most food from scratch. You now need to see how 

school theory differs from practice and how to make the adjustment necessary to apply your school learning to a professional environment. If the restaurant uses some pre made products, don't complain. Record what they are so you remember that you need to learn how to make them. This includes condiments, cheeses, sauces, etc. 

     Remember to develop and maintain the habit of working clean and neat, keeping a calm, professional demeanor. This will be much harder than it sounds. 

Bring a small notebook to work to record observations and recipes. Note ways in which things are done differently than what you were taught. Remember they aren't automatically bad because they are different. It's just that you haven't seen them. 

     Remember too that where ever you work, you are limited to what they do in that particular restaurant. For example, not every restaurant will fillet whole fish or use demi-glace. They may however bake the dinner rolls from scratch. So be sure to learn what each place does uniquely. 

     Observe.  Watch how each place operates in its' own way. Managing people is part of being a chef. How the BOH and FOH interact is vitally important. Watch the other stations to see what is happening that you aren't doing.  Watch other peoples' bad habits. Look for other people's good habits. Keep all your observations to yourself. 

     Keep aware of costs. Being a chef and running a restaurant includes activity you won't see every day in a kitchen. Payroll, ordering, scheduling, vendor relations, maintenance are all being done while you are cooking. 

    In case you get so busy living that you don't post here anymore, I'll finish with this. You should never stop learning. Someday you may be feeling proud of yourself for all you know and what a great cook you have turned out to be. When that happens, remind yourself that you are mentally closing off. Foodservice is an enormous field full of opportunities for growth. Have you baked cookies, white bread, made pastries, understand why sourdough is not the same as challah, visited a farm or orchard to pick your own produce, done any research on other cuisines, pickled, dehydrated or canned your own food, understand sugar work, can you identify any wild plants, thoroughly understand the practices of butchery and meat production, read up on food science and chemistry? 

School is great but there is plenty you can learn on your own. And it should never stop. 

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Chefwriter, thank you very much for that piece of advice, I really appreciate it. I'll remember to keep those points in mind whether or not I get a full time or part time job. 

 

Thank you once again :)

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