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Old 10-19-2007, 05:17 PM   #1
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First Cooking Job 16yr old

I'm 16, I live in a relatively small town, surrounded by a couple other small towns. I want to work as a cook somewhere because I love cooking, but I don't know how to cook everything rapidly on a large scale, like in a local restaurant. They're trying to be fancy, and they serve okay food. I'd like to go there to work as a cook, and I'm ready for whatever training and advice the cook might have, but I was wondering... Are there any other skills it would be beneficial for me to have before going to ask for a job in a restaurant? I'm afraid they might turn me away just because they'll see my inexperience as something slowing them down. This isn't the kind of place where I can try off the wall recipes, but I still will get to create my own, and cook. They have many river fish along with many meats. I'd appreciate any advice.


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Old 10-19-2007, 05:27 PM   #2
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Best thing to do might be to get a job there as a dishwasher. Work hard and show them you are interested in cooking and they will most likely move you up the ladder that way.

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Old 10-19-2007, 05:28 PM   #3
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Young cook

I love your determination! Keep in mind that you can learn a ton of things by getting hired on as a sous chef or prep assistant. Be willing to start a tiny bit lower, but let the powers that be know what it is that you want to do eventually. Make a realistic time line with them and let the boss know you really plan to stick to it.
Best of luck and Happy kitchen
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Old 10-19-2007, 06:41 PM   #4
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to jross91 - yep, you definitely will have to pay your dues. My son took culinary training at the local vocational school - he had been working at Taco Bell at the drive through window since he was a sophomore. Went from there to AppleB's and stuck it out for a good while but it was just not the right place for him. Some friends got him on at a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise where his skills were useful. Now he's 21 and the kitchen manager at a locally owned small popular mom and pop restaurant specializing in smoked BBQ - the real deal. Through it all he has never called off without a real sickness or emergency, never been late and always with a yes mam' or yes sir, can do, smile on his face. Always. Be prepared for crummy hours, crummy assignments, and crummy pay. Show that you are willing and absolutely without "attitude" of the wrong kind.
Good luck, do what you love and you will make it.
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Old 10-19-2007, 08:27 PM   #5
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Welcome to DC, Jross91! GB's advice is spot on. Good luck!
Practice safe lunch. Use a condiment.
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Old 10-19-2007, 08:29 PM   #6
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First thing, check your school rules and state and local laws. In some states you have to be 18 to do any kind of cooking. Knowing the laws shows you're responsible. If you aren't allowed to use deep fryers or work a grill, knowing that allows you to approach a restaurant and ask to be a sous chef preparing food for cooking. My SIL started at 15 chopping onions but she wasn't allowed to cook with heat or hot oil. She chopped hundreds of onions and carrots and potatoes and anything that needed to be chopped at one of the best restaurants in Orange County CA (a restaurant I can visualize, but can't remember the name of right now). When she couldn't get into cooking school because of financial issues, she joined the Army and got a great pass as a chef for the Army. She learned a lot in the Army about cooking for a large group. She saved money and got a scholarship to cooking school. Now she owns a catering business specializing in large group events. But she started out chopping onions. Be willing to do anything within your limits and you'll go far.

And here's the mom advice ~ but keep up on your homework, get good grades, and get a scholarship for college. Don't let working get in the way of grades.
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Old 10-19-2007, 11:18 PM   #7
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Go for it! Don't let the inexperience get in the way! I started out at McDonald's and ended up working for very famous fine dining establishments. My advice is to be confident, but honest, in the interview (be open to anything, from dishwasher on up), and to listen to everything. DO NOT be intimidated by the cooks. Cooking is not a secret club. You learn as you go. Show up early and leave as late as they need you (or as late as your parents are willing to let you work). A caveat, DO NOT let your grades suffer. If you are interested in college, you need the grades to make it. Study extra hard. You have to, otherwise you will think you will do well, but won't. And above all, listen to your parents! I did with mine and I have been appreciative of it ever since. Please let us know how you make out. I love to see a new potential cook in the kitchen!
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Old 10-20-2007, 12:11 AM   #8
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My son started out as a dishwasher at a japanese hibachi restaurant. After he turned 18, the owners started him prepping and over the course of 6 months taught him to cook. Now he is the head chef at the restaurant and loves it. AND he's not even Asian. We're as white Wonderbread! But he does Japanese cooking very well.
I could give up chocolate but I'm no quitter!
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Old 10-20-2007, 12:18 AM   #9
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Nobody expects anyone to be an experienced chef (or much else) at the age of 16.

What will get you a job is enthusiasm, a sincere desire to work and learn. Let any place you try for a job know that you will do whatever they ask of you, all you want to do is learn. Then be reliable. Do your job, whatever it is, as though it is the best job in the world. Help out as much as you can. If there is a spill help clean it up. When something needs cleaning, clean it. If you are not washing dishes, and the dishwasher calls in with a hangover, smile when they ask you to wash the plates.

Oh yes, and remember there is the front of the house. If all they need is someone to bus tables start there.

Restaurants always need a utility player and it will be your atitude and willingness to learn tht will get you a lot of experience.

Best of luck.
Before criticizing a person, walk a mile in his shoes - then you are a mile away and you have his shoes!
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Old 10-20-2007, 12:29 AM   #10
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If you want to cook, be ready for long hours, lots of pain mostly in the form of burns, and severe verbal abuse. All of this for what amounts to pretty poor pay. If I didn't have my fiance to support in the future, this is a life I would choose for myself. You've got to be a little off somewhere to WANT to be a line cook.

If however, you're looking for the money, then front of the house is the place to be.

At 16, I very much doubt you'll be hired to line cook. Prep is your best bet, but that's a great place to learn and is also much less stressful. By doing prep, you'll learn all the important skills you really need to to be a great cook.
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Old 10-20-2007, 11:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by GB View Post
Best thing to do might be to get a job there as a dishwasher. Work hard and show them you are interested in cooking and they will most likely move you up the ladder that way.
I agree start out washing dishes if you can do that with out going crazy you can handle working in the kitchen.In alot of places when there is some down time they will let you start doing some prep,next become a prep cook and work your way up.Watch how the cooks and prep cooks do things ask questions on what they are doing.If you are a natural cook it wont take long to move up.
There is a book by Jaques Pepin called Complete Tecniques which I think is very valuable reading it shows you how to do just about any thing with pictures.Another good one is Good Housekeepings Illustrated Cookbook.It shows you how to make dishes step by step also with pictures.Another one is Joy of Cooking I actually learned alot from that one they explain alot of things besides having alot of good recipes.
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Old 10-20-2007, 11:58 AM   #12
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as mentioned, good spirit and enthusiasm. (literally translated, enthusiasm means "god within")

my advice,
take on whatever job is offered. do it to the best of your ability.
get in on time, every day.
keep your yap shut, and your eyes open.
don't look for breaks, or watch the clock to see when you can leave.

understand that all great experiences in life begin with the first few steps, and these are yours.
appreciate it for what it is, and never forget your goal.

if you do these things, mixed with your obvious interest in cooking, the rest will fall into place.
The past is gone it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you'll find better things
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Old 10-20-2007, 04:11 PM   #13
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Emeril Lagasse started off washing pots and pans after school.

Wolfgang Puck started off sleeping on a cot in the basement of a restaurant in the room where they stored the vegetables ... and peeled vegetables to pay for his room and board.

Like others have said ... ATTITUDE! Get your foot in the door - and with the right attitude you'll move up.
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Old 10-21-2007, 11:21 AM   #14
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Another book to check out to get an idea of the experience of working your way into the business is Heat by Bill Buford. It certainly opened my eyes. I would never have had the passion that it takes to be a professional chef. Much as I enjoy cooking, that life is not for me.
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Old 10-21-2007, 01:19 PM   #15
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Learn to just talk to the people working at the restaurants, jobs may not be advertised and they may be just looking for someone outgoing that would fit in with the staff. And go to different restaurants and ask about jobs. Like I said, not every job is advertised.
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Old 10-21-2007, 10:20 PM   #16
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Callisto is right. Many places don't advertise, and many just place a sign in the window.
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Old 10-21-2007, 11:08 PM   #17
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In real estate, it's...location, location, location.

In the food business, it's...work, work, work and learn, learn, learn.
If you really want to get into the food business, you need to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Wash dishes, peel potatoes, clean tables. Whatever it takes to learn what goes on in a restaurant. Keep your eyes open. Don't be a slacker. Ask questions and learn, learn, learn.

Plus, read cookbooks and get educated on techniques and the basics. Do well in "regular" school so that you can take advantage of scholarships, etc.

And, as others have said, working in the world of food isn't a "cushy" job. It's long hours and hot, hard work. If you are passionate about what you want to do, go for it. Best of luck and keep your nose to the grindstone and keep it clean, too. Don't get into anything that will stray from your goals.

"As a girl I had zero interest in the stove." - Julia Child
This is real inspiration. Look what Julia became!
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