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Old 05-06-2009, 11:36 PM   #1
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Help - Exploring the cooking profession

I've been curious lately on the possibility of getting into the cooking profession. I've read a few of the past threads which discusses the harsh realities of the profession but I'm thinking it may suit my personality and what I want to get out of a job. Before making any sort of commitments to culinary school/program, I was thinking of some way to gain a taste for the industry without having to quit my day job.

I have a full-time job which pays the rent but I've been looking for weekend work to make some extra money. I've been thinking about approaching local restaurants to see if they could use me during the weekends. Has someone done something similar to this or would I just be kidding myself? I wouldn't mind peeling potatoes all night long, just something that would get me a feel for the industry.

Comments would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 05-07-2009, 01:05 AM   #2
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I went to a community college, enrolled in a culinary program. During the first semester, i got a job at the local Holiday Inn, as a prep cook. I was able to observe quite a few jobs in that type of a kitchen, and did some interesting work. I never worked the line, mostly did prep, and pantry. It was eye-opening, and discovered that my feet just couldn't handle the job. I did 3 8-hr shifts Fri-Sun. It was good experience, but I just could not do the work, physically. You might want to try a large hotel with a big kitchen and see if they are hiring. You'll get to see a variety of jobs within a kitchen.
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Old 05-07-2009, 02:20 AM   #3
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I would even take a job dishwashing a few short shifts a week and just keep letting the chef know you are interested in possibly starting a cooking career, he wil either show you what its like or tell you if you have to ask its not for you. But keep in mind the horror stories of crazy hot kitchens, constantly on your feet, hunched over a cutting board for MINIMUM 8 hours, occasionally being yelled at, working in a crazy fast paced enviroment, working when everyone else in the world is having fun, and having fun while everyone else is sleeping, nice scars all up your forearms from burns, cutting a few fingers nearly off, are all a big part of the job. Anthony bourdain said it best though, ask a cook what the worst parts of the job are and he will tell you what I just told you, ask him what the best parts are and he will take another sip of beer and say the exact same thing.
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Old 05-07-2009, 10:32 PM   #4
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Wyogal,

May I ask what route you took when you after working at the hotel? Or did you decide the cooking profession was not for you.

As opposed to the traditional restaurant shifts, would cooking in an institutional environment (large corporate cafeterias for instance) with regular weekday shifts be an alternative??
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Old 05-08-2009, 12:13 AM   #5
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I took a different job, tutoring at the college, loved it. I am going to pursue private/personal chef stuff, I'd like to do classes at the local community college, maybe some adult ed. Working with local food pantries and soup kitchens interests me, too. I have a masters in music and would like to combine the two, Culture and Cuisine. I'm going to also pursue a part time job at a cafeteria, possibly the college, as well. I'm also a performing musician, and teach violin. I'm also going to try and tutor at the college here. So, between all of my part time stuff, I'll have a full schedule.
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Old 05-08-2009, 01:11 AM   #6
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Everything that has been said about a kitchen is absolutley true. A top Executive Chef in a top restaurant/club makes top dollar. No one else does. Country Club pay is better than a restaurant. A good restaurant pays better than a greasy spoon. Restaurant work is very often on concrete. If you work on concrete without good leather shoe that has an excellent arch support and you do not replace them every six months you will blow your knees and hips before you are 50. Twelve hours in any restaurnat - regardless of the job - is grueling. Double shifs are the norm. You have to have a love for food and the patience of job when everything goes wrong which a restaurant is wont to do any day and every day. And you have to be prepared - willing of not - to work on your day off and every weekend of every year and when you are so tired you can't move. If you got it you'll find it, and if you don't you never will..When you are the Exec the restaurant is your wife, your mistress, your family and your life.

Hell's Kitchen is made for TV. A good Exec has more control over his kitchen than what you see on that show. Screaming cooks and screaming managers do not keep quality help.

Start on dishes, Be observant and learn from the ground up while you go to school. There is an excellent old movie you should see if you can find it. "Who's Killing the Great Chefs in Europe? They storyline as it unlolds is who puts the bomb in the Bombe (a dessert consisting of two or more layers of variously flavored ice cream frozen in a round or melon-shaped mold.

Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes - NYTimes.com.
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Old 05-08-2009, 06:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
I would even take a job dishwashing a few short shifts a week and just keep letting the chef know you are interested
That would be my suggestion also. In this economy, I would not quit a paying day job to venture into a culinary career without trying it out first. Working in the dish pit will give you a good idea of what happens, and could land you a prep job. As for peeling potatoes, I peeled, cut and roasted almost 100 lbs on Wednesday, and loved every minute of it. I hope you find something.
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Old 05-08-2009, 01:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linicx View Post
Everything that has been said about a kitchen is absolutley true. A top Executive Chef in a top restaurant/club makes top dollar. No one else does. Country Club pay is better than a restaurant. A good restaurant pays better than a greasy spoon. Restaurant work is very often on concrete. If you work on concrete without good leather shoe that has an excellent arch support and you do not replace them every six months you will blow your knees and hips before you are 50. Twelve hours in any restaurnat - regardless of the job - is grueling. Double shifs are the norm. You have to have a love for food and the patience of job when everything goes wrong which a restaurant is wont to do any day and every day. And you have to be prepared - willing of not - to work on your day off and every weekend of every year and when you are so tired you can't move. If you got it you'll find it, and if you don't you never will..When you are the Exec the restaurant is your wife, your mistress, your family and your life.

Hell's Kitchen is made for TV. A good Exec has more control over his kitchen than what you see on that show. Screaming cooks and screaming managers do not keep quality help.

Start on dishes, Be observant and learn from the ground up while you go to school. There is an excellent old movie you should see if you can find it. "Who's Killing the Great Chefs in Europe? They storyline as it unlolds is who puts the bomb in the Bombe (a dessert consisting of two or more layers of variously flavored ice cream frozen in a round or melon-shaped mold.

Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes - NYTimes.com.




Oh man, I laughed hard at this. It is soooooo true. DW is a certified chef with a lot of education and experience but does not work in the kitchen anymore ... and for good reason. It will beat you down, and if you're a woman, even more so. I say this because she told me most male chefs are not only very egotistical and arrogant, but they are very chauvinistic in the form of "the kitchen is a man's world and not a woman's as you think." You will cut the ends of your fingers off getting your knife skills up and you will get the s**t burnt out of you many times from hot grease, water, pans, grills, racks, careless coworkers, etc ... almost everything in a kitchen is hot and you will feel that. The temperature in a professional kitchen is over 100 degrees (F) at all times. And the pay sucks unless you are top dog, so I hope you live near a major metropolitan area that has places large enough and popular to offer you top dollar, because most of you average places wont pay you over $15/hour if you're lucky or the Exec or Sous as has been mentioned You basically do this because you love food. You wont have nights or weekends off anymore either, it's much like the medical field in that respect ... business is open in most places 7 days a week 360-365 days a year from 5 am to midnight or later in some places. People are grumpy when they're hungry too, it's a thankless job most of the time.

I only have a little experience in a kitchen not at home and I say hats off to anyone who sticks with it and excels.
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Old 05-08-2009, 01:33 PM   #9
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I've been curious lately on the possibility of getting into the cooking profession.
What do you mean? Chef/cook for a restaurant? caterer? commercial food service? Research and Development? The field is very wide, and there are lots of choices.

Guessing you are talking about becoming a "chef," which is the hot thing, these days. First of all, if you have not worked in a restaurant, you would be well served to trail a chef for a day or two, and if that looks exciting, get yourself a job in a restaurant either as a potato peeler or a dish dog. You need to spend several months in a professional kitchen to find out if it is really your thing before you invest penny one in training.

Professional kitchens have about as much in common with home kitchens as kids riding bikes have with competing in the Tour de France!
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Old 05-08-2009, 01:53 PM   #10
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LOL. A lot of good advise here. Actually made me laugh out loud.
Best so far, stick with your full time day job. The economy is too tight to mess around with quitting. Second best, get a PT job in a restaurant that serves the kinds of food you're interested in. Indian? Mexican? All American? Tell them that you'll do anything and the hours you can work. But, don't be surprised if you can't get in the door right now. You may have to wait awhile. People are more interested in getting rent/mortages paid than going out to eat and the industry is hurting like everyone else.
Good luck.
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