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Old 07-13-2013, 03:25 PM   #11
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If you want an account from someone who started from the bottom, check out Marco White's bio, The Devil in the Kitchen. He recounts his story of starting in the kitchen to becoming a 3 star Michelin chef.
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:30 AM   #12
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If you want an account from someone who started from the bottom, check out Marco White's bio, The Devil in the Kitchen. He recounts his story of starting in the kitchen to becoming a 3 star Michelin chef.
MPW irritates me almost more than any other chef/cook on television (Gordon Ramsay runs a close second). I want to slap him!

Years ago when he was first in the limelight he refused to allow salt and pepper on his restaurant tables and for throwing a tantrum if anyone asked for it. In fact, he famously threw one group of diners out of the restaurant for the "crime" of wanting to "spoil" his carefully prepared and tasted (his taste, of course) food with salt added at table. Shortly after this hit the press I read an article by Elizabeth David who, while carefully avoiding naming names, got quite cross about "arrogant" chefs who didn't take account of the different tastes of their customers.

How things change. He's now regularly on television in the UK advertising Knorr jellied stockpots and (shock, horror) Knorr stock cubes.
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:59 PM   #13
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MPW irritates me almost more than any other chef/cook on television (Gordon Ramsay runs a close second). I want to slap him!

Years ago when he was first in the limelight he refused to allow salt and pepper on his restaurant tables and for throwing a tantrum if anyone asked for it. In fact, he famously threw one group of diners out of the restaurant for the "crime" of wanting to "spoil" his carefully prepared and tasted (his taste, of course) food with salt added at table. Shortly after this hit the press I read an article by Elizabeth David who, while carefully avoiding naming names, got quite cross about "arrogant" chefs who didn't take account of the different tastes of their customers.

How things change. He's now regularly on television in the UK advertising Knorr jellied stockpots and (shock, horror) Knorr stock cubes.
Apparently Marco trained Gordon, who was/is quite a scrapper.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:08 PM   #14
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Apparently Marco trained Gordon, who was/is quite a scrapper.
Hmm. Interesting. I wasn't aware of that but it explains a lot.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:31 PM   #15
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I am going to get slaughtered now I expect, but I actually have a lot of time for Gordon Ramsay. He came from a very poor background and literally worked his way up. He's tough for sure, but he definitely knows his stuff. (He learned a lot while working for the Roux family - and they still talk highly of him). And he does support his staff. Many of his previous employees have gone on to run their own restaurants and have made names for themselves.

His TV persona is mostly just an act. (I have never met him, but he came to an office where I was working and met several of my colleagues and they all said he was completely charming and very polite.) That said, I wouldn't want to work for him!
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:40 PM   #16
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I am going to get slaughtered now I expect, but I actually have a lot of time for Gordon Ramsay. He came from a very poor background and literally worked his way up. He's tough for sure, but he definitely knows his stuff. (He learned a lot while working for the Roux family - and they still talk highly of him). And he does support his staff. Many of his previous employees have gone on to run their own restaurants and have made names for themselves.

His TV persona is mostly just an act. (I have never met him, but he came to an office where I was working and met several of my colleagues and they all said he was completely charming and very polite.) That said, I wouldn't want to work for him!
I really enjoy Gordon, even when he's doing his "thing" on Hell's Kitchen. And Marco's book gives a good perspective, both started out dirt-poor.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:49 PM   #17
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I really enjoy Gordon, even when he's doing his "thing" on Hell's Kitchen. And Marco's book gives a good perspective, both started out dirt-poor.

Even on HK, in amongst all the swearing and shouting - every so often you will see Gordon tell someone they have done a good job.

I think anyone who does well despite a very tough start in life, is worthy of recognition (if not respect).

(Oh and thanks for not slaughtering me!)
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Old 07-17-2013, 06:32 AM   #18
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Hey guys so I could really use some personal advice / first hand stories to help me hit the ground running. I have never worked in a kitchen besides a deli for 2 weeks. I am currently 23, I went to school for criminal justice, and currently I have been a graduate for close to a year now. I have bounced from random job to random job in that time. The one thing that has remained constant and if anything grown a stronger passion within me is food and cooking.

I've been telling myself for weeks now that I will go in and talk to some chefs. For some reason I have been hesitant to go into kitchens and apply. For whatever subconscious reason I just haven't done it yet. Does anyone have a suggestion on how I should approach this? Plus I don't know how the application process works, do I cook to show them if I can start as a line cook if I have no experience. Or just start as a dishwasher.

I'd also like to ask you guys for suggestions on books to get that I could read to substitute for going to culinary school. I just ordered "The Professional Chef CIA" because of some members on this forum.

So to sum up everything I'm a little terrified of this new beginning, but I think I have some real talent that just needs the right chef to hone my skills and give me the knowledge needed to develop as a cook.
Well, as someone who's spent most of his life working as a chef this is a topic I'm not sure how to tackle. Guess I'll just start from the start- it's not hard to get a job in a restaurant. In fact, it's one of the easiest jobs to get! A pretty good percentage of cooks work in the kitchen because they have too many facial tatoos or to long a criminal record to do anything else! Now, getting into a really good kitchen is harder. You will need some experience for that.

You can start out as dishwasher. But be advised, you're looking at minimum wage. How does that sound to you as a college grad? Not easy to pay off student loans on that pay. You can almost certainly work your way up the ladder. To be honest, many executive chef's began their careers in the dish pit.

After 25 years of working in the kitchen though I'm not sure I could in good conscience recommend cooking. The kitchen is hot and the hours are long. Do you like to watch football? Forget that! You'll be working Sundays and Thursday nights. Welcome to working Sunday brunch! Do you like the idea of working every big holiday? I've worked almost every Mother's Day and Easter for the last two decades. In fact, Mother's Day is the single most dreaded day among cooks. Wanna take your girl out for a nice Valentine's Day dinner? HA! You'll be stuck working the line til midnite.

The hours are brutal, you'll be working all the time that your friends are having a good time (think nights and weekends) and you're on your feet all day. If it's 90F in the kitchen then consider yourself lucky- that's on the cool side of how hot it gets.

For the most part you won't be hand crafting culinary masterpieces. You'll be cranking out dozens/hundreds of the same thing shift after shift, week after week. If I had a dime for every Cajun Chicken Linguine or Blackened Salmon Salad I've cooked over the last 25 years I'd buy my own island to retire to. You're always in a hurry and everything you need to sell a ticket needs to be up "yesterday." It can be pretty stressful.

Well, if this still sounds good to you, then either you're insane or you're ready to get a kitchen job. Heck, maybe both! Despite all the stuff I've said, cooking is the only job I've ever really loved. Another chef I know describes himself as a "Walrus"- on land they're huge, awkward and ungainly, they just don't fit in. But put them in the water and they can soar and dive! I'm at home when the rail is full and tickets are hanging down to the floor. There's a certain feeling of satisfaction knowing you're doing something not everyone is capable of doing. And it feels good to know that your cooking is making someone happy! The diner may be celebrating a birthday, or there on a first date. You just might have a hand in making someone's day really special.

Just be realistic. TV shows have really distorted people's perception of reality. Being a cook is very hard work. Like other fields it can be more who you know that what you know. It's not always fair. Still, it's roughly a meritocracy. If you work hard and stand out, you will get ahead.

The best way to get in to ask around and network. A good word in the right ear can go a long way. If any of your friends cook, ask them about openings. As a chef, the best hires are often the friends of their best cooks. If you get on at a very nice place, expect to start at the bottom...maybe below the bottom! Middle of the road places will offer you a few more opportunities to get into the thick of things right away. Avoid the real dives. The only thing you can learn there is how to develop speed. That can be useful but it doesn't matter how fast you can do something wrong.
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Old 07-17-2013, 01:26 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Rob Babcock View Post

Well, as someone who's spent most of his life working as a chef this is a topic I'm not sure how to tackle. Guess I'll just start from the start- it's not hard to get a job in a restaurant. In fact, it's one of the easiest jobs to get! A pretty good percentage of cooks work in the kitchen because they have too many facial tatoos or to long a criminal record to do anything else! Now, getting into a really good kitchen is harder. You will need some experience for that.

You can start out as dishwasher. But be advised, you're looking at minimum wage. How does that sound to you as a college grad? Not easy to pay off student loans on that pay. You can almost certainly work your way up the ladder. To be honest, many executive chef's began their careers in the dish pit.

After 25 years of working in the kitchen though I'm not sure I could in good conscience recommend cooking. The kitchen is hot and the hours are long. Do you like to watch football? Forget that! You'll be working Sundays and Thursday nights. Welcome to working Sunday brunch! Do you like the idea of working every big holiday? I've worked almost every Mother's Day and Easter for the last two decades. In fact, Mother's Day is the single most dreaded day among cooks. Wanna take your girl out for a nice Valentine's Day dinner? HA! You'll be stuck working the line til midnite.

The hours are brutal, you'll be working all the time that your friends are having a good time (think nights and weekends) and you're on your feet all day. If it's 90F in the kitchen then consider yourself lucky- that's on the cool side of how hot it gets.

For the most part you won't be hand crafting culinary masterpieces. You'll be cranking out dozens/hundreds of the same thing shift after shift, week after week. If I had a dime for every Cajun Chicken Linguine or Blackened Salmon Salad I've cooked over the last 25 years I'd buy my own island to retire to. You're always in a hurry and everything you need to sell a ticket needs to be up "yesterday." It can be pretty stressful.

Well, if this still sounds good to you, then either you're insane or you're ready to get a kitchen job. Heck, maybe both! Despite all the stuff I've said, cooking is the only job I've ever really loved. Another chef I know describes himself as a "Walrus"- on land they're huge, awkward and ungainly, they just don't fit in. But put them in the water and they can soar and dive! I'm at home when the rail is full and tickets are hanging down to the floor. There's a certain feeling of satisfaction knowing you're doing something not everyone is capable of doing. And it feels good to know that your cooking is making someone happy! The diner may be celebrating a birthday, or there on a first date. You just might have a hand in making someone's day really special.

Just be realistic. TV shows have really distorted people's perception of reality. Being a cook is very hard work. Like other fields it can be more who you know that what you know. It's not always fair. Still, it's roughly a meritocracy. If you work hard and stand out, you will get ahead.

The best way to get in to ask around and network. A good word in the right ear can go a long way. If any of your friends cook, ask them about openings. As a chef, the best hires are often the friends of their best cooks. If you get on at a very nice place, expect to start at the bottom...maybe below the bottom! Middle of the road places will offer you a few more opportunities to get into the thick of things right away. Avoid the real dives. The only thing you can learn there is how to develop speed. That can be useful but it doesn't matter how fast you can do something wrong.
Rob, what a wonderful, truthful account, and great advice! I really enjoyed reading it!
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Old 07-18-2013, 01:16 AM   #20
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It can be very satisfying but also frustrating at times. There's a lot of monotony and drudgery, at least with some jobs. But I really love the actual hands-on work of cooking food.
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