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Old 03-12-2008, 10:40 AM   #11
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I started at 15 flipping burgers at A&W then prep cook at a Pizza Hut. I worked at places until I mastered the job then would get a job at a better restaurant then a better one. That is how I learned I was lucky in the sense that I was a natural at it as well. I also worked at mom and pop bakeries which also came easy to me. I baked a lot when I was a kid as that was the only way to get sweet treats since my mother never bought ready made cookies etc. One thing you need to be really good at is measurements, fractions and how to use a scale as most restaurants have their standard recipes. You need to know how to double, triple and more with recipes. Ive seen people try to bake but did not know the difference between a quart and a cup they are doomed from the start. So if you can follow a recipe and know your measurements you might be able to start a simple prep cook job just the chopping etc making salad dressing. A proffessional prep cook can make sauces, soups you name it just as well as a chef. I think a pizza prep cook would be one of the easiest there you make pizza sauce, pizza dough, chop vegies cook off sausage, grate cheese and so on. It helps that you are efficient as well, no lolly gagging in the kitchen.
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Old 03-12-2008, 10:51 AM   #12
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Chrono I think it also depends where you live. If you are in/near a major city with alot of dining you may have better luck. Here in Philly it is fairly easy to land a cooking job in a small restaruant with out much or any experience (you may need to pad your resume a bit). There is alot of turnover so the jobs are always out there. All the culinary students want to work in the elite places but there are tons of quality small places... unlike NY and SF you could probably support yourself on a kitchen job too.... I dont know where you are or what your family situation is but if you are serious you may want to consider living/working in a city with a big dining culture.
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:26 AM   #13
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crono - do NOT pad your resume - let your passion and enthusiasm fill in your resume blanks!

Sorry Poncho - but you can't lie when it comes to cooking. Say he pads his resume - then he's asked to prep something as minor as a bunch of parsley - it will be obvious, even in something as simple as chopping a bunch of parsley, if he has EVER done it before!

There's nothing wrong with going into a job with the person in charge of the kitchen knowing you haven't done "this" before but knowing you want desperately to learn.
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:52 AM   #14
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elf I was not condoning lying on skills then you would be stewed but sometimes they wont glance at your res if you dont have any work experience at all.

You are right though.
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:57 AM   #15
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LOL - no problem. Experience does equal skill, knife or otherwise. Just trying to keep our friend on the up and up here.
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Old 03-12-2008, 12:22 PM   #16
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If you are passionate about cooking, take that passion with you and start calling around your area to local restaurants. Be sure to speak to the chefs and make appointments to see them personally. Arrive clean and be organized. A big part of cooking professionally is being well organized. Also...allow your intelligence to shine through at your meetings. Clear thinking is part of the game as well.

If you find a chef who is receptive to allowing you in his/her kitchen, you should reinforce that you are willing to do dishes and prep food. Washing, peeling organizing the fridges, tidying and just helping out is important. Don't wait to be asked to do something - look to see what the chef's needs are. In other words...be helpful. If the chef is busy in service and you come along and take his dirty pans for him without his asking...he will like that. Try to find ways to make his job easier.

Speed comes with practice. Whatever you do...do well and don't concern yourself with speed. However, don't make a career out of peeling a bag of carrots. Just pay attention to what you are shown and make some notes in a booklet for reference later.

If you are serious about learning...get out there and hit the pavement. Buy some books on cooking for the professional and study it. You will find these at culinary college book stores. You will need to know the terminology within professional cooking. Study up on this and then ask your chef questions when he isn't busy.

Also...when you have time to chill out at work, don't! Clean the kitchen! Clean the nooks and crannys and the areas that really need cleaning. This will impress a chef.

Lastly, don't think the chef isn't watching to see your potential. He/she will be.

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Old 03-12-2008, 02:59 PM   #17
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One word: dishwasher. If you can't handle, and not only that, be a fast and efficient dishwasher, don't even think about stepping on the line.
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Old 03-12-2008, 03:24 PM   #18
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I can't say that I agree. Sorry. I went to college for two years en route to becoming a chef and never spent a minute in the dish pit. I've been an Executive Chef in many restaurants and am currently that in a posh inn and banquet hall and I've never washed dishes for any length of time. I'm not a fast dishwasher but I'm an amazing chef.

The truth of the matter is that either you have it or you don't. School teaches the basics but in the end, you have the feel for food and cooking or you don't. That's not to say that skill cannot be gained over time, but the true artist has it inside to begin with.

I had a chef instrustor tell me once that you don't have to be the best cook in the kitchen to be a good Executive Chef, you have to be the best administrator. You want your best cook on the line. I agree with this in part. So, to be a great dish washer does not guarantee you will be a good cook.

Sorry to disagree.

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Old 03-12-2008, 03:32 PM   #19
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Wink

Quote:
Originally Posted by crono760 View Post
My questions are: without chef school, and with only about a year's experience cooking at home, would a restaurant hire me?

I've not taken any cooking school, nor do I really intend to, so is that a definite bad thing?
Yeah, but unlike you, this poster does not intend to go to culinary school. Because of that, the dishwashing route would be the best introduction and exposure to a professional kitchen, and the best indicator to test their tolerance level.
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Old 03-12-2008, 03:33 PM   #20
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Meh.

Having been everything from a line cook (garde manger to grill and saute) to sous and every role in the front-of-the-house you can imagine, I can honestly say that it takes a certain kind of person to just survive in the food service culture.

If you cherish your weekends and your sleep, go find something else to do. If you don't like harsh language or don't want to learn spanish, I'd seek elsewhere. If you're afraid of blood, sweat and the ridiculous hard work that produces them (along with your top-notch food), this life is probably not for you. If you tend to take things too personally in dealing with other people, if you're shy or easily overwhelmed by strong personalities, then most people in this industry will run you over and probably never even notice.

That being said, there are people (like myself) that literally thrive in this environment. If I hadn't been offered about double what I was making working in foodservice to go be a software engineer (I'm a man of several very intense talents), I'd still be doing it, and I STILL love going to Outback Steakhouses and chatting up the kitchen manager. I think I'll be an outbacker for life.

Be prepared for all the things I talked about as you start your culinary career, and more. It's very, very unforgiving, but I can't imagine a more rewarding way to earn a living if you truly love it and have what it takes to succeed.
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