It's official! ~ I become a Pastry Chef on Monday!!!!
Sunday is my last day of being a short order cook!
A few months ago, a job lead came my way from a family friend who is neighbors with a financial backer of this terrific new restaurant opening up in the Southern burbs of Chicago. Though it was quite a far drive for me, I used to drive by the place just waiting for the "now hiring" sign to be hung. About a month ago, I saw the sign and went in for an application. As luck would have it, the Sous Chef was there. He was overseeing the construction of the kitchen. The restaurant was very much in the building stage at this point. I had every intention of just picking up an application and leaving, but the Chef asked me if I had time for an interview. I agreed. After I filled out the ap, we chatted. With the sounds of saws going off and hammers slamming in the background, he asked me the standard interview questions. I answered them. He then stepped up the questioning to delve into French cooking techniques. I answered them. He smiled and we talked about my education and why a Le Cordon Bleu grad was working as a short order cook. I explained to him that the lack of experience killed me when I went to get a cooking job upon graduation. (I never cooked professionally before I went to cooking school.) He understood. He told me he has been in my shoes. He was impressed with the length of time I've been at my current job (13 months) and asked why I was leaving. I told him I needed to make more important food then the type served at 3 am in burger baskets to mostly inebriated and rude people. I told him all I ever wanted to be was a part of something special. I told him all I ever wanted to be was a chef. I told him that being a short order cook has done wonders for my speed and multitasking abilities, but I didn't want to be a lonely graveyard shift short order cook anymore. I wanted to be a part of a team that was into making fantastic food as much as I was.
After a few more questions and smiles, he thanked me for coming in. He offered his hand and told me that they would be in touch. As I stood up from the table we were seated at, I asked him if we (the cooks) would be wearing full uniforms here. He looked at me puzzled. I then asked more specifically if we wore chef checks and white chef coats. He nodded, smiled and asked why I asked that. I told him that I couldn't wear those things where I cook now. I told him I get made fun of if I wear my coat. He looked me in the eyes and asked if I really was as passionate as I was coming off as. Without hesitation, I told Chef this. "Chef, when I go to sleep at night, I dream of music, women and saute pans." He nodded, smiled and asked me to once again have a seat. He got on the phone with someone. About 10 minutes later, he and another man approached me. The other man introduced himself as the GM. The Sous Chef told me that he was on the phone with the Executive Chef. He told me that Executive Chef didn't want me leaving the front doors without being an employee. The GM talked money with me. We worked out a wage and I shook both of their hands firmly, many times over. I could not have smiled any bigger. I was asked to come in the following day to fill out tax documents and meet the Executive Chef. On the drive home, I was screaming my head off the entire way. This is the break I've been looking for.
When I arrived the next day, the Executive Chef asked me some more questions, but not the usual interview questions. He was looking for something deeper than that. We talked about art. We talked about creativity. We talked about baking. He asked me how I felt about pastries. I told him that my degree was not in pastries, but I do enjoy making them very much. I told him that the pastry curriculum in my culinary program was very extensive, but did not include laminated doughs, pulled sugars and wedding cake assembly. He smiled and understood. He told me that whatever he wanted me to create for him at the restaurant would basically be taught to me anyway. He just wanted to make sure he had the right person to teach. He wanted passionate people. He asked if I was his guy. I told him I was and I darn near hugged him. We shook hands again and I filled out my tax forms. Before I left, I asked Chef if he could guarantee me a full two week notice I can give to my employer before I was expected to start working for him. He assured me that he would do that. (He also told me that I was the first new hire to ask him that favor.) As I was getting my coat on, I asked Chef if there was anything I would be expected to have down walking into the job, like pastry cream, creme anglese, lemon curd, creme chantilly, pate a choux, etc. etc. etc. I told him I made (and can make) those things, but it's been some time since I had. He said something like, "RJ, if you have enough sense to ask me something like that, I have all the confidence in the world that you will do fine in my kitchen." I left the restaurant and went directly to the baking and cooking store near my place. I spent $125 on new pastry bags and tips. I have been climbing the walls ever since.
12 days ago, Chef made good on his word. He called me and told me to go forward on giving my 2 week notice. My last day at my current job is Super Bowl Sunday. My first day at the new place is the following Monday. (Orientation and training I am guessing. The grand opening is a few weeks away.)
I am all smiles. :D :D :D :D :D
I know in the scheme of things I am still a newbie here, but I have made some very good friends here. I wanted to share my good news with you but did not want to do so until I knew it was 100% official.
The countdown has started. I can see the finish line. I so cannot wait.
Wish me luck my fellow foodies. When the website goes live, I'll post a link. This place is massive.