I basically bulldozed my way into what I thought was a 'prep cook' job at a local restaurant - had been assisting and teaching cooking classes before that. When I got to work, I found out I was in charge of the pantry! (In restaurant kitchens, that's the station that does aps, salads, dressings, desserts). Talk about learning on the fly! Fortunately I had a great crew to work with.
Went from there to a big catering outfit (more money, better hours), and learned tons more from their head chef, who trained in Europe. Was during this gig that my son was in an accident, sustained a spinal cord injury - so I had to leave there, and was out of commission for three years while he was still in the critical phases of his condition, and we had no help in the house for him at all.
Started back with a small caterer, doing small weddings, parties - she told me we would pretty much divide the work evenly, but it ended up that I was doing everything but the desserts - imagine two days prep for a 100 person wedding party - aps, sauces, main course, sides - done by one person! She was so disorganized I couldn't deal it.
So started doing just very small catering jobs 'under the radar', for friends and hubbie's boss in NYC.
Since we've moved to SC, haven't done anything at all, other than party cooking for friends and family.
I've had 3 cooking job's and they all taught me something:
Winterplace ski resort: I was making burgers, fries, pizza and stuff like that for 5000+ guests that the mountain had at a time. Sometimes my plastic gloves would melt onto my hands from the heat of the fries and I wouldent even notice till I had to peel my gloves off during my break. Made employee of the week my first month there.
Big easy cajun: I wanted to get closer to my cajun heritage (from my mothers side) but they didint let me cook there since I had the best english out of everyone (including the managers who where chinese) so I was the "Liason" between me and the customers and of course I washed thousands of dishes.
Marche Movenpick: the only job I've ever cried over when I left it. I took over the "salad" station and latter the "pasta station" and well I became a rock star while I was there. I was allowed to cook food right in front of the customer so I started flipping my omelettes high into the air and developed a bunch of fancy tricks to impress our drunken guests (we opened late so lot's of rich people went there after clubbing). Also since I was face to face with the customer and never supervised I was allowed to develop my own "flavor" and cook stuff on the fly. For example I would get a lot of indian and arabic customers who wanted LOTS of vegetables, LOTS of pepper and no meat so I would build their dishes completly from scratch and run around stealing what I needed from different stations. Of course I was getting cheated in a dozen ways there so I filed a report on all the corruption and left. It REALLY broke my heart but I needed to move on.
My only foray into 'professional' cooking was a short-order cook at a family restaurant. The girls who served the customers were a really great group and we became friends instantly. Same with the high school kids that washed dishes and helped cook. The only problem was that the lady (I use the term VERY loosely) who owned the joint was there all day, every day and was constantly messing my tickets up so that I would lose track of what was going where and she never had a nice thing to say about anybody. She was a mean, spiteful b*tch, really. After a few months of that I said "Sayonara" and left. To prove that there is justice in the world, the restaurant closed, was bulldozed and a brand new Wendy's sits in it's place today. That was one woman who had no business running a business.
I worked albeit briefly as a second on a line at a local resturant, the guy that I ended up working with and quitting because of was an arrogant cuss, not to mention lazy, untalented and well [sorry fellas] an atypical alpha male. The manager was not much different, with the exception of delegating work then taking ALL the credit. Bad BAD managment in my eyes. My little HA HA HA was after I quit HE was fired. [yes people there IS justice in this world] I have since honed my skills in my own kitchen and have gotten IMOHO to be pretty dang good at it. I am currently looking to get back into a resturant kitchen doing what I have a passion for, cooking! Wish me luck!
I have cooked for large groups of people (at least large to me, a crowd in excess of 200, for a week, and the same for a weekend, and then there's the anual pancake breadfast at our church which brings in between 80 and 100), multiple times and by request. But it was voluntary.
In 17 years of cooking professionally I have probably seen almost everything you can see. I've seen brilliance of people who have a gift, and I have seen the failure of "know it all" CIA grads, who couldn't boil water without reading a book.
It's a tough business, not for everybody. The pay isn't great, you work for the love and art of cooking. It is definitely hard to find the "Perfect" job, but if you do...it can be a great experience.
I have been cooking for 17 years...but have been on the management/chef end for almost 10 years. Have done upscale cuisine, short order work, banquet work, anything you could probably do besides owning a place (I have a 3-5 year plan on that). I do have a year of culinary school under my belt, but because of illness, I haven't had the finances to finish.
Over the years, I have learned from a lot of great people, many things, and have showed some great chefs, new things. I'm in it for the long haul...whether good or bad...this is my passion, this my life.
I worked at a couple of restaurants while I was in college. Not a big deal, mostly just burgers, fries, milkshakes, and filling the salad bar, etc. The most fun I had was when I tended bar for a semester. Currently, other than cooking myself, I cook corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day for about 50 people, a BBQ or two at work for at least 100 people, and a spaghetti or taco feed here and there.
I cooked for 3 years in one of the top 2 restaurants in our area. I absolutely lived and breathed it - adored it - loved it - was glad when it was over Hard work - very rewarding - but not condusive to normal living for a single mother.
I was once a short-order cook for Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That lasted for about a year, and I found out later that I had quite a following for my grilled cheese sandwich.
In one semester, I went from being the new guy to basically running the place. It was a lot of fun.
I've spent most of my working life in the kitchen, starting as a wee lad as a dish dog. I worked my way up thru the ranks cooking in fast food and tourist traps til I landed in a family style joint. Eventually I moved here where I eventually became the kitchen manager for one of the nicer restaurants in SooFoo, and later served as the chef for a major hotel property.
I got out of the biz for about four years, during which time I worked in credit card collections. Once I'd had all I could take of that, I decided to get back to "real work." I recently started for a local "chain" (not a franchise, but they're expanding quickly). Pretty nice place. Soon I'll have to decide whether or not to go back to school (my #1 plan at the moment) or rededicate myself to the restaurant biz (which would entail getting back to chef'ing/management).
Right now it's just good to be working at something I like again. I figure the future will sort itself out. 8)
I started working fast food as a kid. Did a 3-month stint at a major camp kitchen feeding 1200 folks every meal. Got out of the food biz and worked at JCPenny's for a few years (great benefits, lousy managers). Went back into the fast food places for a few years. Then, I moved out of my parent's home, and started cooking for myself. Realized I had a knack for it, so I started going to college for a Culinary Arts degree. Quit the fast food joints and went to work in a real restaurant, a cajun place. Then went to a country club, and worked there for 4 1/2 years. Moved to Michigan to be with my now DW for the birth of our kids. Started working at a steak house. Then, I went to another country club, at which I'm still working.