apprenticeship/internship advice in San Francisco

Discussion in 'General Culinary School Discussions' started by pestosound, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. pestosound


    Likes Received:
    Hi all,

    This is my first time posting here, but I've been searching through this forum for the past few months as I mull over my career changing options. It's been good to find so many different stories and questions from people dealing with similar situations.

    My basic story--I've been working in the film business (mainly as a sound editor) for the past 6 years. I'm increasingly burnt out on the sporadic, freelance nature of the work. So I'm looking toward the other passion/obsession that's been in the back of my mind for all this time. Hoping to find steadier, more physically active work, and hopefully a more sensible way to make a living in the Bay Area for years to come. And yes, I've read no shortage of reports on the modest pay I can expect, and I'm trying to remain realistic. :rolleyes:

    I just finished the weeklong "Adult Career Discovery" class at the CIA/Greystone and it was an encouraging experience overall. Definitely a beautiful place, fun to cook in such a well-appointed kitchen... Although I was gearing myself up for a long, intense time in the kitchen everyday, it ended up being about 3 hours of cooking each day. I guess there's really no way to experience a full shift in a busy professional kitchen until you're actually in that environment...

    So I'm definitely committed to finding some kind of apprentice/intern position in a San Francisco restaurant. Primarily to build my experience and get a sense of the demands of the work, also to decide whether or not I need to go through a long-term cooking school program in the future. However serious a home cook I may be, I really have no culinary experience on my resume so I feel like finding this first job is a major hurdle to overcome.

    Sorry for the long post! I'll try to summarize the issues I'm looking for advice on as I begin my search:

    1. Paid vs. unpaid? I've done my share of unpaid film work so I'd prefer to avoid it, but is offering to work for free really the best way to get into a respectable kithcen?

    2. How to contact the chef? From what I've read here and in "Becoming a Chef" it sounds like writing a formal letter (snail mail) is sometimes effective. But other people seem to say "just show up at the kitchen door!" I'm really not used to just showing up at a business and asking for work, but maybe that's more the norm in this industry?

    3. Building a resume. My resume lately was basically a list of credits/projects. But having no real restaurant experience to show on my resume, it seems like I would have to fill a resume with paragraphs on my "Objectives" etc. and try to highlight useful qualities from my (unrelated) past experience... Under those circumstances I feel like I should just put it all into a well written "cover letter" style document, and forego the resume. Should I still try to put together a resume for formality?

    4. I know this isn't really the place to solicit jobs, but if there's anybody out there in San Francisco/Berkeley/Oakland, etc. I would love to get in touch. I have precious few contacts in the industry and I hope to find out more about the realities of working in the Bay Area.

    Thanks again! This forum has been a great resource!

  2. ricib


    Likes Received:
    Hi David, for my first post here, I'll give you some advice based on the past year for me as a, well whatever you want to call me, Prep/line cook would be accurate at best.

    1 - Paid or unpaid, there's obvious advantages to both, unfortuantely they aren't actual advantages for you in both cases. They benefit you and the restaurant you are possibly going to work in. While some experience and not just a passion for cooking would be nice, it's not neccesary. In my case it had been 18 years since my last restaurant job. Getting in to a respectable kitchen may not be possible even working for free, but you don't know if you don't try.

    2 - How to contact the chef? Well, for me, I just went in and talked to him, he asked about my experience and I told him I didn't have much in the actual biz, BUT, I had a great passion and thought I was fairly decent at what I did. He took a chance on me, I was loyal to him personally, and he took me places I never imagined I'd ever eat at, to learn about the biz.

    3 - Building a resume. I'm pretty much starting out building my resume, and darend glad to have gotten a year under my belt. Here's the downside, at least for me. The place I still for the next few days work at, has driven me crazy, basically you are hired help, whether you wnat to believe it or not, and some places like the pace I'm at, will treat you as such. Some of the kitchen staff that have been there for nearly as long as you've been alive, will treat you like crud, knowing you will be gone long before they will.

    If you let it get to you like I did, before finally giving in and letting it get the best of me last week, your resume will likely be short. I resigned, not because I can't take being a prep/line cook, but because I can't stand working with people who are "better than me" in their mind. People who know they won't get fired, so will do as little as possible and leave you do do their work, knowing if you raise a stink about it, it makes you look bad to the "upper echelon" (sp?) of the kitchen. You have to be thick skinned and not take things personally, or you may very well end up like me, feeling burned out almost, after only a year.

    Be friendly with people, but don't try to make friends in the kitchen, there's almost no room as I found out. The Kitchen is cut throat, sadly. There's always someone to take your place, if you don't want it, or can't handle it. When someone tells you "NO one will miss you when you are gone", you'll know it's the right time to get out. For you.

    4 - Sorry, I'm in the midwest, so I'm no help there...

    I agree, this forum has taught me much while I lurked for a long time.

    Take care,