cooking in NYC?

Joined Jun 28, 2010
I've always been interested in moving to New York city, and with working in restaurants that desire has only grown. I get bored on our slow nights, and really strive off being busy. Some events in my life have recently changed, and I think it may be time to just move to the city within the next few months. Anyone have experience in the city? I assume it's gotta be somewhat easy getting a job in one of the restaurants, but like i've stated before I'd really like to get a job at a high volume, nicer restaurant. but anywhere that I can continue to learn is a good thing, and I'm willing to wait and work my way up.. I just really want to make sure that finding some employment there early will be possible, and am I correct in assuming NYC restaurants are almost always busy compared to a normal city? Also just if anyone has any advice on living in the city, what do I really need to bring.. I'm expecting to basically bring a backpack and $1000, maybe hopefully find a co-worker to squat with for awhile or something... any of this sound probable to anyone besides me? Thanks
Joined Jan 16, 2011
Look at rent on Craigslist etc. before you make the actual move.  Finding someone to squat with for a few weeks sounds good, but sooner or later you will have to get a place with your own money and that can be tough on what restaurants pay cooks.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Your $1000.00 covers first monthes rent .Now you need security deposit and Oh Yea some money to eat and have a beer. Please have a job lined up if possible before you go. Good Luck
Joined Jun 28, 2010
I wouldn't be getting an apartment any time soon that is one absolute positive. I'm young, can easily work 2 jobs and get my way up. One of the reasons I posted this thread is in hopes someone here has done it, or at least done NYC on the cheap. I've heard of seedy hotels with communal bathrooms that have rooms for $150/week but I haven't found any. I'm fine with seedy, and living like crap for awhile because quiet honestly I don't expect to be "home" much, just a place to sleep, then i'll be working/exploring. I don't think $1000 could get you an apartment anywhere. I know it can't here. I'm 24, I've lived some, had my own apartment. My engine blew a week ago, public transportation around here sucks. I missed my first day of work ever at this place, it'd been about 11 months and they fired me for it. I know cooks don't call out, but shit happens. I missed seeing my grandmother on her deathbed, or her funeral to work for this place.

I was planning on moving to New York sometime this summer anyways, this has just kind of hastened the idea because if I stay around here, I have to walk about an hour each way to any job, then if I'm doing two jobs that walking really eats at the day. Also stay here, I'm going to have to get my car fixed sooner or later, I know its not optimal conditions but I do feel with a little help/luck I can do it.
Joined Jan 16, 2011
Frist of all -- my apologies -- I posted in this forum though I am not a pro because I saw the title and wanted to offer some advice from the perspective of having lived in NYC for close to 30 years.

Second of all -- very sorry to hear about your job.  Things not under our control happen.  You caught a bad break.  I'm sure we've all been there and all feel for you.

Back to the topic.

The most important thing about New York is that it's NOTHING like what you see on TV.  All these shows about New York or set in New York are written by people about their experiences from ten or more years ago.  For example, the show How I Met Your Mother has characters going to Lazer Tag.  There was exactly one place in New York that had Lazer Tag and it closed in 2002 or 2003.  It was written by guys about their experiences from the 90's.  Friends?  That's like another 10 years before that -- written by people about their experiences in the 80's, and whatever you see about New York on TV is from the New York of many years ago, before the real estate boom hit and drove housing prices through the roof in all but the most distant neighborhoods.  The market dove in most parts of the country, but it has barely dipped in New York.

There *are* cheap places to live.  However it's not safety but time that is the concern.  You can take a room with a few roommates in the outer boroughs, but it will then take you an hour and change each way (and that is actually not too bad -- some commutes might take 90 minutes, if they involve a bus ride to the subway) to get to your job.  This would make it difficult to get to your two jobs.  On top  of that you get to pay $2.50 per leg of the trip for the honor, more if you end up living somewhere that requires "Express Bus" (not part of the regular MTA bus network) service.

In Manhattan, a straight studio closet of an apartment will run you well over 1K a month (an alcove in any kind of a decent neighborhood in Manhattan will be 2-4K a month).  Considering that line guys generally get like $12 an hour to start, it is going to be HARD.  From what you're saying, you seem to think that it would be easy to get a place in the city where you can walk to your two jobs easily.  This is not a realistic expectation, and would require a lot of luck for it to happen.  Cheap residences are located in spots with fewer restaurants and such, and vice versa.

I am not trying to talk you out of it.  I just would like you to know what things are like before you drop everything and trekked into the city.  At the very, very least, line up a job first.  Start calling places to ask for jobs and find someone to room with before you do it.  And look for rooms and try to have some kind of a working budget before you make the trip.  Fortune favors the prepared.
Joined Jan 16, 2011
Oh yeah the really seedy places in Manhattan that have very cheap space?  Yes they exist.  But they are generally occupied by illegal immigrants who will probably not be eager to have someone from outside their particular community moving in with them.  They post notices in their own newspapers in their own languages or just through word of mouth.  Won't be easy to find.  And the safety factor always dips way low when you're dealing with people who aren't even supposed to be in the country to begin with, who can disappear very easily without notice whatsoever.
Joined Jul 28, 2001

    I'm the last person here to tell you not to go. NY is home for me. I was in your position and younger than you. I took off with backpack, Armyboots and ended up in Florida,then to Europe etc. My 20 yr old spends a month every summer packing europe.

I loved the adventure!

  You really need to take a step backwards and put your energies into doing some more planning. Lack of a plan is increasing you odds of failure.

You need to budget!!!!! and have a back up plan. The streets are not friendly.

Have a trip ticket back home in you sox.  You're online. So budget housing.Reserve maybe 25 nights at a Hostel @ 25. probably be dorm but you'll probably be bunking with tourists.  Transportation, research now how much unlimited bus, subway, monthly passes are.  Mark your trails now. Research restaurants now. Know where you are heading when you venture out into other bouroughs. I don't know, just be careful. Be aware preditors. I lost everything in Zurick one time and it was rough.

Just an old foodie trying to look out for the young foodie.

Best of luck to you.


Couch surfing is tough in this economy. Bus, subway, lockers are a good, cheap, place to store your gear.
Joined Jan 1, 2001
One thing to keep in mind is that 1 1/2 hours north of NYC is the CIA which churns out a class of culinary graduates every 6 months or so. They are mostly bound for NYC, probably already familiar with the culinary and housing landscape and willing to work their way up, just as you are. 

The reality is that it's not as easy to land a job cooking in NYC as you might think. When my husband and I moved here 15 years ago he had over 15 years experience as a sous and executive chef in fine dining, high concept and 4 diamond hotels. The best hourly wage he could find at the time was12.50 with no benefits. He was completely unable to find a salaried position.

The lower tier of restaurant workers (dishwashers, simple prep cooks etc) are often filled by word of mouth from a network of hard working immigrants whose documentation can often be questionable. 

My advice would be to narrow down the kind of culinary job you'd like to work and then focus on landing that job before you make the move. You might find success finding a job in catering or in upscale markets or in food media. Take a look at what's listed on as a start.
Joined Apr 22, 2011
Hi, I'm a noob at this forum but I've been cooking in NYC for almost four years.

1.) You need to move here first. There is no way you can score a quality gig without trailing. Line cooks can rarely afford Manhattan. And no, it does not necessarily take an hour to travel to and from and outer borough. I live in Queens and it takes me 20-30 minutes to get to midtown. Look in Queens, as Brooklyn is pricing out blue collar workers fast. I know of a cook who just lost a roommate. Rent is $800 each. Look on the roommates wanted section of Craigslist for more.

2.) There are no lockers in public transportation systems since 9/11.

3.) I think having a quality NYC restaurant on your resume would be awesome. You can't work two jobs, because most restaurants will require you to work at forty to sixty hours a week, sometimes doubles (but you get overtime).

4.) Don't be deterred by CIA kids. Most of them quit cooking once they realize the hours are long and the pay sucks (apparently they don't teach you the realities in school). I didn't go to culinary school and worked in a NY Times 3 star restaurant and just this week trailed at a four star one. The turn over rate in NYC is very high because it's difficult to find reliable, hardworking people without attitude. It is VERY EASY to find a line cook position in NYC. Yes, even at high end places. Look on Craigslist. The longest it has taken me to get offered a position is one week. Look towards corporate restaurant groups to get even better perks like paid vacation and insurance: Danny Meyer, Craft, Patina, Livanos Group, etc. It's a good time to be a cook in NYC as new and notable places open up every week.

Please feel free to PM me with questions! Good luck!
Joined Apr 3, 2011
I think its a fantastic idea.  I did the same thing 5 years ago and don't regret it.  Here's my advice, that is taken from my experience:


I got there with a girlfriend with a car full of our stuff and stayed in some seedy motel in Jersey City for a week (as I started my job at Tabla, R.I.P.) until we found an apartment.  Granted you'll be going solo, so my advice is, yes, check craigslist in the temporary/sublet sections and get a spot.  Even if its crashing in the living room somewhere.  Don't worry about it being your dream situation.  You can work that out later. I personally loved brooklyn (park slope south to be exact), and rooms are affordable and close enough to the city.


Pick 5 restaurants that roll with the style of food, service, volume, etc you want.  Hound them for trails. Either call, email or just drop by these places and ask to trail (or say work for free, who doesn't love that?).  Just tell them you're ready to put your head down and work and learn. And fuck those CIA kids, half can't cut an onion while the other half thinks they're too good to do so.  If you got decent skill, work clean and fast and take direction you shouldn't have that hard of a time finding a job, even if it's something to just bring in some cash while you find your niche.  We all know restaurants are always looking for good help so it shouldn't be too hard.  And again, don't dismiss Brooklyn.  They have amazing restaurants outside the city that can compare with Manhattan spots.  Yeah, they're smaller and probably less intense, but the food can fucking rock.

Get a monthly metro card.  Shits expensive these days, but if you're going to be taking the subway more than 2 times a day, its worth its hefty price tag.   Say you're cruising for jobs in different areas of the city, you leave home, visit 2 or 3 restaurants, and go back home, you're looking at $10 for transportation.

I could write more, but then i'd probably just bore you.  Good luck and let us know how it goes.
Joined Jan 10, 2007
Hey, I can help you out, I do personal chef services as well as cooking classes in the NYC area, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, NJ and Staten Island.. I am in the process of getting a helper for the summer months. Private message me and we'll see what we can work out , if you're interested. I live in Brooklyn..
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