Do I have it in me to be a professional chef?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by slickbooty17, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. slickbooty17

    slickbooty17

    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    I love to cook and have recently wanted to pursue a career as a chef. My friend had just gotten promoted to jr sous so he was kind enough to score me a job training as a prep cook. I have no culinary experience other than occasional home cooked meals when I have the money. My chef recently cut my hours and gave me a couple days in dish pit cause I don't work fast enough. My work isn't horrible but at the same time I'm learning all these new things. Admittedly I am a bit slow and my knife cuts suck right now. My question is, am I getting in everyone's way and should I just quit or is it still possible to be a chef and not have super sonic speed? I'm not moving slow to the point where I'm holding everyone back but I am the new guy and I can tell the chef wants to get rid of me. The dishwasher has told me he didn't see me being a good chef anyways and that I make a much better dishwasher lol
     
  2. maghiritza

    maghiritza

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    Let me assure you: every 'new' person gets treated like a little bitch in the beginning, wether its a trained chef or a newbie. So you gotta suck it up and work through that first shitty period where you will get nasty chores and such.
    Speed is something that goes hand in hand with confidence, if you feel confident in your work, your speed will automatically pick up. So you just gotta do the thing you lack speed in over and over untill it goes on autopilot.

    Getting in everyones way is logical if you dont know the kitchen that well, its up to you to find the current and rythym and go along with it. Try to determine wich places in the kitchen have the most traffic and make sure you never stand still there. In a kitchen you gotta take as little room as possible with everything you do. If you want to stand still, find that corner in the kitchen where its possible. But preferably never stand still since the work in a kitchen is never done.

    Dont worry if it feels like they are trying to get rid of you. It is a way of testing if you got what it takes. See yourself as the lowest rank in a military outfit and work your way up by earning your stripes.

    Some other useful tips:
    - always say 'behind' when you walk behind somebody. Even if you think theyve seen you.
    - if you cook, taste everything, from the raw veggies till the sauce, taste everything. But dont use a finger but use a clean spoon.
    - try to spot work that needs to be done rather than asking or waiting for work. And if you do something, do a little extra. For example if you are ordered to clean dishwashing corner, dont only clean the work areas, also give the walls a wipe, that kind of stuff.

    Being a chef is not only "loving to cook". It is being able to work under stress, juggle different orders and cooking times in your head, working ahead and together and communicate everything. Even if you think its kinda stupid to say something, just do it. Communication is key!

    Dont give up. Every cook/chef has been there and its up to you to suck it up and keep on working your ass off. It is a very exhausting job but so rewarding! You can do it!
     
    jvkolich likes this.
  3. slipp000

    slipp000

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    I was at the level you are at only 2 years ago. I know exactly what it is like and so does every chef reading this. You always have to start at the bottom and work hard to get to the next level and you only will when you're ready.

    For now I wouldn't worry about learning much about food, learn to be clean and organised, how to take order and how to be fast on prep jobs like peeling potatoes. Turn up for work early and well presented and always make yourself useful. If it's a quiet night and all the potwash is done then go and check the date labels in the fridge or pull out some counters and do some deep cleaning.

    The first year is all about learning discipline, the second is about becoming a cook. I've been a chef for 2 years and have gone from dishwasher to confident line cook and the only way to do is to have a thick skin, take the bollockings when they come and say yes chef and learn from my fuck ups.

    Also if you want to make your chef happy then clean clean clean until you're sick of it, I promise you he will value you if he sees you can clean his kitchen.
     
    jvkolich likes this.
  4. someday

    someday

    Messages:
    1,614
    Likes Received:
    388
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Nobody ever became a chef if they quit at the first sign of adversity. 

    Is it possible that you don't have what it takes to be a chef? Yes, it is possible. There's not really any way we can answer that question for you since we know nothing about you other than what you posted. 

    But everyone who starts out in the kitchen starts out slow, useless and clumsy. My main advice would be to MOVE FASTER. This is going to sound dumb, but keep an egg timer at your station and time yourself. Time how long a task takes you to complete (say, peeling a case of onions). Then, the next time you peel onions, try to beat your time. How long did it take you to clean and blanch that case of haricot vert? Be better next time. Moving faster takes focus...especially at first. It's easy to get lulled into moving slow during a repetitive task...you have to FOCUS and maintain your speed. 

    How did it feel getting kicked to the dishpit? You should be fighting to never feel that feeling again. Prove yourself to the chef that you are worthy...he/she didn't fire you outright, so maybe that is good. They might see something in you to cultivate, maybe they are just trying to motivate you into kicking it into gear. 

    Learn to multitask. Do things that take a long time, but don't need constant attention first. Get the stock reducing, get the braises in to the oven. Caramelize the onions, first...because as the onions are browning, you can be shucking peas, or dicing ratatouille, etc. 

    Every chef will tell you, it can always be done 1)better 2)faster 3)cleaner. Make it a focus of your day to day, minute to minute work life. How can I be better than yesterday? Think ahead. 

    Limit your steps. If you go to the dry storage for something, THINK AHEAD to later in the prep day, and grab other things that you know you will need. Save yourself the trip later. If I see a cook go to grab a pair of tongs, then go grab a mixing bowl, then go grab a sixth pan, instead of grabbing all of them at once...they will definitely hear about it. 

    Try to limit mistakes (duh). If you make a mistake, maybe that is OK, but if you keep making the SAME MISTAKE, we'll have a problem. Learn from your errors, and try not to repeat them. 
     
  5. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,190
    Likes Received:
    553
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Oh man and here I have been thinking I was all unique, come to find out other people do that as well. Oh well. too late to change now. :~)

    As has also been mentioned...multi-task. A big part of multi-tasking is no empty handed trips. If you take dirty dishes to the dish pit, bring back clean ones. If you go to put something away in the walk-in, bring something back that you will need for your next prep job. Etc. etc. etc. Never just stand there, always being doing something. Use your initiative to find something, there is always something that needs doing. While working, observe others and their stations to see and learn from what and how they do what they do.

    When I have someone new in my kitchen, I keep my third eye peeled to see if they do these things. If they do, they are keepers because they have the basics down and the right attitude. Skills will come, but they need a solid foundation already in place upon which to build in order to contribute from day one and be a valuable member of the team.

    Contribute, learn. Contribute, learn. Repeat as often as needed and necessary. Make yourself too valuable to lose.
     
  6. chef brah

    chef brah

    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    Culinary Student
    as someone whos new in this industry...i was very scared so i will  share what i feel and maybe u can relate.....i quit a high paying advertising job to pursue this btw...but i have been cooking since i am 20...i am 27 now

    - its a harsh environment and u will make tons of mistake...i overcooked batch of pudding once....got scolded in front of everyone...instead of feeling bad..focus on fixing the mistakes and not taking it personally....next time i made the best batch.

    - you have to enjoy the adrenaline rush of tickets coming in....for me its almost an addiction...i enjoy nothing more when i am plating 8 dishes and suddenly 6 more come in and i switch in different gear...my hands develop brain of their own...but i ve been a biker and i love that adrenaline rush...i am also used to working crazy hours from my days in advertising...i have worked 200 cover nights and loved every minute of the chaos..because it helps me grow

    - try to learn how to work efficiently from your chef....how to deal with tickets, how to mark them to avoid confusion, which bowl to use for which purpose...mise en place to work efficiently.

    - being in weeds...this is your biggest test...i would call for help if i sensed piling up of orders or stuff running out...when first time i experienced this...it was a very scary experience.

    - Pay....this is one issue which bugged me...it took a toll on my self esteem that i will be earning less than most of my friends now...and girls i go on date with earn more than me now....yes it bothers u lowering your lifestyle....but i am prepared for it

    - feeling like a misfit....i was a white collar city boy working with experienced guys with much more tough background ordering me around....they would tell me to pick up heavy pots just to see me drop it..but i didnt......but they know more than me...and even they make mistakes.....but they all want u to improve..because their timing works on you ..they are testing u that can u keep up?

    ...unlike in corporate environment..where you being good can make your peers and managers insecure...so stick to it..one day u will be part of the tribe of chefs....and u will feel more belonged than u ever did anywhere else.

    i have a long way to go..and i make stupid mistakes ..and take very long prep stuff...but with experience speed will come.

    some highlights:

    - when the first time, manager of restaurant referred to me as 'chef'..'chef, do you know if table 75 went out?; ...i felt happy ..that people depend on me..and this is who i am now...its almost like someone calling u a doctor..they trust u to do the job.

    - chef de cuisine complimenting me after a friday night on good job and being able to last under pressure....this was my first month and i felt very happy.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
    jvkolich likes this.
  7. maghiritza

    maghiritza

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    As a woman this made me cringe so hard. I thought we lived in 2017, not 1917.
    You dont become a chef for money. Just let the illusion of money making you worthwhile go. It will relieve you.
    You can work insane hours, have injuries from the kitchen, take home a lousy pay and are still probably way happier and content than your ex colleagues in the office. At least thats how I see it.
     
    phaedrus likes this.
  8. chef brah

    chef brah

    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    Culinary Student
    you can cringe all u want.

    i am just telling it like it is for me.

    and yes..i have never been more happy and satisfied working in a restaurant..i feel my work is more meaningful as compared to before where my work was sending this data heavy reports to mid level managers who didnt have courage and brains to make decisions to take their company forward.

    in ten years i didnt want to be one of those managers.

    i come from a well-to-do family so career change wasnt easy..but family has been supportive
     
  9. jvkolich

    jvkolich

    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    19
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    This brings back memories for me when I was an apprentice..

    The feeling of accomplishment and disbelief in how proud I was in myself, after receiving praise from the people who spent so long making me feel not good enough.

    And the realization that they had pushed me to succeed, and prove to them.. myself that I could keep up.

    The happiest time of my early kitchen days was the encouragement from the team, and the sense of family after the first shift without a single mistake from any section. the adrenaline and electricity in the air, and the glares of confidence and support during a night like that from the other cooks and chefs is something I hold deep in my mind every time service starts.