Help with very little confidence

Joined Mar 28, 2018
Hey guys! I’ve read heaps of posts from here in the past and I’ve been having an issue with myself that I thought people may be able to help me with.

I started my apprentiship after doing a year of dishy work in a bowling club and absolutely fell in love with the kitchen environment, so I decided that I wanted to take an apprentiship especially that my best friend was the head chef and thought it would be an awesome full time job (I was 22 at the time with no prior cooking experience at ALL).

I got the apprentiship and we were like a small family, started TAFE and did awesome even though I doubted myself every step of the way, then we left the Bowlo (my bosses opened a cafe) and the menu pretty much stayed the same throughout the 2 years I worked at this Cafe so I didn’t really know much about food other than TAFE, I finished my apprentiship and was really over doing the same stuff even though I was still working with my best friend, I did so well at TAFE that I got awarded a scholarship and apparently stood out from the rest (I still doubted my abilities though).
I’ve now qualified and have been cooking for 3 years, I feel I don’t know much at all about food, so I recently applied for a new job and got it and have been there for 3 weeks, they do functions every weekend and I do a cafe and a dinner menu and have to learn things really really quickly and it’s super overwhelming, I love the work of a kitchen and the heat and the fast paced pressure, I live for it but I wouldn’t say I have a passion for food per say, I love eating and when someone says they love my food it means the world to me.

But since I’ve started my anxiety has acted up super hard and I keep finding recipes on my days off to bring to work for specials and I start thinking ‘what if I screw this up’ ‘what if it doesn’t work and I look stupid’ I love nailing a recipe but I doubt myself so much that I literally can be on the verge of a panic attack.

I was just wondering if anyone has been in a similar place? I want to own my own restaurant one day and get a chefs hat but right now it’s making me sick to my stomach and about screwing things up... sending out uncooked finished or an over-done steak, it’s all I think about when I’m cooking that it takes contro of me.

Is this where I should be after 3 years of cooking? Should I be more confident? I have been told being conscientious is a good thing but it’s like hell in my head sometimes that I dread going to work or am I just being melodramatic?

Thanks heaps guys! Keen to hear responses, i feel my personality belongs in a kitchen and I’m always really nice to everyone.
Joined May 5, 2010
Hello Matt and welcome to ChefTalk.

The anxiety you are experiencing is a normal reaction to your new job and surroundings.
If you did not have this, I would question your resolve.
Your anxiety is your reaction to wanting to do well and express yourself through the food you create.
After a few months of more experience that fear will subside.

As to where should be after 3 years of cooking, I would thing that TAFE would have given you at least a basic understanding of food preparation and restaurant management. Plus the fact that you mentioned that you have worked in short order as well as line cooking and banquets. Sounds to me like you're a well rounded cook. to answer your comment about trying new recipes, I would try this....
Purchase the ingredients on your own and work the recipe at home first.
Tweak it to where it can be made a la minute on the line....THEN take this info to Chef.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
I grew in this business from the lowest position to owning my own. There were so many times that I was so far out of my comfort zone. This business is all about confidence and being on top of everything. This business isn't for everyone and this is something you should find out sooner than later.

I was asked by people " how are you so calm" when in the weeds. If you not calm then you'll be in a constant state of chaos. You either grow and learn on how to get better or you get out of this business. No one can stay in an uncomfortable state without mental and physical things happening to their body.

No one here is going to give you the answer "to stopping how you feel right now" and how we can give you more confidence. The only thing I can tell you is, experience brings confidence. In my career my day didn't start when I punched in on the time clock. My day could have started the night before by solving all my uncertainties that make be feel uncomfortable about my next day projects. If I have 5 catered parties going on at the sometime. I solve everything that can go wrong in my own mind before it happens.

My advice is, don't bite off more than you can chew. Go back and get into a position where you feel comfortable and then start adding things to you agenda. You can't keep on going the way you are now. The reason why most of us are in this business is because of the self-satisfaction we get out of it. If your not feeling that then your in the wrong business. The kitchen puts us in a position and make us feel that everything starts and stops with them. It's up to us to follow through and succeed every time we make something. There are no second chances, do it right or your not going to last very long in that position.....Good luck......ChefBillyB
Joined Mar 14, 2018
It sounds to me like you really care a lot about what you do and that scared feeling is your motivation and what pushes you. You are going to mess up every once in a while especially when moving on to new things. It's just going to happen. You have to accept that fact.
On the other hand if you really feel like you're on the verge of a break down then like ChefBillyB said, you might want to go back to something you're more comfortable with until you're ready to step up.
Joined Oct 1, 2006
G'day Matt!

At three weeks you are already at or near the hump. The thing about working a station on the line is the repetition. You only feel so overwhelmed because it is a new menu that requires you to learn, and perfect a new series of actions, timing and thoughts simultaneously. You are just building your skills, which is a process that never ends!

Whether you are peeling, and slicing apples or onions, or shucking oysters, or cracking eggs after the first couple hundred you will absolutely get faster! You already know this from your first three years of cooking. Think about and compare how long it took you to do something your first few weeks cooking and how fast you could do that same task three years later. "Of course I can do that fast, I have made that hundreds of times"... Got it?

Organization of tasks is critically important. Breaking down every dish you are responsible for, into components helped me. Mis en place really, really helps! Breaking down the dishes you have to prep for and serve from your station is all about having what you need, when you need it. Having to do prep work in the middle of service is no good.

You'll be fine...
Joined May 23, 2018
I can relate 100% reading this sparked some memories of when i first started at my first professional kitchen. I lied my way in over an e mail and an interview with my executive chef. He chose to give me a chance and little did i know i took a bite way too big to chew until i stepped in with a dull cuisinart knife, a pair of dirty sneakers and a very anxious mentality.

My first friday service was on pantry over dressing salads, missing elements of appetizers, messy, just failing when the pressure hit while feeling the embarrassment from the veterans who saw me as a joke. I was scared to ask questions thinking id look stupid or unknowledgeable of what i hyped myself up to my chef that i can do.

Time went by and lessons where learned the hard way by getting my ass chewed out or seeing why others got chewed out. I was so focused on succeeding and showing i can grow and fit as a cook. Advice was given, ears were open, mouth was shut, and respect was gained.

5 months later im ready 30min before service so i started helping others get there mise prepped and organized lole the grill and sautee guys who always dogged on me. My 3 sous chefs saw my efficiency yet hesitant pattern of leadership. I just didnt want to mess up anything right so i never spoke up. I just learned and eventually im having beer with everyone after service..fitting in and becoming a member of the team.

That being said confidence grew and the doors opened to expo. Directing servers, runners, and the resentful cooks to a newb telling them what to do in a sense. I was ignored and mocked at times and that is how it goes. You leave your emotions at the door or the bathroom while buttoning up your coat looking at yourself with faith and excitement for success and growth.

Eventually im heard with the trust from them in my on the fly choices of how we can push out the board. So my sous let me train on grill(60-80 burgers of all temps, grilled veg skewers, double fryer with hot intimidating oil, 110 degree heat, and a $5,000 grill i had no idea how to make my bitch) lots of expensive food to fuck up. Talk about low confidence lol i was burning fries, buns, burgers while drowing in 30min+ lead ticket times because i put a well done on the grill 15min after it walked in. Needless to say it was a learning curve. But eventually i moved faster and smarter with grace and style. Communicating with my sauteé cook and the sous on expo with putting up two 6 tops and three 2 tops and 5 diffrent appitizers in perfect order.

Moral of the story is that everyones been there. I had my borderline panic attacks due to fear and pressure but thats passion. Without that theres no point to bother in this career choice. You have to give everything you possibly can to make it how it needs to be. Every drop of sweat every drop of blood and every calorie burned off from that magical dance you start doing at 7pm while giving it all u got to stay ahead of the curve for a perfect service. Stay passionate and move faster while also knowing why you make that one move before you do it and think while laying tired in bed how you can make a better move or choice next time to just get better and own shit. Step in with a mindset of i got this i got this i got this. Keep your mise en place stacked and know what ingredient(s) you go through more than others and make a backup 6 pan or 9th pan of it so you can have more time to focus on your food and the board on your rail rather than thinking how tf youre going to stay above water with tour station. Best of luck. Grow some balls. And keep learning as much as possible in every aspect of what you love to do. You got this man. Also if your worries about somthing ask for help, it can feel embarrassing BUT its better than looking like a bigger idiot failing and possibly ruining service. No shame in help. It shows less of an ego and a lack of a over prideful ignorant excuse for a cook. Hope you grow and make your goal every day you can.
Joined May 23, 2018
And the brutal truth after three years yeah you should be better than where you are. I know its a process but you need to start doing your homework and push yourself more than the others around you. Push yourself more than yesterday you dig? If you get too flusterd stay cool and take a step back to reanylize your situation and how your going to handle it by every prioritized order of decisions for success. Im the lead line cook at a james beard awarded restaurant under a pretty intense chef. Put yourself in his shoes. Thats how youll get that title one day by having the mental callus for high pressure decision making. Be loud and be aware of every station. Time to grow man with all due respect.
Top Bottom