internship in NYC

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Joined Jun 18, 2002
i'm a recent culinary grad in NYC seeking an internship.

yes, i know there are a ton of great restaurants in NYC that i can get an internship in .. but i don't wanna get stuck peeling potatoes and dicing onions for 4 months. i'm looking for something that offers a bit more responsibility and perhaps some line work. i have a little bit of experience working prep, garde manger, and pastry.

any leads would be helpful.
thanks,
melissa
 
3,853
12
Joined May 26, 2001
Dear Melissa: You're a culinary school graduate? Bravo. Let me ask you: how fast can you peel a case of potatoes, or peel and brunoise a bag of onions. Do you know how much a case of potatoes or a bag of onions contains? Can you tell us the difference among the three basic types of potatoes? How many varieties of potatoes can you name? How many members of the onion family can you name (vegetable and non-)?

If I sound a bit hard, it's because I mean to. Simply having graduated from school does not entitle you to a position of responsibility, and does not automatically qualify you for the line. Having "a little bit of experience working prep, garde manger, and pastry" won't matter much to whomever hires you because you didn't do it in HER kitchen. Any chef worthy of the title who hires you will need to see your work habits, your attitude, what level your skills are at, and how you fit into his kitchen.

You want to work somewhere where you'll get some responsibility? Apply to the best restaurants you can think of; accept whatever position they offer, no matter how "lowly." Watch and listen and ask questions and learn and work your rear off. Prove that you deserve to have responsibility. Prove that you can work fast and clean and accurately under pressure. Prove that you have a good attitude and are willing to learn to do it THEIR way.

I would say the same thing to a culinary grad I assumed to be male, too, in case you think I'm only saying this because you're female. Believe me, I AM on your side. I just want you to understand real life a little better. Have a look at the thread that Peachcreek started called "I teach you everything..." and you'll see what I mean.

Best of luck. :D
 
1,586
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Joined Jan 5, 2001
Melissa,

You are aiming high and you want to learn something. Good for you. You won't learn much about potatoes by peeling them all day, and eventually the speed you learn will develop into carpel tunnel syndrome, so you are right to be on your guard as many chefs will indeed try to take advantage of you.

My advice is to aim high and talk to the best chefs. They are not necessarily the best teachers (they can't all be Peachcreek!). If they show an interest, make sure you develop a training plan right from the get go. Just so you know how long you have to peel those potatoes before you get to the next level. Make sure you have precise goals to reach, so that you're not stuck anywhere til your arms fall off. This is especially important for the female students out there because the cards are not always stacked in our favour. Sadly, the unspoken assumption coming from both our male and female seniors is that while we might have what it takes, it's easier for a man to get there quicker. Which is not necessarily complimentary to men, it's just assumed that they can take more physical and emotional abuse. Whoa, I'm ranting. Bad day I guess...

Good luck and keep us posted!
 
4,508
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Joined Jul 31, 2000
Melissa,

I remeber a story years ago about F. Point seeing a couple guys walking around his restaurant.

They where truck drivers and lost. Mr Point invited them for lunch and took very good care of them. Why do I sight this story? Because I believe there is still a grace and honesty that lives in our industry.

Somewhere between F.Points staff and the ones whom poach halibut in used mop water provided bt Ecolab there is room for a culinary graduate to grow and contribute.

It won't be easy,but what is easy in life which is worthwhile.

Try to stay focused, don't pull any punches.

Good luck in your endevoures.
 
1,065
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Joined Dec 8, 1999
First, none of the chefs that I know (certainly not many of them), are interested in taking advantage of interns; they are more interested in passing along the knowledge they have obtained through the years. Secondly, while I don't believe anyone should spend an internship primarily doing prep work, I believe the ability to complete a mundane task quickly is an indicator of the amount of focus on the task at hand a potential line cook has. If you can't peel even one case of potatoes quickly, I have no use for you in my kitchen. You do have to learn to do this kind of work at speed sometime. If you graduate without knife skills, your school has failed you. Later in your career as a chef, you'll find that your job is primarily doing whatever needs to be done at the time. For example, 2 weeks ago my prep cooks dropped the ball at brunch (we do about 200-300 covers for brunch) and didn't do roasted b-reds, so I had to to do a case on the fly. You have to have the skills to be able to do that. Just remember, fundamentals such as these have to come first. You can't expect to work a station without being able to prep it expediently.
 
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Joined Nov 8, 2001
This is kinda an odd story I thought I would share. I'm a freshman at Johnson and Wales, and the very first thing one chef said to me was get a job, but don't tell them that you are in culinary school. So this new restuarant opens up about 5 of us get jobs there, we pretty much all had the same experince, I've worked 2 years going from dish washer to line cook. My other classmates go to their interviews in there nice new school uniforms, I wore a coat in tie. I got hired as a line cook, they all got hired as prep cooks and still are, now I'm Sous Chef at 18. I don't think I'm better than those other 4 but, I think being in culinary school actually prevents those that are hiring to what skills you really have. The Chef knows I'm in school now and has changed his mindset of culinary students. I figure there are several morals to this story, I'm not sure what they are, but I thought you might find that interesting
 
1,586
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Joined Jan 5, 2001
Greg, I'm not arguing with you. In fact I agree 100% with your post. But the reality is that some interns do get taken advantage of; maybe you are lucky that you haven't met too many chefs who are guilty of this. It happens all the time where I work, a highly rated luxury hotel. My chef is a desk chef who chooses not to find out about the abuse that goes on in his kitchen. Guilt by omission. Happens more often than you know.

All I'm saying is be aware of the situation and don't get trapped. That said, accept that repitition is a necessary means to acquiring the skills that you will need to advance.

As for chefs wanting to pass down their knowledge? Not a stellar record in my experience. Of the chefs that I have met or worked with, they represent a mere 30%. Hardly a significant sample size, I know. Let's just say that I'm still looking. Judging from the chefs on Cheftalk, I know their out there!!!

ALynch, what an interesting post. Depending on where you work, I would have to agree that there is a bias against culinary students. Good on you for getting such fortuitous advice early on in your career! Some places won't hire unless you have some culinary education; just something to keep in mind...
 
1,065
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Joined Dec 8, 1999
Agreed. Another thing to remember is that students can report incidences where they feel they are being taken advantage of to their school.
 
3,853
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Joined May 26, 2001
Anyone who gets "trapped" doing scut work is not showing the hustle that shows the determination and desire to do more. You get trapped because you don't take the initiative to show what more you can do. No one will just hand you responsibility; you must earn it. No one will teach you; you must make the effort to learn.
 
1,586
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Joined Jan 5, 2001
Melissa,

We're not helping you at all, are we? We're just a bunch of ol' farts hardened by our experiences who have completely missed the point of your question! (sorry guys ;)!)

Have you found anything yet? Tell us about your search method, that might be a good start.
 

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