Landed my first job, how to make the most of it?

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Joined Jul 17, 2018
I’m to start working for a company in a couple weeks, whose primary business is catering, but they also operate a few restaurants. I will start working on the catering end but will work in the restaurants down the line.

For some context, I have no professional training and my only experience in a pseudo-professional setting is renting out shared commercial kitchen space for a meal delivery service (basically just people paying for home cooking). Here are some of the books I’ve read so far:
  • Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking & Keys to Good Cooking
  • Kenji Lopez’s Food Lab
  • Karen Page’s Flavour Bible
  • Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure
  • Sandor Katz’s Art of Fermentation
  • Rene Redzepi’s Guide to Fermentation
These books have given me a decent foundation on the principles of cooking and flavour but have done little to prepare for working in a professional. Are there any recommended books/resources or personal advise you guys have that can help me hit the ground running and not shit the bed?

Thank you in advance
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Well, I suppose the most important question is what will your job be? I assume based on your description of your experience that you will be in an entry level type position. So, some details in terms what you will be doing would be helpful in terms of answering your question.

Here's my advice: keep your eyes and ears open. Do exactly what you are told when you are told to do it. If you have a question, ask....don't assume. Always be on time. Keep yourself and your area clean, especially your hands. If you find yourself with nothing to do, clean something. Always have a pad and pencil and write stuff down. Oh, did I mention always be on time??

Good luck. :)
 
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Joined Sep 10, 2016
I'm in Canada, and the text we used in culinary school was "Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs", Gisslen (https://www.wiley.com/en-ca/Professional+Cooking+for+Canadian+Chefs,+8th+Edition-p-9781118636602). I find it quite useful. You should be able to find it cheap used somewhere. Be prepared that much of entry level food service work is largely de-skilled, simple, repetitive tasks and "busy work" such as packaging product, cleaning, etc. To get the most out of it, look at it as learning about how an actual food business is run, and look at those repetitive tasks as developing your hand-eye coordination, among other skills. Even if you have to peel and chop onions in half for hours, your knife will get dull and it will give you the opportunity to hone your knife sharpening technique, lol.
 
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Joined Jul 17, 2018
Thanks for the responses, I’ll definitely take a look at “Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs” as I’m in Canada as well.

If it helps from the job description:
Organize, manage and coordinate daily functions
• Help in all aspects of Inventory, Ordering Control & Waste Management
• Collaborate on all new menu items & creation of new dishes
• Enforcing all kitchen protocol & implementing discipline procedures for all Kitchen/ Dishwashing Staff
• Uphold quality of product including but not limited to prepping & presentation
• Enforce cleaning and organizing of the facility
• Collaboration with the other Chefs to prepare all meals to the best of your abilities
• Attendance, uniform & punctuality for the BOH
• Promote teamwork & lead by a positive example
• Strict adherence to health & safety procedures as per company policy
• Uphold quality of food
• Food prep/ butchery/ knife skills
• Flavor/ texture profiles
• Proper downsizing and labelling of all products
 
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Joined Sep 10, 2016
Thanks for the responses, I’ll definitely take a look at “Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs” as I’m in Canada as well.

If it helps from the job description:
Organize, manage and coordinate daily functions
• Help in all aspects of Inventory, Ordering Control & Waste Management
• Collaborate on all new menu items & creation of new dishes
• Enforcing all kitchen protocol & implementing discipline procedures for all Kitchen/ Dishwashing Staff
• Uphold quality of product including but not limited to prepping & presentation
• Enforce cleaning and organizing of the facility
• Collaboration with the other Chefs to prepare all meals to the best of your abilities
• Attendance, uniform & punctuality for the BOH
• Promote teamwork & lead by a positive example
• Strict adherence to health & safety procedures as per company policy
• Uphold quality of food
• Food prep/ butchery/ knife skills
• Flavor/ texture profiles
• Proper downsizing and labelling of all products
That ad sounds super familiar, perhaps that is a generic posting used for many ads or just maybe I have seen it and I know where you might be working, lol. Anyways, I gotta be honest with you, if you have any other viable options in life you probably should pursue them instead of food service work. I'm sure some people have very rewarding careers in the industry and I don't want to minimize their experience, but you really have to ask yourself why you are doing this and what you hope to gain. As a newbie, your pay will be not much higher than minimum wage, you will be working with adolescents or people who act like adolescents, and others will dump all the work they don't want to do on you.
 
6
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Joined Jul 17, 2018
That ad sounds super familiar, perhaps that is a generic posting used for many ads or just maybe I have seen it and I know where you might be working, lol. Anyways, I gotta be honest with you, if you have any other viable options in life you probably should pursue them instead of food service work. I'm sure some people have very rewarding careers in the industry and I don't want to minimize their experience, but you really have to ask yourself why you are doing this and what you hope to gain. As a newbie, your pay will be not much higher than minimum wage, you will be working with adolescents or people who act like adolescents, and others will dump all the work they don't want to do on you.
I appreciate your advise, but a career in this industry is what I am pursuing.
 
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Joined Sep 10, 2016
I appreciate your advise, but a career in this industry is what I am pursuing.
didn't mean to sound too discouraging, but I just felt a sort of moral obligation to be honest about what you can expect. In general, this is a very, very tough business. A food service operation is basically an assembly line for food, and especially at the entry-level, lower end, it is based on simplified repetitive tasks performed at high speed. You are also expected to perform many menial tasks that are not necessarily related to food, such as cleaning -I recognize the importance of these tasks, but you should be aware of the non-food related aspects of the job.
 
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Joined Feb 18, 2007
As an entry level person with no prior experience in a commercial setting, observe what's going on and ask questions. Don't be a pain in the a** about it but make sure you are clear on what the expectation is of the task you've been asked to do. If you're given a case of (fill in the blank - onions) to chop, ask them to show you the first one, (keep it in front of you as a reference so the last one you cut looks just like the one they did) do one yourself in front of them and then after you've done a dozen make sure they still look like the example you've been given. Check in about your progress periodically (chef do you want to take a look at these?") so you don't chop an entire case of something and then find it's been done wrong. As long as the staff is aware of your relative inexperience, they should take the time to help you succeed; also be aware that people can be jerks too and they may think it's funny to set you up to fail. Don't fall for the "go look for a can of steam" or "go next door and get a rice chopper" - it's a rite of passage at some places to send you on a goose chase as a way to build ... whatever it is I don't know! Keep a small notebook and a pen on you so you can take notes as you learn something or are told to do something; even if you write it down on your break you will be able to review things as you go. Good luck!
 
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Joined Jan 9, 2019
Try to find time to practice at home what you've learned at work, especially with a view to knife skills and getting your speed up. In my professional kitchen experience (when dinosaurs still roamed the earth) being slow to do simple tasks was pretty much reviled. As was being a messy cook.

Being quick, clean and efficient were valued qualities. Also being eager to learn and willing to have a go at anything.

It's kinda hard to give years of learning in a forum post so I'm not sure why I attempted it other than to say "Good Luck!".

PS: With ref to jcakes amusing post above, also try to avoid being sent for a long weight. ;-)
 
1
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Joined Mar 4, 2019
I’m to start working for a company in a couple weeks, whose primary business is catering, but they also operate a few restaurants. I will start working on the catering end but will work in the restaurants down the line.

For some context, I have no professional training and my only experience in a pseudo-professional setting is renting out shared commercial kitchen space for a meal delivery service (basically just people paying for home cooking). Here are some of the books I’ve read so far:
  • Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking & Keys to Good Cooking
  • Kenji Lopez’s Food Lab
  • Karen Page’s Flavour Bible
  • Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure
  • Sandor Katz’s Art of Fermentation
  • Rene Redzepi’s Guide to Fermentation
These books have given me a decent foundation on the principles of cooking and flavour but have done little to prepare for working in a professional. Are there any recommended books/resources or personal advise you guys have that can help me hit the ground running and not shit the bed?

Thank you in advance
Hey there,
Best advice I can give from an HR perspective, breathe. It is critical to believe in yourself, be confident and do your best but if you stop breathing you are sunk. Be energetic, be positive and be ready for feedback.

I am not a chef, I'm HR. I work with, recruit and hire Chefs for my property, but I am not a chef. The heat, the pressure and the stress of finding quality teammates is hard, the hours are long and the only reason to do it is because YOU LOVE IT. Your best weapon is to smile, be calm, work your tail off and continue to care about the work you are doing. The chefs I see that "shit the bed" don't breathe, they wind-up tight, never relax and self destruct. It's food, it can be really creative in some places and then can be more strategic (like at my property) where you are hitting budget and watching food costs... but even that is creative if you look at it from a different perspective.

As for a book... my favorite book for managers or leaders is "The No Asshole Rule" by Robert I. Sutton. It's great.
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
Human Resources? What on earth on you doing in a chef's forum?

One thing to learn, OP, is that no matter what an HR person might say, they are employed to protect the company, not protect workers. Always remember that HR's agenda is company first. They'll tell you they are looking out for the workers but they simply aren't. Their priority is protecting the company from lawsuits.
 

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