New job at a gourmet restaurant and I'm terrified

Joined Jan 2, 2018
I came from a background of fast food and chain restaurant that mostly produce prepacked and comfort food. I went to an interview at this small independent restaurant and the menu looks pretty gourmet. The chef told me to come in today and work for a little bit so I can get the feel of the place and he at the same time can observe me. There are 90% of things on the menu that I've never seen before or worked with. I can't even pronounce the name of these ingredients. The food are plated like a work of art and I just don't know if I'm qualified.

At a corporate restaurant, I learn and improve my speed, and general knowledge on how a professional kitchen would function, but not much culinary knowledge. I was excited at first because I got an interview and the chef even asked me to come in for a try out at a place that seems out of my league. But now I'm terrified thinking about how I actually don't have alot of experience with this kind of food. What if the chef says I'm not good enough? I quit my old job because I was ready to learn new things and now I'm second guessing myself. Please let me know what you think?
Joined Oct 1, 2006
Hi Leo,

Since you have spoken to the Chef already, he knows your skill level. The Chef wants to see your work habits, drive, determination, effort level, and attention to detail. Artful plating requires precision, "Please show me how you want it done, I want to meet the standard" Working with unfamiliar products requires that you attempt to replicate EXACTLY what they show you. Ask what to do with any trimmings, shells, or bones!

The Chef wants to evaluate your potential! You wouldn't have your foot in the door if the Chef didn't see potential in you!

If you want to look for a different job immediately, say things like "How many weekends off per month do I get" "How long
before I get a raise" "I've already worked eight hours, I've got to go" LOL!

If you want to stay there and learn, try to say this at least once during your shift "I finished that, what next?"

Give it your very best and you'll be fine!

Good Luck!
Joined Aug 15, 2003
Yeah...doesn't sound like you've misrepresented yourself or anything. Just be honest and open with the chef about your skill level and how you want to take the leap up to a scratch kitchen. Be humble and be prepared to be humbled.

Attitude is the most important thing. Show that you are willing to put the work in and the chef should be willing to train/teach you. Be excited about the food! Ask questions, and do things exactly how they show you.

You'll be fine, let us know how it goes.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
A chef gets excited when they hire someone whom they feel has the ability to be taught and learn new skills based on the skills that they already have. Now you just have to go be that person!
Good luck.
Joined Sep 17, 2018
I agree with the others. I'm more receptive with someone who is open and honest with me and willing to learn than someone who boasts and claims to know it all only to fall short of that bar. Some chefs take pride in being able to pass their skills on to someone else.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
I've hired people in my operation with no cooking experience. These people impressed me with their willingness to learn and their work ethic and personality. These people were able to learn my way of doing things. I'm sure the Chef knows exactly what your past experience is by your application. Just be honest with the Chef, ask questions and take one day at a time. The Chef is giving you a chance, take it and run with it........ChefBillyB
Joined Jan 2, 2018
Hi everyone, thank you for all of your advice. Just a little update, I got the job and I will be starting there full time on Nov.1st. I didn't do much cooking during my try out, just mostly tasting all the food, getting stuff for the sous chef and plating these charcuterie which I now learned is like a board of cheese and cured meat. The food was excellent and really changed my view on gourmet things. I used to think that anything gourmet seemed pretentious and probably wouldn't taste that good comparing to a 4piece deep fried chicken combo. I still love fast food and fried chicken, but I also now found a new appreciation for fresh food that are not drowned in salt and sugar. Foie gras, used to think that it was pretentious (like how rich people in my home country would eat monkey brains) but it tasted so good.

I get the feeling that I will need to adjust myself to slow down and actually cooking things instead of just focusing on pumping out food as fast as humanly possible, which all of my fast food and corporate restaurant jobs had trained me to do. It's not a very big restaurant so a "busy" dinner service was like 1/7th of what a busy dinner service at a corporate restaurant would be. Which is great because I will have time to do things properly and build a strong foundation for other future gourmet jobs. The chef was nicer than I thought. He was still a bit intense and intimidating, but he was in the dishwash area most of the time so I mostly was dealing with the sous chef. Anyway, that's about it, I'm excited to start this job. Hopefully I can live up to the expectation. Again, thanks for all your advice. If you have anymore advice in light of my new update, I want to read them.
Joined Oct 1, 2006
Congrats Leo!

You have taken a new step in practical education!

Here's a thought about process I use.

Break down dishes into its components and recognize that each component is important. A dish of grilled steak with seared mushrooms, compound butter, and mixed, fresh herb garnish has four components. The process for the steak component may involve brushing with olive oil, a garlic paste rub, or not, but that steak has a certain way the chef wants the responsible person to prepare it. The Chef would likely prefer that the mushroom component is at peak state just as the steak is ready, instead of sitting in the pan weeping and that the compound butter isn't still frozen or the herb garnish isn't discolored or wilting, etc. Attention to detail...

The good news is that if they have a set menu, repetition really helps with getting into the flow and developing desireable habits! You will make mistakes but, try not to repeat them!

Good Luck!
Joined Dec 23, 2004
That's awesome, Leocube! At Minnesota Public Classical Radio they say, 'Remember, all music was once new.' Along those same lines even great chefs began as nOObs.:wink:
Joined Jan 2, 2018
Hi everyone, thank you for all the advice. At this restaurant, the menu changes in order to make use of seasonal ingredient, which scares me as I don't know much culinary wise, but at the same time, exciting as I will be constantly learning new things. It's comforting knowing that you will eventually get used to things, but when you're in that "new" phase, it's just so hard not to feel nervous and feel like you might not be adequate. Like, I got the interview and the job try out, I came in thinking "what if I'm not good enough and they won't hire me?". Now that I got the job, my thinking is like "what if the chef made a mistake by hiring me? what if he realized into the job that I'm not good enough?". But I know, I need to just do my best and open my eyes and ears. Thank you again for all your advice.
Joined Mar 4, 2015
Leocube, in your last update you talked very positively about the new job, and you conveyed this excitement about it. DON'T lose that outlook. Stay positive, learn all you can, ask questions, and more importantly be sure to write it down.
Joined Jan 31, 2018
Congratulations Chef about your new job! Still, even you already got the job, i still want to share this quote from the late Anthony Bourdain as a reply when you were still terrified days before you got hired

"Skill can be taught, Character either you have or you don't have"

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