Professional Growth

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by druehocker, Jul 24, 2012.

  1. druehocker

    druehocker

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    Former Chef, Cheesemaker, Operations Manager
    I've been in kitchens less that a  year, but became kitchen manager at my current restaurant after about a month of cooking on the line (we are a small 4 man cooking staff). I'm a hard worker and quick learner and picked up the menu and prep quickly and am eager to learn beyond the scope of my current position. On the flip-side I love where I am and understand its important to build a resume and am committed to staying put for some time. I am curious what resources chefs here have used for self-study or what the process would be to find an apprenticeship in addition to working full time. Would it be too presumptuous to contact local chefs (or butcher) that I admire and ask if there are opportunities to come in and prep/sit in on the line/whatever they would have me do?

    I am open to any recommendations for resources, books, classes, ideas you may have. What skills do you wish you had earlier in your careers?

    Thanks.
     
  2. cookers

    cookers

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    Do what ever it may be to get you to the next level. It's like that with every thing in life in every other job field out there, however it's especially important in this industry. Call up all the chefs. Go out to eat in their restaurants and if it's not too busy, ask if you can compliment the chef personally. Go in a butcher shop and ask if you can volunteer in return for education and tell them why you look up to them and want to learn from their knowledge. Go out and pick up books. Not recipe books. Books that go beyond that and explain flavor pairings (The Food Bible) and techniques (The French Laundry) and books that show great presentations (Eleven Madison Park, Alinea). Get books that are mostly science (Modernist Cuisine) and books that date back years that showcase where it all started. You may not have the freedom I do, but experiment every minute you get that opportunity.

    In the past month, I've started doing stages in restaurants where the big names work. It was really intimidating walking into a kitchen standing in front of an Iron Chef. At the end of the day though, I'm out there learning from people who are successful in this industry. The guy may be just a butcher to many, but to me, he has his own business and he is making money. The guy may be really strict and mean, but that's his personality. He has 3 restaurants, been on television shows, and is bringing in the income. If you take all of this knowledge the people are willing to give and combine it, you will become something far greater in the end, ONLY if you do the work. So go for it. If they say no, go to the next. 
     
  3. chefboyarg

    chefboyarg

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    Line Cook
    No one will refuse free labor. Do what Cookers says and go out to the best restaurant, resume in hand and tell them why you want to stage at their place in particular. Make it an intelligent, non generic reason as well. Be sure to include the chef's name and the name of the restaurant in the coverletter.

    Once youre in be ready to absorb information - take notes so you can reference them so the chef/person you are shadowing won't have to tell you something twice; be aware of your surroundings and take note of what makes that particular kitchen successful; take note of how they streamline processes to make them faster and more effecient; ask questions about processes/techniques you find interesting or unique.

    Show up early/leave late. The last place I staged in was the top place in the city, practicing modern cooking, which is an area i find very interesting and particularly relevant these days, so when the chef told me I could go home at 5 I politely said, "Chef, if its ok with you I would like to stay through service." So after this little exchange a few more timesin the future, he let me cook on the line - under the supervision of the station chef. People recognize dedication and commitment and are willing to reward you if you put in that extra bit of time and effort.

    Again, like Cookers said, read read read. Modernist Cuisine is pretty much the king of them all; I find Mhyrrvold breaks down the subjects of the series into about as laymans terms as they can get, Sometimes you just can't make it less scientific than it is, n'ah mean? the recipes and pictures are f'ing amazing as well. I still reference the French Laundry book for plating and techniques as well - that baby is a timeless classic.
     
  4. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Retired Chef
    Patience
     
  5. kingofkings

    kingofkings

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    Line Cook
    Just so I'm sure, when you guys talk about 'Modernist Cuisine' are you talking about the 450$ series of books?
     
  6. cookers

    cookers

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    This x 100. I pushed myself to where I am today, but it came with time. You can go out and read all of those books, meet all of those chefs, but it won't make you better right then and there. It will give you the knowledge today for tomorrows success. 
    Yes. They came out with a cheaper book, Modernist Cuisine Home Edition I believe. The Modernist Cuisine has many things in it that may be pointless to you. Vacuum chambers, centrifuges, microscopic mandolines, and whatever else those guys use. However I got it because I knew it would teach me something new even if I may not be able to use those objects. It opened up my eyes and taught me more about the science behind the food itself. I can't recall what chef on this forum said it, but it stuck with me. ''A cook is someone who puts food on a plate. A chef is someone who knows why that food goes on the plate.'' If you have the extra money, go get it. If not, there's millions of other great books and their website posts up a lot of cool information for free as well. 
     
  7. chefnater

    chefnater

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    Professional Chef
    Druehocker,  I'm just curious as to what part of Atlanta your in? 
     
  8. druehocker

    druehocker

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    Former Chef, Cheesemaker, Operations Manager
    Working in the Old Fourth Ward...

    Thanks for all of the input. I struggle with patience, but probably need to exercise it a little bit better. Reading and a little staging will help me get ready for the next level I hope.