Progressing and moving along?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by toffee, Nov 7, 2017.

  1. toffee

    toffee

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    I would like some views on my current scenario i am in at this time. 5 years ago i started my path in the kitchen world. Started dish washing, then prepping, then trained for the line. Basic start nothing special. Where I work we have 2 kitchens, a main dining room kitchen and a mezz kitchen for upstairs bar. It is a private club. This is my first kitchen job and stuck to it for 5 years now going on 6 next summer. This past year when the chef or sou chef was not in the mezz i was 2nd in charge of it, until the 1st decided to call out for a week then demand more money so he was fired. Our numbers we feed in this club are not huge, i think the most my small kitchen did was 169 people. Was 2 cooks including me and 1 dish washer. All the customers usually come in at one time, and ordered all at once. When the 1st was disposed of i was in charge of prepping that kitchen, (menu was around 35 items not huge) monitoring the food quality and also running my stations. (until the GM stepped in i was in charge of the grill, fryer, pantry and backed up the front station). The chef and sou chef actually seemed pretty impressed, both have over 20 years in the business. Sou chef compliments me and tells me rather often that if i become a little meaner and stricter, i shouldn't have an issue if someone gives me a sou chef position. So in my eyes in those 5 years i came a nice way. I have recently been trying to push for college in culinary arts. I am from NJ, we have a rather reputable culinary school an hour from me. About 36k for an associates. I put it off due to money. But also i have been thinking of trying my hand at another restaurant. Where i work now i love it there. They pay me decent for what i am. It is seasonal though, spring through summer its 6-7 days a week. Middle of September we start closing down day by day. Winter we do weddings on weekends, 100-200 people in the downstairs kitchen. Which is where they moved me to now. My issue with moving along to a new restaurant (wether a hotel kitchen, or another private one whatever i can find) is not being sure if i learned enough to actually hold my own as i do in this private club. Probably something rather stupid to be concerned with in such a career choice but non the less. A small note, i dont really have much support from my personal side with my career choice. It is something im doing cause i enjoy it. But family (aside from a few) and girl friend find it rather silly to persue a career that will never make me financially stable, least in their eyes. What are your views on all of this?
     
  2. chefross

    chefross

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    Your question is something only YOU can answer.
    Know that you are not alone.
    Many of us have faced this very same issue.
    From my many years of experience I'll say that since your job at the private club is all you know, you may find that when you get into the public sector and start working alongside others you will either
    A...be much better at acclimating to any kitchen because of your experiences.....
    or B...what you learned at the private club was inferior (hey...it happens...)and your peers will bring you down for it.
    The only way to know is to take the challenge and move on.
    If you stay at your present place, all you will ever know is that way of cooking.

    Culinary school is a personal choice. There are many self taught great Chefs out there and the debate about culinary school versus real life experience will go on forever.

    Again, I say that this is a question only you can answer. Good luck.
     
  3. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Hi Toffee.
    My experience is that whenever I left an old job to find a new one I realized how much I'd actually learned.
    You have been tenured long enough to go through a lot of the cooking and prep stations so my opinion it is a good time to be assessing where you want your future to track.
    After being in the kitchen for 5 years the value of a degree goes down significantly unless you're wanting to go towards the culinary fields that need a culinary degree. Otherwise what you know will get you in the door of a lot of new kitchens that will make you build on your existing skill set. I never went to school. What my employers saw was my ability to learn. I used that to my best advantage.
    Something else I did in my 20's was have more than one job. My thought was most of my college-bound friends worked and went to school. I worked one job as school, the other working somewhere mindless that paid more money. Besides, if a chef worked 50 to 60 hours a week, why couldn't I?
    Good luck,
    Peachcreek
     
  4. bigmickel

    bigmickel

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    Well in my opinion, you should shop around for other jobs and keep in mind while you're looking what have you learned at your current job that's a transferable skill? Obviously you will need to learn a new menu and kitchen layout, but what other than restaurant specific things won't you know? Do you know how to read chits, organize a board, call line, expodite, make catering orders, organize large functions, cook steaks, cook fish, carve fruit, make pastries etc. When I moved to the job I'm in now I went from pubs/bars to resort cooking. It was a huge change but I had the basic skill set. I move quick, I listen, I learn, I show up on time, have a good attitude, know how to organize my station and keep it clean etc. All the location specific things will come.

    In the end just follow your heart and you will be led towards your path :)
     
  5. toffee

    toffee

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    Thank you all for your responses. Sorry for not responding sooner. When it comes to moving to a new place, ive been looking around talked to a few places. Sadly off season is here and no one needs a new face at this time. Where i currently work for the time ive been here we have had several public sector cooks come in and leave after one season or just stop showing up. One i worked with complained that it was too stressful of a place compared to the other places hes worked. (i highly doubt that though ). Im gonna try and jump into a course next fall depending if my finances are better. If not then ill make it my final year here and move on to another kitchen. When it comes to learning im more then willing to learn anything the chef has to teach. Or is willing to. His way to the best of my ability. As for multiple jobs. My schedule is so unstable it would be difficult. But i do plan this winter trying to find maybe an early morning breakfast place to teach me the breakfast line. Or a bakery to be a little more rounded. My skill set ive learned in the past few years is limited to my eyes. I can do prep work, im good with a knife, i can run a fryer (anyone can though), i can grill your basic things like burgers, chicken, steaks, fish and all. Most i did this past year was burgers, strip steaks and lots of salmon. The occasional mako grilled or tuna. While i can expodite its not my strong suit. I havnt done it for more then a day a month. I can take orders. I can learn, i show up when told to. Good attitude. I keep my station clean and anything i work with i clean. I have alot more i have to learn. A curious question that just popped up. I live in a shore state. Being spring and summer is when all the work is. Anyone have any experience of the difference from a place like this to a more steady work location? How much does the pay differ, from experience differences?
     
  6. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Your last question first. How much does year round differ from seasonal? Too many factors to answer that. Which location for each? Seasonal Maine vs. full time NYC? Seasonal ski resort vs. full time Ottumwa, Iowa? Pay will differ depending on cost of living, etc. but the rest differs depending on where you work- restaurant, club, fine dining, hotel, etc.
    I'll throw this out there for what it's worth. You clearly have a good grasp on where you work and I'd say you should move on just because. Before deciding on where to go, assess what you want to learn. Pizza? Fine dining? Catering? Read the menus of the places that interest you. You will only be learning what is on their menu and even then it depends largely on how from scratch the kitchen is. If the menu is seasonal, you'll learn more. If ethnic, then that's what you learn. So no learning pasta at the Mexican place and no learning about Mexican at the Italian place. All good things to learn if it interests you.
    You've learned much about working in a kitchen. That's pretty much the same every kitchen you work in. You mentioned possibly baking in the near future. Take a look around the kitchen you work in now to see where other gaps in your cooking are. Is there any product you can't make from scratch? mayonnaise, bbq sauce, vinaigrettes, butchering meat and filleting fish. Look at every single item. Those are all good things to learn and you can learn many of them from any number of good cookbooks if not in the restaurant you work in.
    As for your non supporting family, I'd have to ask, what will you regret when you are older-not cooking or not making much money? It's your life, be happy.
    Finally, you mention being on the shore. Are there any fishing boats nearby? What do they catch that isn't sold in the restaurant you work in? I'm really just curious, having never worked near the shore but it's been on my bucket list just to be near the seafood when it comes in.

    Hope some of this helps.
     
  7. toffee

    toffee

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    I never looked at my job choice as a way of making lots of money. I chose it purely cause its something i have an interest in and something i like to do. Ive been juggling what kind of kitchen i wanna move into. I haven't really been able to pinpoint what i wanna dive into. Currently my job does members only service in the spring and summer. And catering weddings in the winter. So i got a bit of both worlds there. Bar kitchen upstairs, fine dining downstairs. I have not learned to make mayonnaise, we usually just buy it. Vinaigettes while the chef does make them i have not been taught how he makes his. Im pretty sure method changes from chef to chef. BBQ sauce ive made at home myself. So as long as i can transfer that to a professional standing i have a slight grip on it. Would teaching myself at home be viable for doing so in a business kitchen? Butchering meat i am familiar with. I can break down poultry, chickens, turkey or duck too. As for red meat, i do hunt to fill my freezer at home. And all the gutting, skinning and breaking down the deer we do ourselves. So im familiar with that. Fish filleting not so much. I can skin a fish side thats already been cut from the fit and remove pin bones. But completely breaking down a full fish while is something ive been nagging my boss to let me do has not given me the opportunity just yet. I may just go to the docks and buy some full fish myself. As for working on the shore. Yes alot of fishing boats and stores selling fish right off the boat. Chef gets phone calls alot of fresh tuna or sometimes mako shark that fishermen catch and wanna sell to him. So far the fish that i have come across has been fluke, flounder, tuna, mako, on rare occasion swordfish, john dory, red snapper once a year, soft shell crabs, live lobster, and salmon which im more then sure is farm raised not fresh caught. (chef and the rest aren't fond of salmon) Most fish besides mako and tuna are already filleted for us we just clean it from any leftover bones. Or skin salmon. Also we get dry packed scallops in fairly frequently during season. There have been a few different fish I know boats catch but we dont run in the kitchen. Suck as monkfish and tilapia. Im gonna be sitting here for the next few weeks with a book and a pen writing down what i am lacking and missing. Alot i wish to learn. Such little time.
     
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  8. toffee

    toffee

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    Also to add bout ethnic food. Being in New jersey i mostly see either seafood restaurants or Italian. They are plentiful here. Along with sushi and chinese. Aside from those if i choose to learn a different ethnic cuisine I would have to travel to a whole new state lol
     
  9. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Yes, teaching yourself about mayonnaise and vinaigrette at home is relevant to a commercial kitchen. Everything else as well.
    Methods for those things don't really change from chef to chef. There are basic ratios and techniques. Even if the chef you may work for has a slightly different seasoning, the essential process is the same. Whisking a mayo or a hollandaise or a vinaigrette by hand is pretty universal. Making stocks and sauces, bread, a cake, pickles, jam, cheese and a lot more are all good things to know. Not to mention they are all part of "knowing how to cook", whether or not the restaurant you work in does them.
    I'll say that cooking at home and cooking in a restaurant are essentially the same. Cooking that is. The difference being in all things other than cooking. At home it's you and the food you decide to serve and whoever you choose to cook for, from one to ten at whatever predetermined time you choose.
    At work it's you, multiple food choices of varying levels of complexity all prepared and served in different ways, several other people you work with and as many people as can get through the door in the allotted time who can choose any of the multiple food choices in no particularly convenient way.
    So if you aren't studying any cookbooks, you should be. There are many recommendations on this site to get you started.
    Being so close to such a variety of seafood, I'd take advantage and buy one of whatever you can afford, fluke, flounder, soft shell crabs and the rest and break them down from whole. If you haven't already, learn how each fish differs when cooking and what seasonings/sauces work well with them and why. Learn in what ways each fish can be prepared and served that is different from the ways you see in your restaurant. Fish fillets or fish steaks, whole fish, fish stock, seafood stock, etc.
    Keeping notes is a great idea. Not just for what you want to learn. Keep notes on what you are learning as you learn it.
    Have fun.
     
  10. toffee

    toffee

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    Looks like a trip to my local shop rite, and to my local fish monger and see what i cannot get whole. With vinaigrette i was givien a basic ratio back when i ate at the college i have been eye balling for a few years now. It was 3 parts oil or fat to 1 part vinegar or acid. Hollandaise i was told something along the lines of for every egg yolk its 2-3 oz of butter. The broiler guy at my job showed me that, then proceeded to show me what to add for what different sauce, choron sauce which was hollandaise with taomatoe paste. Tasty stuff. I do know how to bake cakes, pies and what not. But theyre recipe dependant. Dont have a univeral recipe for them. Bread the same i take it from one of my old votech books or find one online. Jam and cheese i do not know how to make. Cheese probably will take some equipment i do not have. Do you have any recommended books? I have a small collection of basic cook books. I cannot seem to filter the review page on this new site format to just get cookbooks so ill be scrolling for a while lol. As for seafood there is limited amount of things one can do with stuff liek soft shell crabs. Either deep fried or sauteed. Can do it francaise too but that falls under sautee. Ill have to see what i can do with the other fishes. Besides grilling or deep frying.
     
  11. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Ok, I'll save you some scrolling.
    Joy of Cooking is the home kitchen standard but a great reference for professionals too. I'd start with that. It covers just about everything. The older versions I like better.
    Jacques Pepin Techniques or La techniques.
    James Peterson "Sauces".
    Michael Ruhlman "Ratios" for understanding how ingredients work together in different amounts.
    There are books published by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) that are great instructional sources.
    Ball Book on Canning and Preserving.
    Every well known chef has books out that provide a view of what kind of cooking they do. I like ones with lots of pictures.
    Other members here may offer their choices.
    3 parts oil to one part vinegar is true as is your Hollandaise ratio. Adding a bit of water to the yolks helps them accept more butter but practice is best, whipping the yolks over heat and not overcooking them, getting the sauce to be fluffy. So technique is important but that means practice. Practice with all of it is the important learning part.
    Working with fish or anything else is simply to say you've done it. All fish have slight structural differences so it helps if you do as many different ones as you can. Buy them whole so you can break them down, then cook to see how different cooking techniques affect each fish differently.
    Cheese is just curdled milk, strained and aged. Different cheeses get their uniqueness from various bacteria cultures and techniques and salt but all start with curdled milk. If you don't mind buying the milk and cream, you can make many soft cheeses at home with just a bit of cheesecloth and some experimenting.
    Of course, all of this takes time. So you have discovered that learning about food will not be a quick process but what I'm trying to communicate is that any area you live in offers unique opportunities you won't find elsewhere. So in addition to the fishing boats, visit the orchards and farms to see what's in season, any local small scale producers to see what they make.
    And of course, read and practice at home.
     
  12. toffee

    toffee

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    Thank you very much. Ill see if i cannot pick up some of those. I have a small collection of cook books myself but mostly recipes. I do have my textbook from my votech culinary class maybe ill go through that. As well as look up different cheeses i can make. Sadly enough though around here we dont have many pricately owned farm stores. Mostly places like shop rite, acme, walmart and all. As for the fish im gonna be taking a ride to a local dock that the family knows a few of the workers and see what i cannot get.
     
  13. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    For farms and orchards, go to www.pickyourown.org to see where they are located in New Jersey. It isn't called the Garden State for nothing. Start with the ones listed and you will undoubtedly find others that aren't as you travel around. Most have websites or FB pages. They may not have a traditional store but they will sell what they grow on site.
     
  14. toffee

    toffee

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    Majority of pick your own farms seem to be berries. Alot of strawberry farms. But I did get in contact with a local dock that i can go and buy their fresh catches. Heading there to get some things for christmas eve dinner. Ive gotten a few cookbooks to study. Joy of Cooking being one of them, the 1975 printing. How would you go about studying your cookbooks? Just pick recipes and start making them correct?
     
  15. hookedcook

    hookedcook Banned

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    If you are single and have no ties, look into being a yacht chef. No bills and make 3 times the money than working on land. More perks, went diving today, kiteboarding tomorrow
     
  16. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Ok. The farms advertise berries. But no farm survives on berries alone. And many of the farmers in an area will know one another. So pick out a farm or three and go visit. See what else they have, ask about other farms, familiarize yourself with the farmers, the seasons, the crops, etc. This won't happen in one visit or all at one farm. But there are many others who aren't in pickyourown.org so you will find more as you travel around to each farm and get to know them.
    The same for the fishermen. You found one dock. While you're there, talk to them about their lives. Show interest in how they do what they do. They will most likely reward you with plenty of information.
    As for studying cookbooks, you should read the recipes for guidance, pay attention to techniques and read the rest of the Joy of Cooking for all the information it contains. You can start by picking something you want to learn, read the recipe and try it out. Bread, vinaigrette, roast beef, whatever. But pay attention to the small details like, "reduce by half" or "let it rest for twenty minutes" or "This ingredient works best at room temperature" or "add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients". Those are very important. Don't just buy the ingredients. Read the recipes all the way through first and make sure you understand what you will be doing before you start. Puff pastry is a great example. Not really that complicated but you do have to follow the plan. Let it rest when necessary, correct temperature for ingredients, etc. Basically just butter and flour but how you approach it makes all the difference.
    Other cookbooks may have different ideas for ingredients you can use for similar dish or a different technique for something you read in another cookbook. And pictures are great to get some ideas about what a finished recipe may look like. It all takes some time and effort so be patient.