Staging for a home cook

Joined Dec 1, 2015
Hi all, I joined this forum and have enjoyed the discussions so I thought I would throw this out there.

I am self-taught and I feel pretty accomplished considering that.  The only objective evidence I can give you beyond my own subjective opinion is that I have taken 2 separate one-week long, serious culinary courses, one at Le Cordon Blue in Chicago and one in Burgundy France.  Both times after completion, the chefs said that if I am not able to quit my work yet and go to culinary school full-time, I should try to get a stage in a restaurant, from what they observed of my skills and comfort in the kitchen. The chef at LCB said "These little vacations courses are not for you."  The problem is, I'm nervous as shit about even asking and have no idea where or how to start.  There is a small French restaurant in my area and I am most comfortable with French and Indian cuisine.  Do I just send the chef an email?  Every thread makes them seem so busy I can't imagine they have time to approve my beginning by washing dishes or chopping onions.  Any advice or thoughts are appreciated.  I am happy to answer more questions about my skills/experience.  Thanks in advance.
Joined May 5, 2010
Welcome to Cheftalk.

This question has been asked many times on these forum threads.

Cooking in a restaurant kitchen is not the same thing as cooking at home.

Those Chefs that spoke of your skills and comfort should be taken with a grain of salt.

(Remember that these instructors are getting paid and to that end will do whatever it takes.)

Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. You may very well have some great technique and skill set, but in the short time you were at these venues, I doubt you were given the full Monty of just what you are in for.

As someone who has no experience what-so-ever your best bet is to start at the bottom rung and work your way up.

Call the restaurant your thinking of and ask to speak to the Chef. Don't call during busy times (lunch and or dinner service)

When interviewing expound on your motivation and skill sets, more over general food and cooking knowledge.

Some Chefs will gladly take someone they can mold and teach over someone who has an attitude but with great cooking skills.

You may end up as a pot or dish washer, but that's okay. Your work ethic will get you noticed and you may be able to move on up in the kitchen hierarchy.

Good luck.
Joined Dec 1, 2015
Thanks for your time.  I certainly don't have any illusions about where I would start but at least the bottom IS a start.  ;)

My understanding is that classic staging is often months long, maybe years, usu no pay, full time.  I don't mind the no pay, I'll willing to learn for working whatever menial tasks I'm given.  I guess before I pursue, I was wondering if anyone had ever heard of someone staging on weekends only, or weeknights after another job.  It's hard to know how to pursue this type of experience without sounding like I am an idiot asking for something ridiculous.  I know they won't ask me to be saucier for the night but I'd be happy to wash dishes or peel pearl onions to just start being in the environment. 
Joined Jun 27, 2012
If I were trying to get my foot in the door someplace for a bit of learning I would make myself visible to whoever is in charge of the kitchen.

Start eating there often during off peak hours (late lunches or dinners when things have settled down) at the bar if there is menu service.

Never have more than a couple of drinks and tip well.

Have the specials and get to know the menu.

The more you are there the more comfortable you will become and this should lead to an opportunity to talk cooking.

I have worked enuf small places to know most are pretty casual in the fact that the owner/chef/whoever may have a late drink to relax while waiting to close and naturally this leads to conversation.

Above everything else tho.... try to be a friend first.

No one likes to be courted by someone with a self serving (what can you do for me) agenda.


Good luck!
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