Starting off my career well?

Joined Dec 9, 2010
I'm currently working in one of the American casual restaurant chains. While I try to be open minded, and try not to under appreciate the experience I gain anywhere, I do worry that I could be getting off to a better start. After making pizzas for a couple years, and then finally some prep work for an Italian restaurant, it is the first line cook position I've been offered. I've been working there for a year, and believe that working on the line anywhere should make me a more serious applicant for many restaurants than when my experience was limited to pizza making, simple pasta and sandwiches.  On the other hand, it's a kitchen that is delegated 90% by computer software. There is little "prep work" involved, but rather portioning. Yes, cooking steaks to the guest's preference of rare to well under volume is a solid fundamental skill, but it's required by this employer to use a thermometer constantly, and I worry that's a technique I'm getting too comfortable with and will be frowned upon anywhere else I go. Above all, there is no real chef in charge. 

Do I have the wrong attitude about this? If nothing else, I think i'm proving to myself that I can handle the pressure. I had a few interviews when starting out where some chefs told me that they didn't believe I had any idea what I was getting into, but I got my hands dirty and haven't lost my determination. So I'm really asking for advice on the next step. I feel like I've hit a dead end there, and looking to move on. In fact it's my new years resolution.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
As long as you yourself can cook a steak without thermometer, thats what matters. Every day and every place you have worked at, you have grown and learned,. If you feel it is dead end then sure look around . But keep in mind it is pretty lean out there with this economy and good luck.
Joined Nov 24, 2010
This reminds me of when I worked at Applebee's while attending a culinary school.  I worked at applebees shortly after I have finished my externship and from the local restaurant owner/chef said to me sarcastically "you'll learn a lot there". My thought was that applebees are $3 more an hour and that keeps me in school, so in the end, yeah I will learn more.  I hated working there every single day but it enabled me to graduate from my school.

The best part is that, I did not know that I actually learned stuff from applebees, embarrassed enough to say.  And I was quiet surprised by this, too.  A lot of littles things came in handy.  I do not regret that experience at all.  What I do regret is after graduation I did not work at the best place I though I could work at.  I had a lot of excuses.  I'm trying to do that now, but it's little harder (another excuse).

What I'm trying to say is that no matter where you work, you'll gain experience.  Different places offer different experiences and there are really no right or wrong experiences because what really matters is what you get out of it.  You don't become a great scholar just by going to great schools and you don't become a great chef by just by working in great restaurant.  Sooner or later, you'll find a restaurant that you'd like to run someday, then work there and experience all that you can.  When you feel that you are on the top of a ladder but want to get higher, you'll need to find a higher ladder.  
Joined Dec 9, 2010
The way I've looked at it is, all restaurant jobs are going to be fast-paced and challenging, and I should get myself into fighting shape for the rest of the industry however I can.  Thanks for the advice. I suppose everything I wish to learn will come in school. 
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I am going to give some kudos. You got told that you don't know what you are getting into...that basically " You can't hack it on the line kid, now get out of my face."  Instead of tucking tail and walking away, you got a job on the line. Now, instead of saying "This job sucks!" and finding a new career, your just saying "I want to learn more and am afraid I have run my course here." You probably have.  Now is the time to go back to the guy that said "you don't know nothing" and tell him "I learned something".  If you don't ask the answer is always "no".

Best of luck

p.s.  I am reminded of a Kevin Smith interview when he said that working for McDonalds (I did my junior year at High School) taught him quite a number of things. Work ethic and employer expectations, cleanliness and presentation, that with hard work came some rewards and that he didn't want to work for McDonalds.
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Joined Dec 9, 2010
That might be a trifle optimistic!

That is unless all you want to learn is the basics. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/talker.gif

Oh I wish to learn much more than basics, but i do realize the importance in fundamentals. Sadly, we see a lot of people bypassing fundamentals these days because it can be bought in a store. i personally can't help but feel like every step i skip was a place I could have put my own "twist" on  what i'm creating.

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