The Unemployed Chef Chronicles (STUDENTS!Look here before you spend all that $$$)

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Joined Dec 4, 2002
:) Been meaning to do this for a while:)

First of all, I just wanted to share some of my recent experiences with the hope maybe someone else can benefit, and second, simply to expend my excess energy:)

If anyone wants any information about the programs offered to those who work/live below Canal St. please email me. The only other requirement is that you can show your income has dropped by 25% since 9/11.

I've received tons of help in various forms from groups that I didn't even know existed or ignored because I didn't think I would be eligible.

I'll give some background later, but for now I'll start with the present.

:chef: :chef: :chef:


The Sunday Times had tons of great listings this week. They actually update their online listings 6 times a week I think, so I make sure and check every day. You have to register, but it's no big deal ( just a few more pop-up ads). They also have lots of non-NYC jobs, so it's useful even for non-NYers.

I've seen ads for the Jean-Georges empire, the Drew Nierpont empire, Restaurant Associates, B.R. Guest, and even from one of my heros: Savoy.
I take this as a good omen. :cool:

I wouldn't mind being a line cook for Jean-Georges, who is another of my heroes, but I know I wouldn't get to work with the man.
I sent in a resume to Savoy for a grill cook position because I know he (Peter Hoffman) works the line and I've always admired his food and his ethics.
One career advisor told me, in general, that I don't want to do this, but to "train" with someone like that, doesn't look too bad.
And heck, I think it would be kinda fun.....

I did land an interview with B.R. Guest tomorrow via FCI's job listings. It was posted annonymously as for: " a NYC restaurant family...executive chef.....in a new Italian restaurant......"
I'm thinking,
Hm, a small, new, family run Italian wants someone to operate their kitchen....
They didn't even accept faxes directly; I had to send it via FCI.
I soon learned they were talking about Fiamma Osteria which made me chuckle quite a bit, and I doubt they're calling me to be executive chef as the one they have is both a partner and very accomplished,
but, they probably have some corporate or other positions, so I'm looking forward to it.
Reviewing all those interview tips I received here:http://www.cheftalkcafe.com/forums/s...ight=interview

I have an additional question regarding interviews for you folks:

Suit and Tie?

Now, I've been going on several interviews and mostly wear the suit and tie, but I usually feel overdressed. The "professionals" advise to always wear, especially for an "exec chef" position, but all the situations I've been in so far, including with the HR people are pretty casual. I feel funny walking through the kitchen in a suit and I'm not really a suit kinda person...

What do you think?

Enough blabbing, tonight I attend an ongoing restaurant management course at the New School taught by an excellent teacher, David Friedman. He worked for Restaurant Associates and with Drew Nierpont. Lots of great people in the class with a wide variety of restaurant interests. Luckily I'm the only chef, so it presents a lot of good job opportunities from prospective restauranteurs!
Also picking up some home-designed biz cards so those future restauranteurs will not forget about me.

Thanks for this forum:)
 
1,908
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Joined Oct 28, 1999
1x,
Great, insightful post!
The Jacket & tie question... That really is a concern. On one hand nobody else is wearing it and you may stick out a bit. On the other hand, if you show up in casual wear, your first impression may be that you aren't taking the interview seriously. If it were me, I would err on the side of being too formal. I think (especially in our line work) you need to look like you are taking the job search process seriously. Carry yourself confidently, and you can shake-off the "school boy" look.
So often in restaurants, we get some 'characters' walking through the door that looked like they rolled out of bed after a hard night and popped in for the interview. Not to say you will go in looking like a mess, but a jacket and tie says you mean business. Agree?
Either way... Best of luck on your search. And keep us posted!!
 
4,508
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Joined Jul 31, 2000
chef1x,

Jims reply is right on the mark.

Jacket and tie is the way to go. after all....we are professinals.
good luck
 
2,938
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Joined Mar 4, 2000
It always pays to look polished for an interview. If you take the time to look professional, it won't go unnoticed.

Good luck. Lots of great opportunities.:)
 
261
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Joined Dec 4, 2002
Thanks for the great and obviously tried and true advice gentlemen. I'm ironing away right now:)

It turns out one of the guys in the aforementioned class is a Maitre'd for Jean Georges and the Mercer Kitchen and graciously offered to take my resume.

He always arrives at the class dressed immaculately, as if for work, so there ya go....
 
4,463
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Joined Aug 4, 2000
FWIW:
I work for IBM and worked for a whole host of other companies and jacket and tie simply show that you care about your appearance and know how to dress...at least when the time comes.

Should someone interview with a slovenly appearance then I definitely would not what that person representing me and my company.

However, avoid the three-piece Versace when a sportcoat and slacks, white shirt and tie will do.
 
261
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Joined Dec 4, 2002
Well, there are a few things I have learned over the past few days, let's start with this:

Most of the "advice" I have received regarding interviews, resumes,etc., from culinary/professional web sites and notabley HERE, have come in extremely useful.

Fellow job-seeking chefs of the world:

Be Prepared!
Do Your Homework!

These are things I'm glad I did in preparation for today:

Learned how to write a proper resume.
Learned what to expect during an interview.
STUDIED my potential employer!!!Names, history, web sites, mission statements, menus, the COMPETITION!!!
Mentally reviewed my work history and experience.
Mentally reviewed basic industry standard costs! (TY Kuan).
Produced copies of every legal, educational and professional document known to man.
Produced references dating back to childhood.
Spent some dinero on things like paper, biz cards, resumes, clothes, haircuts, buttermilk foot baths.....

Other things:

Polished my shoes, even on a rainy day.
Bought a new shirt for the occasion.
Wore the bloody suit and tie, along with a @##&&* rain coat.
Bought mints and used them.
Took a car to the interview (instead of the subway, last time I ended up all sweaty and aggravated, in the car I just hummed quietly and dreamed of meringue whisps).
Hit the gym beforehand and vented my anxiety. Stretched and took a long hot shower.
Had a good night's sleep after staying up and fretting about the war.
Ate at one or two of the prospective employers restaurants.
Brought copies of my resume and references, on good paper.
Knew that I knew I could do this.
Knew that I knew I could make a very good omelette.

Result:

After a few minor butterflies, and realizing that the young whippersnappers around were there for other jobs, I took a few deep breaths and REMINDED myself that I am qualified for this job. Visions of thousands of plates went before my eyes. Was this really me? And that's all it took.
The HR person was snappy, organized and professional. Didn't ask me about my life story or "my favorite food" or even my "worst attribute" (thank god, I hate that!), but I was ready even for that. Allowed me to be comfortable and we immediately jumped into food. Didn't hurt that they were living in BROOKLYN or that all the relevant restaurant "buzz" words just popped out of my mouth naturally. The killer was this: turns out the potential position is currently occupied by a chef I have interacted with very often through our previous positions. Not that the job is sealed by any means, but it doesn't hurt. Talk about a small world.

Another good omen:cool:

The HR person just called me to set up an appointment for next week with the corp. exec. chef. More homework to do....

Question of the day:

The aforementioned resources always suggest writing
a thank you note after the interview......Is this True?
Has anyone here done that????
Make sure to get the full name and address.

In the brutal rain, I walked two blocks to see my "job counselor" and reminded them to update my paperwork so that I can procede with Spanish classes. As well as the restaurant management classes which I already paid for, but they are supposed to.

Reluctantly, I traversed the subways and ended up at Astor Place to look at my new biz cards. Not bad....The masses were clamoring. I solemnly accepted the proofs, and abruptly purchased a couple of Riojas from the Warehouse.
Took the subway home in my rainy wooly self. What more do we need. Get the job, not get the job, for once, I'm pleased with the overall performance........

:chef:
 
1,908
274
Joined Oct 28, 1999
I have written follow-up notes thanking my interviewer for their time. When I was in college, I was taught that an interview for a professional position can be followed up w/ a phone call or letter. I think a quick note thanking them for their time is appropriate... and it keeps your name "in view".
Sounds like you done good! The 'homework' is critical for you to rise above the crowd.
Keep us posted!!
 
22
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Joined Feb 27, 2003
i've also sent post interview thank you notes... although it was for an engineering position.

question: you took the subway home? what happened to your car?
 
818
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Joined Oct 13, 2001
OK , just one more aspect to look at . In my last 3 interviews for exec chef jobs as well as my currant job as food service director I interviewed with the HR person first and then had an interview with the CEO of the property and his or her assistant . All of my interviews were conducted while I was working at another property . Well I did not have time to slip into a suit and tie to make these appointments so what I did was show up with a clean chefs jacket , checked chefs pants , and oh yeah whatever that thing we tie around our necks to hold the swet ( its kind of like a tie ). Also of course my shoes were highly polished . All I can say is it has worked . I was hired on each occasion and if I look for employment again I shall probably use the same routine . Yes a suit is the most expected approach for an interview but sometimes reality works . Good luck to you my friend PUCK for all of us food service employees . Your friend in food , Doug........
 
261
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Joined Dec 4, 2002
I always start my morning by checking the following job searches online:

The NYTimes, the Village Voice (mostly geared to service and entry level, but not always, and occasionly out of state offerings),

HRCareers.com ( I've had one or two good hits from them, and they are national/international. The one {still pending} offer I got through them is for the British West Indies),
America's Job Bank online as well is similar, and they both offer "job detectives" which notify you if any available jobs meet your search criteria. I've sent a dozen or so resumes via their resources, but no results yet.
The ACF job search. You must be a member, and the offerings are usually lame, but not useless.
FCI sends a bi-weekly list of available jobs. I've had a couple good hits on that, but of course you must be alumnus. It seems most of their offerings are entry-level or outdated, but not useless.
The NRA actually lists jobs, but pretty lame, considering, and mostly useless (I check anyway).
I also check the listings from the University I attended (BU), 'cause they have a hospitality school. I haven't found anything, but I always check.
I pass out biz cards to my fellow classmates and any restaurant I go to, without being obnoxious.
I also purchased some good letterhead in case the opportunity arises to present a resume in person! I wish! The old-fashioned (and best, I think) way to get a job.

It helps to have a computer, of course, and a fax machine. BUT, believe me, it is not impossible to get access to the same even if you don't have at home. And of course, ALL these job search vehicle expenses are tax deductible, including all materials, transportation, etc.

If anyone wants any info about this, please email me.
 
261
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Joined Dec 4, 2002
Oh, and I might add to the above:

I check the websites of big restaurant/hotel corps. on a semi-weekly basis, because they sometimes have offerings you won't see elsewhere:
Aramark, Sodexho, Marriot, Wyndham, Sonesta. etc... Jean-Georges, BRGuest, Restaurant Assoc. and other similar that I can't even remember, all maintain some pretty spectacular web-sites where you can access job offerings.

Of course, word of mouth is best, but the above is a good alternative that we can't afford to just ignore.

I also am signed up with a "job-training" provider through the 9/11 Fund ( but there are many other similar programs available to anyone unemployed), and while they are geared mostly towards blue-collar/union stuff (plenty of restaurant work there!), they can help with things like resume writing, interview skills and more importantly, computer skills (excel spreadsheets are very important these days, no?). My counselor is pretty lame and I end up doing most of the paperwork for her, but they DID give me a big check to do things like:
buy new shoes, new shirt, haircut, resume paper, etc.
One funny story about them:
a job counselor called me at home to tell me about a job he was contacted about. It was for a "meat slicer" with the food service co. which has a contract with the American Stock Exchange. He wanted to know if "chefs" knew how to operate "meat slicers."
I smiled inwardly, cleared my throat, and said "why yes," chefs are generally trained to operate meat slicers! Hahaha....
He told me the job was $12/hr. would I be interested?
I thought about it. While I don't have any problem with any salary, I don't really wanna be slicing 200# of Boar's Head Ham all day!
I thanked him profusely, but reminded him that my unemployment check is bigger than that and it really wouldn't be wise to accept such a job.
He said, "but what happens when that runs out??"
I hadn't actually thought about that, but responded, " I guess I'll take my chances on that.."
He told me he wasn't even aware of current unemployment benefits. The last time he checked it was like $200/wk/max. I smiled again...what a cutie!
Anyway, he has contacted me a couple of times since then, and I actually went to interview for one occasion.....

The bottom line, people, is be humble, stick to your guns, your culinary roots and motivation and be open to anything!
:chef:
 
261
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Joined Dec 4, 2002
Brown Sugar,

You seem to have a similar geographical history as I do!
Surely you would know that in Brooklyn we don't have taxis, we take "car services." I took a "limo" into Manhattan ($14 + tip, same amount of time as subway, but far more conducive to a good interview:) ). Took the subway back with the rest of the working class grunts. Mission accomplished. No, I don't have a car, that's one reason I live here! Where are you in Brooklyn?


Chefboy,
very interesting point.....
If I were currently employed, I would employ the same strategy. I would generally be FAR more comfortable in chef whites and chex than in a suit, thus my above dilemna.
I can tell you this though, and I didn't give it much thought before I posed the question here:

Once I had done my homework and studied every "professional" angle I could think of,
the physical appearance stuff gave me a psychological edge that I never really paid attention to before. The suit, tie, spiffy shoes, manicure, pedicure (Yes!), hair cut, make you feel.....(how can I say it but thus!):
that your Mise En Place is together and ready....

Before I interviewed with BRGuest, the last interview I went on was with a by-product of the Balducci food empire. I wore black jeans, an open-collar shirt, and arrived sweaty and late from the subway. Essentially, the interview location was a grocery store; very grimy actually, and the HR people were plainly dressed. However, it's a very high-profile, big $$, hi-volume operation and I regretted my non-chalance. Initially I was a little nervous and fidgety because it's an odd feeling being interviewed by people whose job is to interview people (as opposed to those who cook and operate restaurants)........ Once I got past that feeling and the fact that my fate with this company was doomed, I relaxed and had a great interview. Didn't bother to send a thank you note....... Lesson learned!!!!!!!!!

:chef: :D :chef:
 
799
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Joined Feb 21, 2001
Anything you can do to keep you in the interviewer's mind is useful, and that's one of the things the thank you note is for. And it's even better if you can reference part of your conversation in it. They taught us at J&W to ask questions as if you already had the job...Who do I report to? When would I start? Psychological warfare. I learned recently you don't exclaim, when confronted by a rack oven you've never seen, "Oh, I've never used one of these."
 
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Joined Feb 27, 2003
chef 1x,

i live in lovely bedford stuyvesant/stuyvesant hts, before that i lived in clinton hill. once again i clearly skimmed the posting as i read it as "your car" not "a car."

just a note... my first ever job interview in NYC was in mid july... it was HOT, HUMID, drizzling every other 5 mins and i was like... i am supposed to wear a suit? i carried my coat and umbrella and got to my interview 30mins early so i could dry off. it was ugly! i was frazzled, overcome by the whiffs of hot urine... a great way to introduce myself to the big apple! LOL! :p
 
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Joined Mar 21, 2003
this is an awsome thread and great questions have been posed
you are definately on the right track
suit and tie is a must with all interviews unless otherwise stated (even then be crisp in appearance), also remember to wear a different suit and tie to each interview (wearing the same thing can be a point against you) as chefs we have the advantage of being proffesionals and artists accent your business wear with a culinary pin or tie tack nothing outrageous but still somewhat fun to set you apart
a follow up note (or email in this day and age) is a must when trying to set yourself apart (i can send you an example if you would like)
always be prepared for this question "why should we hire you, what would you bring to our organization?"
my answer is generally something along the lines of:
my ecclectic background offers me the advantage of viewing situations in a way that sets me apart. balh blah blah....you get the point
 
261
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Joined Dec 4, 2002
Bighat, very good point... I've never been one to BS with people that much, I'm rather plainly spoken:) , but I've mended my ways and I'm all about getting in peoples heads. Though I've read a lot about what you describe, (talking as if you already have the job), I just can't bring myself to do it. I do "think" as if the job is mine, and that in turn gives me the confidence to physically behave as if I do.....

BS,
I think it is a valid question....I have been wearing the standard wool suit and praying for cool days. So far so good. But what do we do if we can't afford the linen and silk suits for every season??? Do we just suck it up and purchase them? I always wondered how the poor fellas do it in the summer...

Mage, I think that is another very good and (hopefully) obvious point:) I actually paused to think about it this morning. That successful first interview shirt may still be wearable or bring you good luck, but, don't do it! I remember interviewing people at my last restaurant and immedietely struck people from the list if they wore the same clothing two days in a row!
And I like the "wearing a pin' thing. I've never done that, but now I'm trying to think of a subtle way of doing that.......

Thanks for all your help and input folks!!!!

:chef:
 
261
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Joined Dec 4, 2002
:chef:

BTW, I'd LOVE to hear about other people's "unemployed chef" experiences...

So this is how the 2nd interview went with the "corp. chefs":
Prepared myself as above, even more so. This time I wore new socks:) .

The interview was at Dos Caminos and I arrived 5 min. early. I was asked to wait at the bar. They were busy and rockin' and I thought it a little odd to have an interview in the middle of a lunch rush.....and to wait at the bar. I sat there and thought how it sucks to have an occupied seat from a customer who isn't ordering a drink. I ordered a cran/soda, only $2, I was impressed though it wasn't made the way I like (the juice was on the bottom!):)
I was soon escorted downstairs through a very high production kitchen and into a steamy yet decently sized office. I was introduced to a chef (didn't get his mumbled name as he was on the phone) who was wearing a chef coat, shorts(!) and sneakers with at least a 3-day beard, an apparantly rapidly declining hairgrowth and all the looks of a typical frazzled chef. He was very nice to me. Brought me into a typically cramped but relatively orderly "chefs" office. Lots of relevant cookery books (good sign:) ), and lots of Soprano's paraphenelia (?? sign:confused: ). He eyed a few floating fruitflies (bad sign:( ) and killed about 2 outta 3.
Went through my resume, and the folder of documents I brought along (certificates, awards, degrees, articles, digital food photos). He seemed most interested in my background and (?) my computer skills.....(I reminded him 3 times about my excel proficiency, accounting classes, etc..., then the Big Guy walked in.
(Now, mind you, I've done my homework on the guy. Knew that he's been in the Co. for over 12 years and actually started out as a sous chef for one of the group's first restaurants. He also frequently runs marathons. Now, he's pretty big...Not dressed in chef whites...) LATE! Oh well, that's what happens when you're the big guy. He seemed pleasant enough. None of the annoying "Life story" or "Favorite/least favorite/best attributes/worst, etc! Hate that!). He looked at the photos and I could tell it registered. He proceded to grill me with his back turned!!!
After the 4th time he pestered me about my "volume experience" I inwardly snapped a little and basically said something along the lines of "look, pal, and future boss, if you can put out xxx number of made-to-order tasting plates from a choice of xxx dishes in an xxx amount of time, you would KNOW what volume is". I KNOW volume!!
He was very nice to me after that.
Shortly after, he asked me to walk down the block to meet the current chef....(the guy I know). Turns out he wasn't working that night. So I made reservations to eat there that night and made plans to call him the next day....
:chef: :chef:
 
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Joined Mar 21, 2003
glad my suggestions help, here is a link you may find interesting it features culinary jewelry http://www.decoratedchef.com/site/aboutus.cfm

i was also shocked to find people wearing the same suit twice (generally to their second interview thinking it would be with someone else) for a summer situation go with the linen suit or best thing to do is go to a men's warehouse or something like that, talk to the salesman he/she can steer you in the right direction suit wise there are cotton blends that fit any season, because you wont wear an interview suit often think in broader terms like where else would you wear this and would it be appropriate. the colors to wear to an interview are blue, steel gray, charcoal or a nice thin pin stripe...tan and brown are OK but never black it is too somber
 
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