For any young aspiring chef there is always a learning curve when first stepping into the industry. Most of us receive our first restaurant experience at an early age. Whether our career begins at the local pizzeria or at a nationally recognized franchise is irrelevant. We dip our toes in the water, we receive that first introductory experience and for whatever reason, we find ourselves suddenly drawn to the industry.
With that initial itch, many of us migrate towards a culinary institution for more formal training. Others will gradually work their way up through the kitchen ranks. Regardless, of how the journey transpires the actual transition from cook to chef is still one of the most grueling experiences anyone can endure in a given profession.
“Stay humble and always stay hungry.”
Like any vocation, testaments of your skill and commitment to your craft will likely bear you a promotion through the ranks. However, the trip there is ridden with long hours, tons of cussing, and a near microscopic amount of rewards along the way. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you’re trying to propel yourself fresh out of those culinary school whites to those exclusive executive whites – you know the ones with the matching high-rise toque.
First and foremost, respect. Respect for the kitchen, the product, your fellow chefs, your front-of-house, and most of all the rush. If you plan on staying in this industry you’ll need to understand how it works. No matter how far you go in this industry a restaurant’s success starts with how you treat your position in it. If you want to be known as a great chef than respect the industry – appreciate your crew (both front and back of houses) and be proud of the courses you’re compiling together.
It goes without saying, never underestimate the rush until you’ve compiled a few holiday seasons under your belt. The rush has a unique way of making-or-breaking any green chef. No matter your culinary education you won’t truly know if you’re built for the profession until you’ve learned how to master a rush.
The rush hints at another hefty factor for success, your ability to cope with stress. There’s no doubt a restaurant’s rush will test your ability to cook and perform under pressure. However, this entire profession is built around stress. If there was ever a casual definition of a chef it would be, ‘one who handles adversity without flinching.’ Even when you’re not in the kitchen, in the thick of things, you are still thinking about work.
Whether it is compiling recipes, worrying about an upcoming event or even the simple fact you’re working the holidays while everyone else is off enjoying them. Add in the fact; nothing ever goes to plan in this profession. Despite how much planning and participation you may have organized something will happen. This industry illuminates stress from every angle of life. If you can handle a rush – God bless ya, but if you can handle a rush and the stress of this industry daily; well then, you might just make it.
Along the two points already mentioned, one should learn to love your family – your work family. The ones you’re going to see the most will be your fellow co-workers; learn to appreciate them. The ones, who are going to help you through 500 covers on Saturday night, are your fellow chefs and servers. The ones, who you’re going to suffer with on Christmas, are your fellow restaurant mates. The ones, who are going to pick you up after a rough night with a brew in hand, are your comrades.
Lastly, while every kitchen and restaurant may share similarities – they are all inherently different. With that being said, understand there is always something new to learn. No matter, how successful you become in this business there are always new ways to learn, adapt, and evolve your culinary knowledge.
Even if you have won awards for a particular dish there is always a new twist to a particular ingredient or presentation of the dish. No matter how accomplished you’ve become; you should not be afraid to incorporate new styles or techniques to your arsenal. It may be tough to stay humble in an industry that demands excellence night-in and night-out, but to succeed in this business you’ll need to mature and learn from each experience thrown at you.
Being a chef is a demanding career. The culinary profession is unforgiving. It’s safe to say the job, may never truly love you back. Yet, it still offers some of the most gratifying experiences one can hope for in their careers and that my friends, that’s what makes it all worth it. Good luck, to all those aspiring chefs out there and remember stay humble and always stay hungry.