Being a chef is one of those jobs that many people think would be cool but don’t understand the reality of the industry. With the recent explosion in the last few years of cooking shows, reality TV and the rise of the celebrity chef, it is a career path that has become glorified by the few who make a living totally unlike the other 99% of people who do this “noble toil”. I think back to when I did my chef training and the motley crew of (mostly) rejects of society who for a plethora of reasons (if any) decided to start down the path of culinary glory. Or perhaps they just didn’t have the grades to get into uni.
So without further ado here is my list for:
How to make it as a chef
(or how to not get yelled at and possibly fired when working in a kitchen).
Look the part
The first step in being a chef is looking like a chef. How you present yourself reflects on how you will work. If you turn up looking like you have slept in your uniform and don’t care enough to have had a shower or shaved then chances are you also don’t care too much about your work.
Nobody wants to work with a messy chef, how you look and work is an insight into your present state of mind. If you look a mess and your work station is a mess then your thoughts are probably a mess. In which case you probably won’t be able to work in a logical and organised manner and then you are a liability to yourself and those around you.
Do as you are told
When working in a kitchen one needs to understand it is a high pressure environment with very real and serious time constraints. There is nothing more annoying than someone with an opinion you didn’t ask for. Opinions are like arseholes; everybody’s got one. Assume your head chef/sous chef didn’t get where they were by being an idiot so if they tell you a specific way of doing something then it’s best to do it. When you’ve spend years learning your craft and are in a position to do things your way then you can tell people how you want things (and hope they do as they’re told…)
Keep it to yourself
(or don’t trust any fucker)
When working a busy service there is nothing more annoying than someone telling you their life story when asked a quick simple question. The longest response generally accepted in a very busy service is of two words in length; yes chef, no chef or 2 minutes are the safest answers. This goes for when prepping as well, if someone is pissing you off then the best bet is to assume whatever you tell someone it will get back to them. The safest topics are girls, sports and taking the piss out of the junior staff/waiters.
If your chef asks you to do something and you do it when and how you said you would then you will be a real asset. I mentioned already not to trust anyone, if you become the person that the chef can trust then you will go places. Be reliable with your time and attendance. The work in the kitchen is very time sensitive and isn’t like any other job where if you leave on Friday then the work will still be there on your desk on Monday. If you do a dreaded ‘no show’ at work or turn up late then other people will have to pick up your slack and do your work and possibly even get the feared phone call on your day off. Do this enough times and your team will start to resent you, stop helping you when you are ‘in the weeds’, be apathetic if they see somethings of yours in the oven about to burn or even be pro active in stitching you up. Moral of the story is: turn up to work!
Don’t chase the money
The work might suck, the money is rubbish, your head chef may be a prick, but if you’re learning something and progressing your career then stick it out. Think about the long term. If you work in respected places learning from good chefs then you can go far. The wider your base the further you can reach. Think about what you want to do and where you want to go and make a plan on how you’re going to get there then execute it. If you get fed up and throw in the towel early in your career when the work is the toughest then that is as far as you will go. Stick it out and have a plan and who knows, you might even make it to the top.
- why i became a chef some days i have no idea!! (deadonmyfeet.wordpress.com)