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View Full Version : Stagiaire - Success, Failure and what not...



Gravy Power
03-14-2013, 08:43 PM
I'm currently entering my second year of Culinary school, though I'm about 70% done with the cirriculum. As I enter my last three quarters, I'm trying to secure at least one high-end opportunity.

Where all have you been? What's the most ambitious place you've tried to get into? I'd love to hear success stories, as well as failures. As well as any tips one might have. I imagine timing and luck can play a large role.

Gravy Power
03-14-2013, 09:57 PM
I should add, I really want to Stage with Salty, and I've tried in the past but the timing has never worked out. Would love to absorb some of his knife knowledge.

andygraybeal
03-20-2013, 09:34 AM
I should add, I really want to Stage with Salty, and I've tried in the past but the timing has never worked out. Would love to absorb some of his knife knowledge.

Forgive me, I've never been to school.. and I'm a prep monkey... what does "staging" mean?


EDIT:
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/stagiaire -- intern.

Igasho
03-20-2013, 09:55 AM
Salty Gravy....I like the ring that has :P

Chefdog
03-20-2013, 11:07 AM
I would say not to focus too much on finding a place in the "best" restaurant, but instead finding a classically trained chef who's willing and able to take you on and teach. Getting into a 3 star michelin place doesn't do you a whole lot of good if you're turning potatoes and picking herbs all day every day. But working alongside a motivated, well trained chef who wants to teach you what he's learned, even in a no-star restaurant, will serve you much better in the long run.

I'm certainly not saying there's no value in striving for the best, just that there will be plenty of time to explore the top tier later. Focus on the fundamentals early, and you'll be better off when the 3 star opportunity arises.

I talk to plenty of students who went for the gusto straight out of school and end up feeling like cheap slave labor on their exterships. In contrast, a student from my last class chose a small, relatively unknown place with a chef who worked at the French Laundry and is extremely happy with the experience.

skiajl6297
03-20-2013, 11:13 AM
Gravy - where are you located/interested in being located?

K-Fed
03-20-2013, 11:18 AM
I would say not to focus too much on finding a place in the "best" restaurant, but instead finding a classically trained chef who's willing and able to take you on and teach. Getting into a 3 star michelin place doesn't do you a whole lot of good if you're turning potatoes and picking herbs all day every day. But working alongside a motivated, well trained chef who wants to teach you what he's learned, even in a no-star restaurant, will serve you much better in the long run.

I'm certainly not saying there's no value in striving for the best, just that there will be plenty of time to explore the fancy and trendy later. Focus on the fundamentals early, and you'll be better off when the 3 star opportunity arises.
+1 to this for sure. I never went to school so alongside self education. Text books, cook books and the like I learned a lot of what I know from chefs that were willing to take the time to give me the low down on what they were doing. That being said I'd love to spend a week with salty as well. Theory too.

Chuckles
03-20-2013, 11:32 AM
I would stay away from places that rely heavily on sous vide and other "modern" techniques. If you learn that stuff before you're solid on classic techniques it could easily become a crutch and limit your options down the line when trend chasing may become less important than a quality position or buying diapers.

hambone.johnson
03-20-2013, 11:32 AM
Ive worked in two Micheline star restaurants, both later in my career, and im greatful i have done that opposed to right out the gate from school. its best to get a base and find a great chef who will learned and work with you, stay with that person for 2+ years and then move on to something else. Then later you can move on to some places you really aspire to. I see kids come in to the places ive worked totally green and they expect to be guided, or transfixed or work closely with a chef but the truth is the pace of the kitchen is too fast and explinations are short if any and failure, usually in drastic fashion, is the most common form of learning. then they have to make adjustments on a daily basis and its often so hard on the individual. get some knife skills, some line skills, a head on your shoulders and then apply to the places you have always aspired to.

franzb69
03-20-2013, 12:04 PM
get some knife skills, some line skills, a head on your shoulders and then apply to the places you have always aspired to.

yes to all of this. do the classic techniques, learn it and learn it well. i've heard this many many times.... if you wanna be good at something you have to do it at least a thousand times, so if you wanna master technique, you have to do it way more than that. and then when you think you're good enough there's always gonna be someone better than you at it. being in the kitchen is pretty competitive coz you always wanna be faster or better than the other guy.

a head on your shoulders will help you to be able to handle people in the kitchen who are let's just say less than ideal in terms of personality and work ethic. there will always be that one dude that you hate being around with.

so good luck and see where it takes you. i hope i get somewhere as well. lol.

Salty dog
03-20-2013, 01:48 PM
The offer is still open. Just not a fan of dancin, if ya know what I mean. Pick a freakin week and bite the bullit.

Although I have a pre-planned 30 day "vacation" coming up which I hope to squeeze in before summer.

"a head on your shoulders will help you to be able to handle people in the kitchen who are let's just say less than ideal in terms of personality" .......this made me chuckle.

franzb69
03-21-2013, 07:40 AM
this made me chuckle.

:doublethumbsup: :biggrin:

jcsiii
06-24-2013, 02:16 PM
As a stage expect to do the least complicated work, what they would call the B**H work. But keep your eyes open and learn at every opportunity. My best opinion is to get a stage at the best restaurant that will take you. Expect to work hard for little to no money for weeks. You probably won't get a job offer at a lot of high end places so early in your career but you will learn how to be a clean and efficient cook and you will probably see a lot more in a short period of time at one of these places than you ever will at a lower level restaurant.

foodaholic
06-24-2013, 02:48 PM
I am currently a culinary student and I did an extended stage (externship) at COI in San Francisco. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I was there as a stage for a little over 5 months. I worked long hard hours that I will never forget. I opened the restaurant up at 7:30am or 8am every day and would usually finish my closing duties by 11pm. I did everything from pick seaweeds, juice citrus, make family meal, pick herbs, tend plant and pick our micro-green garden, peel fresh yuzu and make yuzu koshu and yuzu-panettone with our pastry chef, make beet roses, clean garbage cans, fold linens, forage with our chef de cuisine, scrub floors, and I was even a dishwasher for two nights and all of these things have made me a better person and cook. I went in with an open mind and expected to do grunt work and that is what I started doing, but I showed promise and by the end of the experience I was doing things that I never could have imagined.
The best advise I received on this stage was to write everything down. Write down ideas, recipes, methods, ingredient names, peoples names, each tool in the kitchen and a description, ideas on how to become faster, conversations that you have with people, write it all down no matter how inconsequential you think it is, WRITE IT DOWN. It shows you care and after a year or so when you want to remember how they made that killer dish you can look back at your notes and re-create it yourself.

jbl
10-26-2013, 09:45 AM
I stage regularly with whichever restaurant does what I feel is a gap in my knowledge. For example, I'm heading down to a well known London restaurant that cooks only with wood fire, and last summer I went to the UKs best restaurant to suss out their extensive foraging system. It's the same way I buy books; be specific.

Von blewitt
10-26-2013, 09:50 AM
Burnt Enz?

Chefget
10-27-2013, 10:19 AM
I walked the streets of Paris, knocking on doors and talking (with a truly pitiful but respectful French) with chefs until one said yes.

Actually two said yes, and took the job that paid 7 franc/day. That was about a dollar in 1984, enough for the metro home and a 'demi' :D

When the truffle purveyor came in and we tasted fresh winter truffles from a wooden basket I knew it was the right choice!

-Michael

ohbewon
11-05-2013, 10:50 PM
We get stage's every other day fresh from/still in school. I second everyone that's stressed technique. SO many high end kitchens cryovac everything and drop it into the circulator. While it's not a horrible way to turn out food, lots of new cooks depend on them too much. Classic technique will take you far. Monkeys can sous vide apples. It takes a cook to glacé those for service. Technique, technique, technique! Plus, in super high end kitchens like mine, the chef/owner (the one with all of the awards) rarely spends much time in the kitchen.

actekulve
11-17-2014, 08:14 PM
I am currently a culinary student and I did an extended stage (externship) at COI in San Francisco. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I was there as a stage for a little over 5 months. I worked long hard hours that I will never forget. I opened the restaurant up at 7:30am or 8am every day and would usually finish my closing duties by 11pm. I did everything from pick seaweeds, juice citrus, make family meal, pick herbs, tend plant and pick our micro-green garden, peel fresh yuzu and make yuzu koshu and yuzu-panettone with our pastry chef, make beet roses, clean garbage cans, fold linens, forage with our chef de cuisine, scrub floors, and I was even a dishwasher for two nights and all of these things have made me a better person and cook. I went in with an open mind and expected to do grunt work and that is what I started doing, but I showed promise and by the end of the experience I was doing things that I never could have imagined.
The best advise I received on this stage was to write everything down. Write down ideas, recipes, methods, ingredient names, peoples names, each tool in the kitchen and a description, ideas on how to become faster, conversations that you have with people, write it all down no matter how inconsequential you think it is, WRITE IT DOWN. It shows you care and after a year or so when you want to remember how they made that killer dish you can look back at your notes and re-create it yourself.

Hi Foodaholic,

I was wondering how you went about getting your stage at COI and what were the terms? If you could share I would really appreciate it. If you would rather keep this private my email is aarontekulve@gmail.com. Thank you! Aaron T

LeperoftheFaith
11-17-2014, 09:44 PM
Coi requires at least a month commitment for staging.

waruixd
05-27-2015, 07:58 PM
Find a restaurant/chef that interests you. Thats where you need to go. Stay for at least a week, you can't learn much in one day.

Be persistent. Make yourself available. Be on time(early). Speak when spoken to (until you can pick up on the kitchens culture.)

Bring a sharp knife, and a sharpie. If you have extra pockets carry small tools you might need. (I always carry an off-set spatula, a dough scraper, notebook, scissors and a peeler in my pocket when I show up for a stage.)

lechef
12-13-2015, 10:29 PM
Wanted to hear your advise on something.

So I have now worked 8 months in a 3-star restaurant in Europe, great experience, but had some issues with the place(no hard feelings, have learned a ton, just want to see what else is out there before I settle on a place, only have 1 life so have to be picky). Will do a 3month stage after X-mas before heading to San Fransisco in April to stage there to do a new 3-month stage. Since there are so many Americans on this forum, help me out, is there a big difference from working in Europe? Have heard its harder than Europe(except from London), what you guys think?

NB: Have already read everything on eggbeater, so have some information, but nice to hear from someone who have done both EU & US. http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2013/10/stagiaire-advice-.html

Cutting_Edge
04-17-2016, 03:37 PM
I learned from Chef's that wanted to see me move up.I showed up early. Without being told I cleaned toilets, scrubbed garbage cans after emptying them. I did every job starting at dish washer and up. And even after I became a GM at a chain I still did all the work front and back that was needed. Be humble. Leave ego at home. Team player...always! If someone gets buried, ask if there is anything you can do to help.

I don't care if you work at a Denny's or a three star if you have the right attitude, you will advance. And never assume you know more than someone else.The guy who never did school but has been prepping for 10 years knows a hell of a lot about his job.

Develop a thick skin and a hobby outside of the kitchen. Try not to get caught up in the slave to the grind, drink all day just to slave again. It will sour you fast to the job and ruin your positive outlook. Not everyone who works in a kitchen is a drug/booze hound. I sometimes think that was a phase that existed twenty years ago when I cooked. But I still see it. I have been in S.A.for a while now and I have been in a few kitchens. The U.S works a lot harder at it but I also think the quality and work ethic is better. Can't say for Europe.

I would find someone that is willing to teach. And ask to start at the bottom. Learn everything you can and I will second the note taking. I am a bit jealous, I never got to go to school. Everything I was taught was no- do it like this... no real explanation of why. In my time there was no internet or not a lot of books on it either. I would try to pick a cuisine you enjoy and then find a chef willing to teach.It's better to master one than be a jerk of many.

stopbarking
04-18-2016, 12:58 AM
I was looking to switch from corporate cooking back to restaurant/fine dining having only had 3 months in a real restaurant about 6 years before. I lined up a stage at my favorite place to eat in my current town and was set the task of cutting chives. I was nervous and was cutting very slowly while everyone else was running around me like madmen and I felt overwhelmed. After this feeling set in one of the sous chefs looked at my pile of chives and dumped over half in the trash. This made me more nervous and I was cutting even more slowly.

Around that time one of the ovens that rarely gets turned on happened to be storing a backup pot of flavored oil. The oven blew open and spit out flames that were too big for the kitchen fire extinguisher to handle but luckily because it was in an oven it did not set off the Ansul system. The fire department was called about an hour before start of service to chemically extinguish the flame. The CDC informed us that we would be closed for the evening and told me to go home. I told them I would stay to clean and much to our surprise the health inspector told us that if we deep cleaned the whole kitchen and only trashed half our mise en place we could open. I jumped in the dish pit after being told repeatedly to go home. We only opened a half hour late for service and despite the terrible job I had been doing I worked through the end of the night.

I was judged on my willingness to stay and be a part of the team when they were not only in the weeds but the weeds were actually on fire. I was lucky that this fire happened and I was able to focus and calm my nerves and now three months after that night I'm running the grill.

On a stage people place more stock on your attitude and a general sense they get from you. They saw me as a teachable person with a willingness to get down and dirty and saw past the nervous, terrible job I had been doing. Be that guy and you will find the right fit.

Chef_
04-23-2016, 09:20 PM
From what im gaining from reading these posts, is that there are different types of stages. My "stage" was more of a quick tryout, where i julienned some vegetables, blanched verts, and deboned a chicken thigh as i was closely watched by a cook who was taking notes on my performance. I got an interview, got hired. The whole process was about 3 hours

From the time ive worked there until now, ive seen the same thing a couple of times when theyre looking to hire new people.... And then there is a different type of stage, where they have people come in that they have no intention of hiring and have them work a shift . We pretty much hand them different prep from each station that we dont feel like doing( aka the b**** work), and just leave em' to it. at the end of the shift they just say thanks for coming we'll call you if we need you. Im not sure exactly how much youre going to learn from an 8 hour shift of menial tasks like peeling beets and making mire poix, but i sure wouldnt want to do it for free. So i would be careful before taking a stage opportunity to make sure there is actually a job prospect at the end of it and youre not getting tricked into free labor. Or, if you know that there isnt and you just want to learn, make sure the chef actually cares about you learning, and doesnt just see you as another bright eyed culinary student he can trick into being a pack mule. But thats just my H.O.

Dardeau
04-24-2016, 07:56 AM
We try to enforce a no busy work policy with our non job seeking stages. They are there to see the restaurant and how we do things, not how we bruniose two quarts of jalapeños. When they go back to wherever they work you want them to talk about how great the restaurant was and how much they learned, not how lame it was. You do that enough times and nobody wants to work at your place.

waruixd
04-30-2016, 01:39 AM
Always ask questions, Even whether or not to throw away something you might this is garbage. Do not you assume you know how to do things. In a new kitchen, its the house rules that go.

Work harder, faster, cleaner and smarter that the cooks that work there.

CutFingers
04-30-2016, 02:19 PM
Don't stage for nobody! Don't sell yourself out for anybody. If they want you to work, then get paid. This industry is so full of pretense and BS quasi artists, there is no shame in starting low in a high end establishment and working up. You have to earn your wings regardless of culinary school.

In other words, the door to success is how you climb the ladder, with integrity and passion. The low road is the high road. You went to school, but that's only basic knowledge. Applied knowledge is more valuable than trained classes. The amount of time you waste staging for elitist pricks is your time and that should be compensating. In other words, working up might be lower wages, but running around chasing the dream is time and money wasted if you value your time.

The right place will happen at some point.

keithsaltydog
04-30-2016, 05:14 PM
From what im gaining from reading these posts, is that there are different types of stages. My "stage" was more of a quick tryout, where i julienned some vegetables, blanched verts, and deboned a chicken thigh as i was closely watched by a cook who was taking notes on my performance. I got an interview, got hired. The whole process was about 3 hours

From the time ive worked there until now, ive seen the same thing a couple of times when theyre looking to hire new people.... And then there is a different type of stage, where they have people come in that they have no intention of hiring and have them work a shift . We pretty much hand them different prep from each station that we dont feel like doing( aka the b**** work), and just leave em' to it. at the end of the shift they just say thanks for coming we'll call you if we need you. Im not sure exactly how much youre going to learn from an 8 hour shift of menial tasks like peeling beets and making mire poix, but i sure wouldnt want to do it for free. So i would be careful before taking a stage opportunity to make sure there is actually a job prospect at the end of it and youre not getting tricked into free labor. Or, if you know that there isnt and you just want to learn, make sure the chef actually cares about you learning, and doesnt just see you as another bright eyed culinary student he can trick into being a pack mule. But thats just my H.O.

Good post, I never went to culinary school either. I worked with European chefs many years, Swiss, German, French, Italian. Learned from all of them. Dishes I liked would write down recipe & procedure. Had all these hand written recipe's before computer.

The Swiss chef would pull the hardest working stewards dishwashers & train them in the kitchen. These local kids started at the bottom and a couple became Executive Chefs.

CutFingers
04-30-2016, 05:34 PM
Great story Keith! That's what I think is so important, is to understand cooking school does not take the real experience of having a team play the game of delivering stellar service and food. Applied knowledge comes from working with those who teach the dedicated.

There is no reason to ask to be taught, if you don't want to learn. That's what is so important about things. The attitudes of culinary graduates is that of entitlement. Going to school to practice is a great thing, but to apply a team dynamic of the highest integrity, is not too common these days.

I think there is far too much negativity surrounding the food service profession. We are best off taking every lesson with humility. Sometimes no matter how precise and perfect we do things it just is not good enough.

I frequently got criticized for not salting things enough. When the chef was heavy handed with salt, I felt a sense of disgust. But then I just sucked it up, one time I put enough salt in the mix to kill all the snails on planet earth. The chef said "this is better you got it buddy"

Chef_
04-30-2016, 07:10 PM
Great story Keith! That's what I think is so important, is to understand cooking school does not take the real experience of having a team play the game of delivering stellar service and food. Applied knowledge comes from working with those who teach the dedicated.

There is no reason to ask to be taught, if you don't want to learn. That's what is so important about things. The attitudes of culinary graduates is that of entitlement. Going to school to practice is a great thing, but to apply a team dynamic of the highest integrity, is not too common these days.

I think there is far too much negativity surrounding the food service profession. We are best off taking every lesson with humility. Sometimes no matter how precise and perfect we do things it just is not good enough.

I frequently got criticized for not salting things enough. When the chef was heavy handed with salt, I felt a sense of disgust. But then I just sucked it up, one time I put enough salt in the mix to kill all the snails on planet earth. The chef said "this is better you got it buddy"

Personally, i think its better for a prosepcting cook to start off at a really low end POS restaurant or food service place. I got my start in a college cafeteria, where i learned how NOT to run a kitchen. Which has been just as important for me as a cook as learning how to run a succesful kitchen.

Chef_
04-30-2016, 07:18 PM
Good post, I never went to culinary school either. I worked with European chefs many years, Swiss, German, French, Italian. Learned from all of them. Dishes I liked would write down recipe & procedure. Had all these hand written recipe's before computer.

The Swiss chef would pull the hardest working stewards dishwashers & train them in the kitchen. These local kids started at the bottom and a couple became Executive Chefs.

Wow, now thats an education worth paying for. Paying 30,000 dollars to learn from some schmuck at le cordon bleu that hasnt stepped foot in a real kitchen in 20 years just didnt seem worth it to me. Work 6 months in a kitchen, along with a little bit of researching, and youll be light years ahead of a culinary student, and youll already have experience under your belt.