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Zwiefel
12-16-2013, 10:40 PM
I've been interested in doing some stages at local places for a while now, but have held back while trying to find a the right place and make a connection. I've now been invited into the kitchen of a local place in an office park (primarily lunch business), that mostly does fresh pasta + sauces (but also burgers, panini, etc.). Fairly simple food, but quality and consistency are crucial to the model.

I wanted to ask the pros here what I should do to prepare so that I can be useful and not in the way. clothes? shoes? station? etc. I assume I'll mostly be doing prep work, or possibly some plating...I don't see them letting me operate the hot stations on day one.

I have zero experience in a commercial kitchen....

Any insight/advice welcomed.

Z

Crothcipt
12-16-2013, 10:46 PM
Z take your time. This may sound odd, but true. When learning something new like this you want to pay attention more than about speed. It becomes more about muscle memory than it does about speed. Unless you want to spend a couple hundred bucks for a uniform, a printed tee shirt and jeans should do fine. Most places if they want you in a uniform will give you a loaner.

greasedbullet
12-16-2013, 11:12 PM
Well non-slip shoes are almost universally required, and even if they weren't I would still wear them. Also you will need a hat. Wear long pants. I prefer cargo pants because I keep towels in the cargo pockets but that can be a very big no-no (understandably so). After that it is up to you. I have been in places where t-shirts are ok and the place I currently work requires uniforms. A chef jacket may be a good bet.

Now on to your knives. Don't let anyone mess with them outside of your direct supervision and Definitely don't let them out of your sight. I have been very fortunate in the places I have worked, but I have talked to way too many people who have had some very nice stuff walk off. I am not trying to scare you or talk bad about kitchen workers, just be careful.

Work hard, work clean, work quick, show up on time, have a good attitude, and learn everything you can.

Good luck and have fun. Let us know how it goes.
-Mike

eshua
12-16-2013, 11:22 PM
Good advice so far. Show up in tennis shoes and your gona have a bad time.

Also. Be sure you know what each others expectations are. Is this just part of your hobby, then be helpful clean and don't worry about speed or big picture. If this is a ap where you want to pick up a real job, make mental and written notes of everything. Write down any recipes that staff all has memorized. Every time you grab something from the cooler or dry stock take 10 sec to make note of what is where. Biggest hassle about new people is that they can't find Anything.

turbochef422
12-16-2013, 11:52 PM
Definitely only bring a knife or two that is a beater nothing two fancy. Non slip shoes and it always impresses me when someone puts in the time to study the menu alittle. If there are ingredients or produce or something your not familiar with google them before hand. Maybe look over making pasta and panini just so your prepared.

Lefty
12-16-2013, 11:58 PM
All great advice, for sure. I'm not a pro, but beig an ex-kitchen guy (along with some other similar jobs), I'd say be eager, ask relevant questions, bring a knife or two that don't scream "I'm a whack-job" (...yes, we are whack-jobs), and most importantly, make sure you can take some good natured teasing. The guys will likely get on you a bit once you've bee there for an hour or so. I'd say just have fun and enjoy it, but try your best to help with production, rather than hinder it. Regardless, it's your first day, and I'm sure you'll do great, and have a blast!

tkern
12-17-2013, 12:21 AM
Walk up to the biggest guy in the kitchen and shank him to prove your dominance right off the bat. Should be fairly easy after that.

JMac
12-17-2013, 01:14 AM
lol

JDA_NC
12-17-2013, 01:17 AM
Don't come in wearing a chef coat....

A plain black or white t-shirt is what you should wear. Same with a basic pair of jeans. If you don't have any non-slip shoes, do yourself a favor and pick up something you find comfortable from Wal-Mart. They'll have some Crocs/other clogs along with something like Dr. Scholl's lace-ups - which are inexpensive, comfortable, and don't look bummy.

Bring a sharpie - but not a notebook. They're not going to want you to start writing down all the recipes when you don't even have the job. If they need you to make something complicated then there will be someone there to guide you. It's just for labeling and showing you're prepared.

Do not bring a knife worth over 60 dollars

Say 'back' or 'behind' when you're walking behind someone... especially if it's during service. 'Corner' if you're coming around a blind corner. 'Hot' if you're carrying something hot.

Otherwise, have fun and enjoy yourself. Don't stress it too much. Be observant and attentive, help out when you can, and stay out of the way when it looks like you should. If whoever you're working with seems to have time to talk and answer things, then go ahead and ask questions, but if they seem stressed & busy - take note, keep quiet and just do whatever possible to help.

Oh... and think extra hard about whether or not you really want to do this :biggrin: (Someone needs to warn ya...)

panda
12-17-2013, 01:56 AM
comfortable shoes, highly recommend slip on style
plain black pants
plain tshirt
a hat or bandana or my preference a scully cap
an apron you are comfortable wearing
beater chef knife and a parer nobody would look twice at

find the one person who seems most likely/willing to train you
get to know the operation, don't worry about speed at all, getting it right in twice the time it takes everyone else still better than trying to keep up and f*cking it up.

but... why on earth do you want to try this?

Stumblinman
12-17-2013, 02:14 AM
You will be asked questions that seem simple but are there to get to know what you know as well as your personality. Like. What do you cook at home. I'm the worst at them. I'm blunt and to the point so I say no insight is relayed and therefore no impression is made. If you we're to say honestly. I don't get to cook as often as I'd like but I love baking breads and French recipes, then a report can develop. That's an example. If I had a time machine I'd eliminate the person who invented them. I hate seeing a place say they're hiring just to get dozens of ppl to work for free.

knyfeknerd
12-17-2013, 02:22 AM
Run Run Run Away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Don't do it!
NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!1

Stumblinman
12-17-2013, 02:37 AM
Oh and shut the fing walkin door! It doesn't matter how small it is someone will give you a tour of it that you'll forget within seconds, so don't stand there with it wide open get in there with them and just nod when the show you they're array of Cambros labeled in 3 different languages: English Spanish and kitchenese

marc4pt0
12-17-2013, 08:01 AM
I think you should ask what attire they expect you to wear before showing up. After that just about everything else mentioned, including the shanking the largest kitchen employee to No Chop's run away advice, is all perfectly sound.
Yet I will stress on the 3 biggies- pay attention, don't make them repeat themselves over and over. Work clean! Finish task at hand, including cleaning space on board And space on floor, Then ask "what's next". And above all, enjoy it! Revel in the novelty that is most of our's hell. It's actually fun!

Chuckles
12-17-2013, 11:54 AM
Lunch rushes don't last very long. Especially in office buildings. They are usually pretty intense. The most annoying thing that my last stage did was asking questions about something they were prepping for the next day during the middle of a heavy push. The cook may seem to be calmly knocking out a long ticket string but if he has more than 5 or 6 tickets hanging it is best to not ask for much of their attention.

Zwiefel
12-17-2013, 06:40 PM
Lots of good advice and thoughts. Thanks guys!

I think I'll just take my most basic jKnife (masamoto VG), working blue jeans, basic tee, I have some shoes with relatively grippy soles, and a bandana. rest well the night before. drink a bunch of coffee. work my ass off and stay out of the way when needed.

A couple have asked why I'm doing this, or encouraged me to run away. Not going to be a career change for me. I'm interested in having a new experience and learning something new...maybe about me, maybe about cooking...any of which is totally acceptable.

kpnv
12-17-2013, 07:30 PM
i would recommend studying finance

Mrmnms
12-17-2013, 07:37 PM
Nothing wrong with being nervous . Gives you energy. You have a good head on your shoulders and are doing this for the right reason. Before you start, take a deep breath, try to relax. Help where you can , make room when you can't and enjoy it. There's a lot of outstanding cooks that don't spend time in a commercial kitchens.

quantumcloud509
12-17-2013, 08:01 PM
Ive done a stage or two in my career.

Get it?


Everything said in the kitchen can and will be twisted into a sexually implicit joke.



This is my observation of how we hire at our restaurant:

Get ready to run and have some fun. Lighten up and hang out. Run though. When we hire we like to see people who have different speeds. We like to see their top speed, we overload them and see what happens. Be ready for more than you can handle and lots of cold shoulders in a kitchen. Not all kitchen people are happy gogo folks. Some wont talk to you for at least your first month because they cant or dont want to remember your name, etc. Don't be a stiffler and a know it all. Everything that can be done has been done, youre not gonna change the world or the menu in your initial stages of employment here...learn our way of doing things. Smile. Run. Be extra loud and courteos but not a stiffler. Stifflers dont last very well in kitchens. There is obviously something wrong with your head if you want to devote your time to a kitchen where you are scared to apply at...and you better believe everyone who works there is crazier than you are. If you show speed, respect, and a good attitude youre probably hired even if you dont know anything about us or our food because we need to hear new jokes and stories because we've heard ours about 300 times over and we need someone who will pay attention. Be ready and write everything youre told down. If you show genuine interest in what we are saying, we will show genuine interest in you. Dont ruin anyones night...and remember, if you do, it's not really your fault - you just became a natural scape goat because you wont be held responsible for anything because you dont work here yet.

charles222
12-18-2013, 01:37 AM
As long as you have some common sense and knows how to cut green onion you should be fine. I usually ask stages to cut green onions to see their knife skills. But i am sure most chefs are a lot nicer. I think having the right attitude is the most important. As long as you are cool, respectful, and not trying to replace a current employee, i think see any issues at all.

ontheDL
12-29-2013, 01:18 PM
If they tell you to do something and you don't know how...ask! I've seen too many people screw something up because they just assumed they knew what they were doing.

Stages should be fun though. They allow the chef to see if you're a good fit for the restaurant and also if the restaurant is a good fit for you.

Stumblinman
01-08-2014, 12:55 AM
So.... What's the outcome? Did any advice work ?

Asteger
01-08-2014, 11:48 AM
Now if I can chime in, Dan... I'm just going to echo some of what's already been mentioned, and maybe something new. Let's see.

Get tatoos. Kitchen hands seem to think this is mandatory. (Okay, don't. Not serious.)

Someone mentioned write stuff down. Yeah, do it. Write stuff down, make diagrams - how certain things are plated, maybe how something else is organised - study it at home so you're quicker and know your stuff, stick your paper up where you can see it when you're busy and forget.

Sense of humour and music in the kitchen - will be excruciating. Be prepared for all manner of tastelessness. Plug your ears.

Knives - on the one hand, you might give the impression that you think you're pretty hot stuff if you bring your fancy knives. Unless you're already very fast and the constant wiping and care needed for your carbon is second nature, maybe use the house knives instead and keep sharpening rods around as they'll need them constantly. On the other hand, using the crap house knives will make your work more difficult. No good solution.

Ignore the servers. They're a bunch of ... y'know.

Make friends with the dishwashers. People dump on them, but they deserve respect. Also shows the kind of person you are too. The servers are to the cooks what the cooks are to the dishwashers.

The obvious: use any free moment to keep your section all tidy and organised, and refresh yourself on anything you might have forgotten or need to ask about.

Speak Spanish. Aren't half the kitchen hands in the US Spanish speakers?

As you're going to be there, more or less, just for fun and the experience, you might probably expect that the crew will imagine you're the type who watches the food network all the time and so thinks if you joined in it would be cool. Debatable whether working in a kitchen is actually cool, but you still might get the attitude: you're a wannabe. No surprise.

And now a controversial one: being very hygenic takes a lot of time. At home, I wash everything when I should and as I should, and probably more so, but that's not what I've always seen done in restaurants. Watch others and see if there's any sort of general standard - because it'll probably be individual too - and then be a bit cleaner yourself, but not too clean as that'll take up time and then people will think you're slow and useless and not care why. Or you could do what I did and would do, and just ignore them and still be clean anyway.

stevenStefano
01-08-2014, 12:00 PM
Be yourself is about the best advice I could give though it sounds corny. Maybe sounds a little dramatic but I think pretty much everything anyone does in the kitchen is a broader reflection of the kind of person they are so be yourself no matter what anyone else is like or does and you should be fine. I see a lot of people just try to fit in and do a lot of bad things as well as good rather than ploughing their own furrow

panda
03-28-2014, 04:19 AM
did you ever end up doing a stage?

Zwiefel
03-28-2014, 12:04 PM
Not yet. Time ran short, and it dropped from my thoughts. I was thinking about it again last week though.

I need to call her.

Umberto
05-25-2014, 03:24 AM
Bring your sharpest knives, a doobie and wear a tie dye shirt. Have fun :)

Salty dog
05-25-2014, 08:28 AM
Now if I can chime in, Dan... I'm just going to echo some of what's already been mentioned, and maybe something new. Let's see.

Get tatoos. Kitchen hands seem to think this is mandatory. (Okay, don't. Not serious.)

Someone mentioned write stuff down. Yeah, do it. Write stuff down, make diagrams - how certain things are plated, maybe how something else is organised - study it at home so you're quicker and know your stuff, stick your paper up where you can see it when you're busy and forget.

Sense of humour and music in the kitchen - will be excruciating. Be prepared for all manner of tastelessness. Plug your ears.

Knives - on the one hand, you might give the impression that you think you're pretty hot stuff if you bring your fancy knives. Unless you're already very fast and the constant wiping and care needed for your carbon is second nature, maybe use the house knives instead and keep sharpening rods around as they'll need them constantly. On the other hand, using the crap house knives will make your work more difficult. No good solution.

Ignore the servers. They're a bunch of ... y'know.

Make friends with the dishwashers. People dump on them, but they deserve respect. Also shows the kind of person you are too. The servers are to the cooks what the cooks are to the dishwashers.

The obvious: use any free moment to keep your section all tidy and organised, and refresh yourself on anything you might have forgotten or need to ask about.

Speak Spanish. Aren't half the kitchen hands in the US Spanish speakers?

As you're going to be there, more or less, just for fun and the experience, you might probably expect that the crew will imagine you're the type who watches the food network all the time and so thinks if you joined in it would be cool. Debatable whether working in a kitchen is actually cool, but you still might get the attitude: you're a wannabe. No surprise.

And now a controversial one: being very hygenic takes a lot of time. At home, I wash everything when I should and as I should, and probably more so, but that's not what I've always seen done in restaurants. Watch others and see if there's any sort of general standard - because it'll probably be individual too - and then be a bit cleaner yourself, but not too clean as that'll take up time and then people will think you're slow and useless and not care why. Or you could do what I did and would do, and just ignore them and still be clean anyway.

Here is someone who knows what he's talking about.

larrybard
05-25-2014, 11:27 AM
. . . just about everything else mentioned, including the shanking the largest kitchen employee . . . is all perfectly sound.

Yeah, I had a good laugh when I first read that too.

mano
05-25-2014, 02:30 PM
Wear a chef's coat, pants and good kitchen shoes (clogs are great). If the coat is embroidered "Chef (your name here)" leave it home.

Bring a well sharpened gyuto, parer and a slicer. Also a sharpie, a few hand towels and a thermometer.

Expect to do prep work with a kid who will kick your ass with an inexpensive santuko, or the like. If they're smart they'll have you doing the work they hate the most. You may not use your knives much at all if you're shucking corn or cracking eggs.

Don't expect to work with the chef or do line work.

STFup and listen. Ask good questions, especially if you have even the slightest doubt. Have them demonstrate what they want you to do and place a sample or two on the corner of your cutting board for comparison. After you're shown what to do ask them to watch you do it to be sure it's correct.

Depending on the size of the kitchen, you're taking up valuable real estate. Do the job correctly and once you relax your speed will increase. Work as if you're getting paid and as if the line cook will trace crappy product back to you.

Have a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself. You're there for a day or less, so be yourself without trying to score points.

If you're done with a task an no one is around, find your boss (the prep kid) and ask what you can do next.

Keep a container of water at your station.

Keep breaks short unless it's scheduled.

Don't be surprised if you cut yourself, but don't get any blood on the product. Always work clean, even if it slows you down.

Pay attention to what different sinks are used for.

If you did things right, at the end of the day your legs and back will ache like hell and you'll want to do it again.

matt79
05-30-2014, 08:18 AM
ask questions before you make mistakes.get them to demo everything you have to do before you start your task because even if you think you know every restaurant works differently.keep a low profile do your **** and dont stand in the way.

Chuckles
05-30-2014, 10:52 AM
^^^ reminds me of a joke ^^^

How many cooks does it take to screw in a lightbulb?


Four. One to screw in the bulb and three to watch and talk about how they did it at their last job.

labor of love
05-31-2014, 04:27 AM
^^^ reminds me of a joke ^^^

How many cooks does it take to screw in a lightbulb?


Four. One to screw in the bulb and three to watch and talk about how they did it at their last job.

oh snap. thats a good one.

daveb
05-31-2014, 11:33 AM
I thought the answer was "Cooks don't screw in lightbulbs - they screw in the walk-in."

slowtyper
06-04-2014, 12:38 AM
Show up on time. Anything earlier than 10 min before scheduled time is just obnoxious!