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JanusInTheGarden
07-18-2011, 12:17 PM
So as this forum is filled with wise and line-hardened chefs, I thought it might be a good idea to see what kind of advice the B-O-H lifers like to give to aspiring young cooks--such as myself. What are you glad you did in your career? Is there anything you wish you had done? General tips?

In looking forward to my career, I thought it made sense to ask these questions. I, and any other aspiring chefs who take the time to read this, sincerely appreciate anything you guys are willing to teach us.

El Pescador
07-18-2011, 01:12 PM
Dont go to culinary school to learn to cook, cook in as many places as you can.

oivind_dahle
07-18-2011, 01:58 PM
http://www.howtobeachef.com :D

shankster
07-18-2011, 02:07 PM
Dont go to culinary school to learn to cook, cook in as many places as you can.

+1
Don't do it for the money or the "fame".Do it because you love it..

Salty dog
07-18-2011, 02:45 PM
I was told this 30 years ago. It set me on my path.

"You'll never make real money in this business working for someone else."

Eamon Burke
07-18-2011, 03:44 PM
Although I am very done with working in food, I have some advice. I was told by an older guy at a bus stop(after he noticed I was wearing kitchen shoes), that I should stick with it, because "you'll bust your ass and pay dues for 10 years, but after that, you'll always have a job". That is true. The job will always take place during evening, weekend, and holiday hours, but it is a job.

+1 to what Salty said, Cooking is a job where you put in your time until you are ready to fly and own your own place. It's more or less a competition to see who will make it out still wanting to open a place up and make some cash.

Lastly, creativity is NOT the prime feature of a good chef--98% of chefs don't get to make stuff up, and when you do, it's about once in 3 months, and then you get to make it again 25 times a night. The best feature of a great cook, or chef, is consistency, followed closely by a thick skin. Anyone can learn to do things well, and when customers get a great plate of food, they want it again--that's where the money is. Even in a place with bad management, totally consistent behaviour will stand for itself. And you have to have a thick hide if you are going to feed people. Take nothing personally, and leave work at work.

ecchef
07-18-2011, 05:44 PM
I was told this 30 years ago. It set me on my path.

"You'll never make real money in this business working for someone else."

That's not necessarily so. I know plenty of corporate chefs that make 6 figures. And they're not 60 years old either.

Salty dog
07-18-2011, 06:32 PM
I guess it depends on what your definition of real money is. And yes pulling in six figures cheffing is good money.

stevenStefano
07-18-2011, 08:33 PM
I'm not very old, but I agree with johndoughy in saying a thick skin is essential for being a chef. It is a high pressure job where you are in a hot environment all day with many people shouting at you, so being able to take criticism or have 1000 different people shouting at you at once and carrying on working as normal is a great skill.

goodchef1
07-18-2011, 11:11 PM
The Japanese have a corporate philosophy saying "kaizen" brought over by an American "Deming" It is a constant and never-ending improvement. As in any field, there is no substitute for hard work and self improvement to succeed.

there are mixed feelings about school, and I always promote school. Not those pricey culinary schools that I believe you can learn in the field, but a full program/degree from a university, or college that has a good culinary program. You will have many doors opened up for you with an education. Jobs that require conceptual and analytical skills, interpersonal communication skills, accounting & cost control knowledge, certifications etc. etc. and most of all "a degree"

one habit I've been taught was to do the stuff others hate to do, and you will never be out of a job.

always seek and learn from people who've "achieved" what you want. There will be some that want to bring you down.

always go beyond the call.

be the most valuable person at your work, not the most popular.

don't be afraid to take on more responsibility

don't be afraid to fail.

never burn your bridges, network, network, network

never suck-up, you will lose respect of co-workers and superiors. People will notice talent.

integrity, character, reputation has a price, and it's too high to pay to lose it.

take every opportunity or challenge that comes your way, regardless if you think you are qualified or not.

make sure you seek employment that has the ability to advance you to where you want to go.

these are a few that hopefully you can use to guide your path. There are many opportunities in F&B and like any other field. It is competitive, and the ones that succeed have certain characteristics in common. seek these out and let it become a part of your habits, behavior, lifestyle.

chance/opportunity favors the prepared mind. If you are in the right place at the right time, without the right knowledge and/or the right skills, it will be lost to someone who has.

jm2hill
07-18-2011, 11:56 PM
one habit I've been taught was to do the stuff others hate to do, and you will never be out of a job.

always seek and learn from people who've "achieved" what you want. There will be some that want to bring you down.

always go beyond the call.

be the most valuable person at your work, not the most popular.

don't be afraid to take on more responsibility

don't be afraid to fail.

never burn your bridges, network, network, network

never suck-up, you will lose respect of co-workers and superiors. People will notice talent.

integrity, character, reputation has a price, and it's too high to pay to lose it.

take every opportunity or challenge that comes your way, regardless if you think you are qualified or not.

make sure you seek employment that has the ability to advance you to where you want to go.

these are a few that hopefully you can use to guide your path. There are many opportunities in F&B and like any other field. It is competitive, and the ones that succeed have certain characteristics in common. seek these out and let it become a part of your habits, behavior, lifestyle.

chance/opportunity favors the prepared mind. If you are in the right place at the right time, without the right knowledge and/or the right skills, it will be lost to someone who has.

Take all of these and apply it to any job and you can succeed. Great list here. Seek chances and relish opportunities.

Vertigo
07-19-2011, 09:57 AM
So as this forum is filled with wise and line-hardened chefs, I thought it might be a good idea to see what kind of advice the B-O-H lifers like to give to aspiring young cooks--such as myself. What are you glad you did in your career? Is there anything you wish you had done? General tips?
My advice? At the end of the day, all of your hard work and sweat and creativity will be a turd in someone's toilet. Don't take yourself too seriously.

mmingio2
07-19-2011, 10:38 AM
That's one of the funniest things I've read in a long time....


My advice? At the end of the day, all of your hard work and sweat and creativity will be a turd in someone's toilet. Don't take yourself too seriously.

Salty dog
07-19-2011, 10:41 PM
+1 to that!

Another mantra I have is......any professional can cook. Do it better than anyone else then you can add style. Now take that style and put it under pressure and now you have class.

How many guys with "class" have you guys worked with? I've been privileged to work with several. My definition of rock stars in the truest sense. Giants among mere mortals.

JanusInTheGarden
07-20-2011, 05:24 PM
Thanks to all of you guys for providing such a wide range of time-tested rules to work by. I can tell you that I certainly appreciate you taking the time to help out a young man, wet-behind-the-ears. I'm sure that any others who come across this will feel the same way.

kalaeb
07-20-2011, 11:11 PM
Start standing on anti-fatigue mats now. Keep up on your exercise and flexibility now despite the 12-14 hour work days and it will save you when you get older.

Now get back to work!:theline:

tweyland
07-21-2011, 02:01 AM
Lots of great ideas already. Here's a few random thoughts, some I think are mine, some I probably borrowed from people along the way.

People can have their own opinions about taste and flavor, but there's little to argue about regarding texture. The steak is either tough or it's not. The ribs are either fall off the bone or they're not. The soup is velvety or it's not. And so on.

Given decent ingredients, in my opinion, more than half of cooking is using salt and pepper properly.

Take pride in your work, but remember there's always something to learn. Be it from the dishwasher, or from a street vendor in a far off land, or a 3 star chef.

Keep your knives sharp. Wear good shoes.

Most times working smarter is better than working harder. However, the rest of the time, try speed and brute force.

The chef is not necessarily the best cook in the kitchen. A lot of people can cook. But not everyone can run a kitchen. That person should be the chef. Even fewer can take a risk and run a business properly. That person should be the owner.

There are many paths to success.

~Tad

BertMor
07-21-2011, 01:27 PM
Keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut. Especially early in your career. No one wants to hear how much you know, they just want results. Study study study, don't let your finger off the pulse of the industry. Get your basics down pat, don't learn bad habits and shortcuts for shortcuts sakes. Work on your speed and accuracy. Funnel your creativity into efficient usage not on fancy dishes

Thats just a few. I know I'm repeating what others have said. Culinary school is not all bad, but there are issues. One, choose one thats been around for a long time CIA, J&W; don't mortgage your future with loans, you will not earn enough for the few first years to pay it off. Don't think you will learn how to cook in school. They will teach you how to learn to cook, and expose you to what good cooking can be, learning to cook is not brain surgery, don't over think it.

MadMel
07-22-2011, 07:52 AM
Wow seems like the culinary school route ain't getting much welcome here..
I definitely agree with Bert's view on it, given that I have gone down that route and am going down that road still..
What I feel, after about 5 years in the industry is that there are ALOT of good/great cooks... But rarely do you find a good/great CHEF... Culinary schools give you the basics.. It's up to you to take those basics and fundamentals and build on them. No shortcuts, easy way outs and what not... Once you have really strong basics, then use that as a platform for your creativity..

jmforge
08-15-2011, 02:55 AM
Good stuff, guys. Couple of things that I as a customer and guy who worked briefly in the food biz when young really agree with.
1. Texture is a big deal. I am still a bit of a finicky eater and the texture of certain things, like some mushrooms, turn me off so much that I can't focus on the flavor. it took me years to get to where point I could eat oysters because the texture remond me of the little slimy peice of meat that is up in the tip of a stone crab claw that you never eat.. So when you screw up something that should have a good texture, double shame on you.:wink:
2. As far as doing the jobs that nobody else wants to do, sometimes you find that you are the first one done and the dirty job was actually easier. I learned that one in the Army. Cleaning toilets and urinals takes about 1/2 the time as being on the crew that has to do the barracks floors.:D

MadMel
08-15-2011, 02:26 PM
2. As far as doing the jobs that nobody else wants to do, sometimes you find that you are the first one done and the dirty job was actually easier. I learned that one in the Army. Cleaning toilets and urinals takes about 1/2 the time as being on the crew that has to do the barracks floors.:D

+1 to that LOL!!

SpikeC
08-15-2011, 02:49 PM
I volunteered for pot washing when doing KP in basic, not knowing that grease trap cleaning was usually part of that job, and was reserved for disciplinary use. When cleaning the pots I focused on the job, got them really clean fairly quickly, and never had to touch the grease trap.
Most jobs are quite tolerable if you focus on doing them as well as you can making performance a game of sorts.

jmforge
08-15-2011, 05:24 PM
LOL, Spike are you aging yourself? I did the full KP routine at Knox because they still had mess halls for every training company barracks in my area, but when I got to Sill, they had gone to the consolidated battalion facilties and they only had one E-7 and 2 E-4's running the place. Everybody else was a civilian, so the only work the KP's did was keeping the dining room clean, the cows full and the glasses stacked after coming out of the dishwasher. You are right about pots and pans. You got to start earlier than guys on dishes, serving line or dining room, so less busy work and little or no handling of huge cans of "edible garbage" pig slop.
I volunteered for pot washing when doing KP in basic, not knowing that grease trap cleaning was usually part of that job, and was reserved for disciplinary use. When cleaning the pots I focused on the job, got them really clean fairly quickly, and never had to touch the grease trap.
Most jobs are quite tolerable if you focus on doing them as well as you can making performance a game of sorts.

sachem allison
08-15-2011, 09:16 PM
Don't be afraid to wash dishes or pots and pans. Remember that guy is the most important person in the kitchen. They can make or break service. No clean dishes, pots or pans no food, no customers. More importantly that person sees every plate, they can tell you what is being eaten and what isn't. Maybe something is wrong with a dish and the servers don't tell you or the customers keep quite. Train your dish washer to be observant and help you serve better food. They get paid the least, but should be respected the most.

Take care of the bartenders because they will take care of you.

Stay away from the cute hostess because she will mess with your head and possible get you arrested.

If you want a long lasting relationship stay away from people like us because we are a mess.

On the flip side if you are a truly focused individual find a free spirit and the relationship will last.

never expect weekends, nights, holidays, birthday, anniversaries and any special time off and you will be fine

Remember family first otherwise you will lose yourself to the mistress that is the kitchen and she is a *****!

Buy your knives when you are young and single and it will be a lot easier on you, otherwise start training the spouse to love knives too.

Have fun when you can, find away to relieve stress.

Stay in shape, Fat chefs die. I know I'm fat and I did!

You don't want to have a heart attack in your 30's like I did. Triple bypasses are not fun. Relax! Relax! Relax!

Never make it personal and always let it go. explosions are of the moment and you move on. buy the guy a beer at the end of the night.

Your staff is your family, you will spend more time with them than any one else in your current life, so take care of them. You may not always like them and there maybe a few dicks (including you), But there yours and you need to have their backs.

Confidence is key, arrogance is stupidity.

That's all I got

la2tokyo
08-16-2011, 12:03 AM
Spend as much money as you can afford to spend at the best restaurants you can eat at. Go even if you can't afford it if you know it's going to be better than anything you've ever had. I don't think it's possible to make better food than you've ever eaten. I don't know anyone who only worked at local country clubs or hotels, and then was somehow able to create Michelin 3-Star cooking just by dreaming it up themselves. I know a lot of chefs who work very hard but have never been to the best restaurants, and our perceptions of what great food can be are very different, because I've tasted it before and they haven't. Your own product suddenly looks very small when it's sitting next to Joel Robuchon's product, unless you started out with Robuchon's dish as a starting point.

sachem allison
08-16-2011, 12:19 AM
Spend as much money as you can afford to spend at the best restaurants you can eat at. Go even if you can't afford it if you know it's going to be better than anything you've ever had. I don't think it's possible to make better food than you've ever eaten. I don't know anyone who only worked at local country clubs or hotels, and then was somehow able to create Michelin 3-Star cooking just by dreaming it up themselves. I know a lot of chefs who work very hard but have never been to the best restaurants, and our perceptions of what great food can be are very different, because I've tasted it before and they haven't. Your own product suddenly looks very small when it's sitting next to Joel Robuchon's product, unless you started out with Robuchon's dish as a starting point.

I always tell my cooks and students to eat as much as you can. I am right there with you in this.

goodchef1
08-16-2011, 10:03 AM
I've learned a lot going out to great restaurants. Stay on the cutting edge by looking at the latest products being used, trends, and techniques. Subscribe to publications, food websites. You can find out and develop your own style and passion by exposing yourself to people and food (not literally)

JanusInTheGarden
08-16-2011, 12:10 PM
Subscribe to publications, food websites. You can find out and develop your own style and passion by exposing yourself to people and food (not literally)

You guys have all provided another round of excellent advice! I continue to appreciate these comments greatly.

In continuation of your point, goodchef1 and others, which publications and food websites do you guys recommend? So far I've really only discovered Saveur, foodieforums, the knife forums, and cheftalk.

la2tokyo
08-16-2011, 01:18 PM
You guys have all provided another round of excellent advice! I continue to appreciate these comments greatly.

In continuation of your point, goodchef1 and others, which publications and food websites do you guys recommend? So far I've really only discovered Saveur, foodieforums, the knife forums, and cheftalk.

Subscribe to Art Culinaire. It's expensive but it's worth it if you are a professional.

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Culinaire/dp/B00006K4BR

JBroida
08-16-2011, 03:44 PM
Spend as much money as you can afford to spend at the best restaurants you can eat at. Go even if you can't afford it if you know it's going to be better than anything you've ever had. I don't think it's possible to make better food than you've ever eaten. I don't know anyone who only worked at local country clubs or hotels, and then was somehow able to create Michelin 3-Star cooking just by dreaming it up themselves. I know a lot of chefs who work very hard but have never been to the best restaurants, and our perceptions of what great food can be are very different, because I've tasted it before and they haven't. Your own product suddenly looks very small when it's sitting next to Joel Robuchon's product, unless you started out with Robuchon's dish as a starting point.

+1... couldnt agree more