The Heart of Life- 5 Lessons from the Kitchen to Take Anywhere

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

The bakery was going through a spat of high turnover. New hires were either leaving, vanishing, or simply showing themselves not up to handling the work. It was becoming disheartening, frustrating… and more than a little exhausting. “Many hands make light work” kinda relies on there being “many hands.”

In the seven months I had been working for the bakery, I’ve had to train six people in my station as the morning baker and “ovenlord.” The work is not especially difficult- the specifics of it can be written down or memorized quickly, and the skills involved can be mastered with practice.

When our production manager started wondering aloud how they could train employees to make them better, and more quickly- I suggested they all learn my position first. While the specific knowledge and skills of the morning bake are easy to learn (I actually wrote a teaching aide/cheat sheet to help people who got lost), the most challenging thing for a new person on the shift to learn is something they can take anywhere in the kitchen- or in life: time management.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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“We’re Just Like a Family”- and 6 Other Red Flags When Looking for a Kitchen Job

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!

As summer comes to an end, it’s “back to school” for students everywhere. Some culinary students will be starting their descent into madness/ meteoric rise to glory (same thing, really.) Others will be entering their final year- the culmination of years of struggle, sweat, screaming, and WAY too much spent on textbooks.

It will also, at last, be time to look for an externship. Most culinary schools in America don’t expect their students to have any kitchen experience before enrolling. Many European schools do- or in fact, require a letter of recommendation from a chef.

In America, then, the externship is the first time many students will enter the culinary world. It’s a part of the curriculum, and a requirement for graduation- “You paid for four years of us harrowing and lecturing you- time to show you’re worth a damn.”

Animated Gif from Creed

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Pulling Weight- Leadership in the Kitchen

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not comfortable using the term “chef” for myself even as a joke, and that I tend to correct others when they address me by it.

It’s not because of modesty or humility- false or otherwise. It’s because, by my own criteria, I have not earned that title.

Roughly every couple of weeks, someone on an online cooking group will pipe up with:

What makes a chef a CHEF?”

or some other navel-gazing, masturbatory variant- and the responses tend to vary from the crude to the judgemental/equally navel-gazy, to my personal reaction:

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“Oh for f***’s sake, here we go…”

You see, the answer is in the name. “Chef” literally means “chief.” “Boss.” “Head of Operations.” 

It means “LEADER.”

How you got about leading is the real discussion that should be going on, rather than faffing about over what’s stitched on your jacket.

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Paying Your Dues

     Good evening, friends and neighbors!

 

In recent years, there has been much debate about the idea of internships, particularly the unpaid variety. The concept has always been that a young person (usually a student) would work for free in order to build knowledge and experience. Various other intangible benefits tend to be mentioned as well- “looks good on a resume,” “foot in the door for a paying job,” “building connections/ networking opportunities,” and so on.

In cooking, an unpaid internship is sometimes called “doing a stage” (pronouced ‘staj.’) For a young culinarian, staging can be rewarding, or even life-changing, offering opportunities to learn from experienced chefs, travel, and get a feeling for the kitchen life from another point of view.

     Although staging still happens in parts of America and Europe, today’s economic realties sadly make it impractical for most students, or even chefs who would host them. In some cases, a staging student might be paid in room and board, or even stay for a while under the chef’s roof. Unfortunately, everyone has bills to pay, the need to support themselves, and places that will offer room and board for labor are very much the exception, not the rule.

 

No matter what you do, you’ve gotta feed the monkey.

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“Did that ever occur to you, dude?…Sir?…”

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