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Staging Etiquette


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19 replies to this topic

#1 LittleIsland

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 07:51 PM

I'm a novice home/hobby baker but have been offered an invaluable opportunity to "help out", without pay, in the baking and pastry kitchen of a 5-star hotel here, to pick up some knowledge. I'm quite over-the-moon about it!

So I've found out from this forum that this is called "staging" - is it called the same when the person doing it is totally inexperienced?

Anyway I wanted to get some tips and advice on what I should and should not be doing in terms of etiquette and good form - of course want to be truly helpful/useful and at the same time learn as much as I can, but also don't want to :angry: -off the PC through gaucheness and getting underfoot. It's always good to be prepared and know what to expect.

#2 K8memphis

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 08:18 PM

Well, for starters, since you learned about it online, I wanted to be sure you know it's pronounced stahj, stahjing, like the ahh, when you say ahh for the doctor to look at your throat. Not stage like stagecoach.

Please come back & tell all about it. Can you say which hotel???

And edited to say: total congratulations too

Edited by K8memphis, 06 July 2006 - 08:19 PM.


#3 pupkinpie2

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 08:52 PM

Being a recent culinary school graduate I have staged (also called shadowing, or trailing) at many restaurants, bakeries, chocolate shops, and hotels. Being a home bakery you do have some experience and it sounds like you have the passion, which is what a lot of chefs look for. A lot of experience doesnt always grant you or put you ahead when getting a job, commonly its the passion and the desire that put you ahead of the game.

Since you are not looking to get hired there, you are not necessarly looking to impress them or out-do someone else, so just relax. Being a pastry chef professionally and also baking at home, I can relate to both worlds. Generally speaking there isnt a whole lot of difference when it comes down to the basics. Mixing cake batter in a hotel is the same as you do it at home except in a hotel you will be mixing it in a bowl large enough for you to crawl into. Commonly hotels use cake mixes and they look on the back of the package for baking instructions just as you would at home. But of course there are some major differences such as hotels have lots of equipment that you cant afford at home and the have the space and knowledge to do stuff like large sugar show pieces, exotic cakes, chocolate work, etc. Something also that is a big difference is that consistency is very important. Meaning are the cookies that you made yesterday the same shape, size, taste, and color as the ones you made today? Are the truffles you rolled all exactly the same size?

To give you an idea of what to expect, you will most likely be there anywhere from 3-10 hours. You will be given basic tasks. Usually chefs give you tacks to see how well you work, how clean you are, how organized you are, and if you know basic techniques. For example they may have you scale out, mix, scoop, and bake a muffin batter.

For you I would say that either they will have you help somone else do something like help make something, or you will assist the pastry chef in doing something basic such as putting cookies on a tray, scooping muffins, etc. I would highly doubt they would leave you incharge of doing something (not because they dont think you know how to mix a cake batter, but because first there reliable if you get hurt, and second if for some reason you make a mistake it can be costly both in time and money).

This is getting long, so back to your question. Things that I always do when I stage is 1) always keep your work space clean and organized, 2) be consistent with everything you do, 3) Ask questions in a way that doesnt annoy the chef (meaning dont ask too many questions, ask why he/she prefers to do something that way instead of another way, if you are having problems making something at home dont be afraid to ask what you are doing wrong) 4) stay out of everyones way as much as possible.

One key point for you - Always be aware of everything that is going on around you. Unlike at home, there are 3-4 working around you and commonly in a very small space. Lastly dont ask for recipes unless they offer. Take mental notes in your head about techniques.

Good luck and have fun. Post a comment when you are done to inform us how it went.

#4 alanamoana

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 07:12 AM

also, when you first show up, get the lay of the land.

find out where everything is through good observation. that way you don't have to ask someone every time you need something. like, where's the flour? where's a spoon? where's a bowl? etc. drives people nuts.

#5 Rebo

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 09:15 AM

From my own experience, be sure to find out where the employee bathrooms are and if you need a key to get in. Also ask where to get water (or coffee) and where it's acceptable to keep it. Some places are off limits or you need to keep a cover on it.

Some people will introduce you to everyone, while others don't. If a staff member looks at you funny, just introduce yourself and be friendly. Most people are happy to help and will be curious about what you're doing.
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#6 McAuliflower

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 10:42 AM

Well, for starters, since you learned about it online, I wanted to be sure you know it's pronounced stahj, stahjing, like the ahh, when you say ahh for the doctor to look at your throat. Not stage like stagecoach.



ahhh... bless eGullet!
thanks for that heads up K8memphis. I didn't realize...

Edited by McAuliflower, 07 July 2006 - 10:43 AM.

"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." --JB
Brownie Points- Culinary Notebook

#7 Ling

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 11:01 AM

Tie your hair back if it's long, and wear closed-toe, flat shoes.

ETA: CONGRATS! :biggrin:

Edited by Ling, 07 July 2006 - 11:01 AM.


#8 CaliPoutine

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 11:12 AM

Well, for starters, since you learned about it online, I wanted to be sure you know it's pronounced stahj, stahjing, like the ahh, when you say ahh for the doctor to look at your throat. Not stage like stagecoach.



ahhh... bless eGullet!
thanks for that heads up K8memphis. I didn't realize...

View Post



I didnt know that either.

thanks.

#9 djsexyb

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 12:08 PM

ive staged in the highest of high (Charlie Trotter's, MOTO, Vie, etc, etc) and let me tell you its heavy duty. be prepared mentally. i know this sounds stupid, but eat a good breakfast because you will be there up to 14hours depending. ask lots of questions if you want answers, dont assume--ask because if you screw up that nights squab/pork loin/lamb you'll be on the menu. wear a chefs coat if you have one, aprons and hats are usually provided. surprisingly, DONT bring anything more than a chefs knife and a pairing knife, if that. and not good ones either. my Wustof got stolen at Trotters.

And my two most important points. 1...when you get there, introduce yourself to the person whos in charge. when i was at trotter's (two weeks), on my first day i went about working my tail off for 7-8hours and trotter walked in and was going over the staff meeting with others so i didnt bother him, but when he was done, he took a bee line to me, grabbed my chefs knife in mid chop an dsiad "Hey Im chuck, but im sure you knew that already." he was nice about it, but he was a bit preturbed.
and 2... eat family meal if they have one. i staged once and skipped it figuring i would get ahead on prep and to make a long story short when i got home after 16, yes 16, hours there i couldnt walk up the stairs to bed because i hadnt eaten or drinken in 16 hours! my body literally shut down. not good.

But have fun!!! hope i didnt scare you away. i strongly encourage stages.

Edited by djsexyb, 07 July 2006 - 12:09 PM.

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in Chicago, Illinois
For more information email me at:
grandcruproductions@hotmail.com

#10 K8memphis

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 07:12 PM

Well, for starters, since you learned about it online, I wanted to be sure you know it's pronounced stahj, stahjing, like the ahh, when you say ahh for the doctor to look at your throat. Not stage like stagecoach.



ahhh... bless eGullet!
thanks for that heads up K8memphis. I didn't realize...

View Post



I didnt know that either.

thanks.

View Post


Y'all are so welcome. Paying a freaking fortune for your kid's Cordon Bleu education has it's perks. :laugh:

#11 LittleIsland

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Posted 08 July 2006 - 12:52 AM

Thank you everyone for the really useful tips.

And k8memphis, for the pronounciation guide... how would anyone have ever guessed!!

I will post back on my experiences when I start... not till August though.

#12 McAuliflower

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Posted 08 July 2006 - 07:15 PM

Y'all are so welcome. Paying a freaking fortune for your kid's Cordon Bleu education has it's perks.  :laugh:

View Post


that's like a retirement plan, right? :laugh:

Meals for life...
"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." --JB
Brownie Points- Culinary Notebook

#13 gingersweetiepie

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Posted 08 July 2006 - 08:12 PM

you may want to check out this blog entry:
http://dessertfirst....ge_at_myth.html

people will expect different things of you depending on where you stage. in fine dining restaurants, stages are there to crack and separate eggs, stay out everyone's way, and to please only ask questions when someone has time to answer, which is rare. i certainly don't mean to sound discouraging about it - the point is that it's up to you to keep your eyes and ears open at all times while quietly and quickly performing these seemingly inane tasks. observation is priceless.

as for practical preparations, everything everyone else said: good shoes, eat something beforehand, keep your hair back, and introduce yourself to the folks in the kitchen - this includes the dishwashers and porters. and keep cleaning up after yourself. anyone who has worked in a restaurant couldn't stress these points enough.

it's also important to make the terms of the apprenticeship clear with your chef and to honor your commitment. if you agree to an 8 hour say once a week, don't untie your apron 7 hours into the shift.

all that said, good luck and have fun. the first time in a kitchen can be a very exciting and lifechanging experience.

#14 K8memphis

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 06:04 AM

Y'all are so welcome. Paying a freaking fortune for your kid's Cordon Bleu education has it's perks.  :laugh:

View Post


that's like a retirement plan, right? :laugh:

Meals for life...

View Post


:laugh: One can only hope. :laugh:

#15 chefette

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 11:53 AM

Like many situations where you do not really know exactly what is expected of you or how to fit in, keep a low profile, keep out of the way, stick with your 'guide' and take your lead from their behaviour, what they tell you, ask you...

There are alot of variables: What type of kitchen it is, what sort of person you will be trailing/working with, what time of day you are there, what day of the week it is, what sort of day they are having, what sort of mood the staff is in, what you expect of the experience, what they expect of the experience, what they expect of you, on and on.

Don't be afraid, but don't go doing anything that you have not been told to do, asked to do, or had demonstrated for you. Personal initiative isn't exactly what they will be looking for from you. If they want you to do something, they will tell you what that is, show you where you can do it - and should show you how they want it done.

If this is something that extends beyond one or two days, as you get to know the people there and they start to see what they can trust you to do then you will know that and can go with it - but take your lead from the person you are with. Be polite, be respectful, be astute, be helpful where practical.

#16 chefette

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 12:16 PM

From your initial post - it does not look like you are auditioning for a job, that you expect a real job. It would also appear that you know someone in the kitchen, or are good enough friends with someone who knows someone and they know of your interest and enthusiasm and also think you would enjoy the opportunity and trust you enough to let you in the kitchen.

Assuming they will let you in with some regularity - and since you say - 'help out' it sounds like you will have that - the first day will probably be mostly familiarization and watching, staying out of the way,listening, learning

I would take along a small notepad (palm sized) and a pen. these should fit well in your pocket

Wear clear, practical, tidy pants and shirt
tieing your hair back and having a clean baseball cap is also good
practical comfortable closed toe shoes with non-slip soles (preferably not sneakers) are a good idea

After the first day, they will probably start showing you things that they want you to do
Do what they ask - as exactly as you can to how they show you.
If it is a task that involves doing something many times - like slicing apples - get confirmation after slicing one on your own that this is how they want it done - if they are not watching, go to the person who tasked you, wait til it is convenient for them to pay attention to you, then show them what you have done and ask "like this?"

then you can confidently move ahead with the task.

Don't worry about doing things fast - they will not expect you to be fast. Trying to work fast will just cause flubs. It is more important to figure out exactly how to do something right and then you will naturally become faster with time. Doing what you are told and doing it well will make them happy and will make you feel great. The fun thing at this stage of the game is learning magic chef tips and tricks - something new practically every day.

Be a sponge - absorb everything, do your best. Have fun.

#17 K8memphis

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 01:35 PM

Wear clear, practical, tidy pants and shirt
tieing your hair back and having a clean baseball cap is also good
practical comfortable closed toe shoes with non-slip soles (preferably not sneakers) are a good idea

View Post


Chefette, I have been the grateful recipient of your sage advice myself, but I wanted to gently inquire as to exactly how transparent are you suggesting that Little Island's clothing be??? Surely that will make for an unforgetable experience, but as she hopes to be invited back should she be a teensy more opaque in her dress????


:raz:

PS. too lovely of a typo to pass up :laugh:

#18 chefette

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 06:50 PM

hahahahah :laugh:
yes - saran wrap is the most useful of fabrics in the kitchen - versatile and attractive for both men and women

sorry = meant CLEAN

But feel free to wear clear if you feel it is in your best interests :biggrin:

#19 alanamoana

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 07:49 PM

man walks into a psychiatrist's office wearing nothing but saran wrap...

doctor says "clearly, i can see your nuts!"

ba-da-bing!

#20 Sugarella

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 08:25 PM

man walks into a psychiatrist's office wearing nothing but saran wrap...
doctor says "clearly, i can see your nuts!"
ba-da-bing!

View Post


*groan* :hmmm:

Back to the question......

As in any job, if you have to travel far to retrieve a certain something from a back storeroom or a basement freezer, an "Anybody need anything from the ____?" before you trot off goes a long long way..... :smile: