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BrodeurR
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Here's my situation...I've wanted to cook since High School, but I knew how hard it was and was too lazy (or scared) to try it. I've decided that I've learned enough about dealing with stress and working hard that I'm ready to finally get started. Yes, I am a career changing 28 year old, and No I don't expect to become a millionare and get a show on the Food Network in the next 6 months. All I want is to learn to cook great food. I'm not sure if that's TMI for what my question is, but I thought I'd let you know.

I'd planned on going to the FCI, but was lucky enough to get to talk with one of the top chefs in my area (Washington DC area) and he suggested I could learn a whole lot more by working (which is what he did) than spending time and money in school. I know this is much debated, but after some talking with my wife we've decided to move to New Orleans (where's she's got a pretty good job offer) and start begging around down there until I find someone who'll take me on.

So after all that here's my question. I don't have any knives, tools, clothes, etc. required for working in a kitchen. I'd like to have this stuff when I go talk to the chefs. What is essential? What things do I need and where can I get them? (I'll also take any other advice that anyone with experience wants to share.)

Thanks!

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BrodeurR~

Good question!

I have nothing to add but I'll be interested to see what others have to say. You've certainly come to the right place with your questions. :smile:

Good luck with this !

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the following might help:

knife roll complete with:

8/10" chef's knife

pairing knife

tournet knife

microplane

joyce chen scissors

kuhn peeler

oyster shucker (it is new orleans...)

diamond steel

chefwear pants, neutral black is a good choice

comfortable, durable, black, antislip sole shoes

jackets and aprons they should provide...

walk in with confidence, tell them you are willing to do anything regardless of your experience, someone should give you a shot...

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Great list of basic items provided just above. I'm currently in culinary school (at 40-something years old) and - like you - I'm in it for the fun. [Grew up in the DC area by the way.]

If you don't have much of a background in food, it might be worth investing in one solid culinary textbook, which would give you a great place to get definitions, techniques and some food science when you're not at work. My favorite book from school is:

LaVarenne Practique

Best of luck and I hope you'll keep us posted on how things are going.

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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AndrewB's list is good. You may find some need for a bird's beak (tourne knife) but I think you'll find they're less essential than the rest - and you can do it with a paring knife if you need to. I'd also add a good boning knife - if you're looking to splurge, get both a flexible (fish) knife and a rigid (better for poultry and especially meat). Finally, I'd add a bread knife - they're hard to sharpen, and tend to be the dullest "house" knife in the block.

i love my dansko's - they're pretty a standard issue brand of cook's clogs, but i'd caution you to buy them in person rather than online - they are reported to be handmade, and each pair is a little different.

good luck!

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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If you need any local help-with anything-let me know. I'll be glad to help or put you in touch with someone who can job or living situation or advice wise.

Oh, and the local place that most everyone uses is Caire Restaurant Supply. It's a great store and after the storm, easily the biggest full service rest supply place in town. I love going in there. They have reasonable prices on knives and a pretty good selection to boot. It might not hurt you at all to buy your stuff here, as you might learn a thing or two about who is hiring, who does what, and who uses what, from the local supply place rather than one somewhere else. Besides, alot of us are pretty crazy about shopping local these days. You'll get used to it, eventually.

Good Luck and let me know if I can help,

B

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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A professional-quality heat-proof rubber spatula

A whisk

A fish spatula- LamsonSharp makes a good durable one

A whetstone

I use a spice grinder every day but you might not need one

Paring knives, definitely, but don't waste your money on an expensive one that will get lost, stolen, or messed up. I buy the $5 Messermeister ones.

I started this career at age 32. I think your guy was right to advise you against school. It's not worth the monthly student loan bill, especially considering how little you'll be making. You might have to work for free for a little while, though.

The first month will be tough, but what doesn't kill you in this industry only makes you stronger. Good luck!

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I agree with most of the preceding, and I'll also recommend some other basic items that unfortunately some people omit to carry to work:pens and permanent markers. Cheap ones because they will inevitably be borrowed and not returned-as well, a wristwatch is usually good to have-some kitchens have easily visible clocks, some don't. My footwear preferences are either synthetic Birki Pros or Klogs-the latter are a good bit cheaper. I'm definitely not a fan of leather shoes in the kitchen-hot liquids penetrate them, they absorb odors, etc. Synthetics clean up easily and are surprisingly durable. And, of course bring a good attitude. That sounds pretty trite but it is so important, especially as a newbie-it's easy to get discouraged. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears(and mind!) open and you'll do well.

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I agree with most of the preceding, and I'll also recommend some other basic items that unfortunately some people omit to carry to work:pens and permanent markers. Cheap ones because they will inevitably be borrowed and not returned-as well, a wristwatch is usually good to have-some kitchens have easily visible clocks, some don't. My footwear preferences are either synthetic Birki Pros or Klogs-the latter are a good bit cheaper. I'm definitely not a fan of leather shoes in the kitchen-hot liquids penetrate them, they absorb odors, etc. Synthetics clean up easily and are surprisingly durable. And, of course bring a good attitude. That sounds pretty trite but it is so important, especially as a newbie-it's easy to get discouraged. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears(and mind!) open and you'll do well.

touche, don't forget the sharpie!! here's an odd one on the wristwatch topic: none of my cooks wear a wristwatch in the kitchen because they are told in school they SHOULDN'T wear one in the kitchen because it might get caught on something and of harboring bacteria...

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I agree with most of the preceding, and I'll also recommend some other basic items that unfortunately some people omit to carry to work:pens and permanent markers. Cheap ones because they will inevitably be borrowed and not returned-as well, a wristwatch is usually good to have-some kitchens have easily visible clocks, some don't. My footwear preferences are either synthetic Birki Pros or Klogs-the latter are a good bit cheaper. I'm definitely not a fan of leather shoes in the kitchen-hot liquids penetrate them, they absorb odors, etc. Synthetics clean up easily and are surprisingly durable. And, of course bring a good attitude. That sounds pretty trite but it is so important, especially as a newbie-it's easy to get discouraged. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears(and mind!) open and you'll do well.

touche, don't forget the sharpie!! here's an odd one on the wristwatch topic: none of my cooks wear a wristwatch in the kitchen because they are told in school they SHOULDN'T wear one in the kitchen because it might get caught on something and of harboring bacteria...

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A professional-quality heat-proof rubber spatula

A whisk

A fish spatula- LamsonSharp makes a good durable one

A whetstone

I use a spice grinder every day but you might not need one

Paring knives, definitely, but don't waste your money on an expensive one that will get lost, stolen, or messed up. I buy the $5 Messermeister ones.

I started this career at age 32. I think your guy was right to advise you against school. It's not worth the monthly student loan bill, especially considering how little you'll be making. You might have to work for free for a little while, though.

The first month will be tough, but what doesn't kill you in this industry only makes you stronger. Good luck!

What kind of whisk? Seems like there's a thousand different types. Also, any recommendations on the brand/type of spice grinder?

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Has anyone mentioned a notepad and inkpen? Everytime you learn a new recipe, write it down on your notepad. And I wouldnt spend money on expencive knifes. Get cheap ones the first time around and when you know what you like and which ones you use a lot, then later buy spend money on them.

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Don't forget a thermometer and serrated blade!

Any reccomendations on the thermometer (brand, type, etc.)?

Thanks everybody!

I don't personally have a preference. To be honest, I've spent $25 on a nice digital thermo just to have the thing fall out of my sleeve pocket because the thing was too top heavy. I never found and it had only been in my pocket for maybe 15 minutes. Like this fella.

Good thermo, easy to lose.

This is what I use on the regular, which I got for free from work.

Never had a problem with it once. Costs $5

Edited by Busboy (log)
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I don't think anybody has mentioned a Benriner Japanese Mandoline. Personally I use it more than just about any tool in the kitchen. I think AndrewB's list was pretty spot on. Find a knife you like, and that feels comfortable and then learn how to a) keep the edge and b) bring the edge back. Likely the most valuable and most respected tool in the professional kitchen is a razor sharp knife. The small serrated knife (5-6") is also pretty handy.

Edited by The Muther Shucker (log)

"Dio non ha creato che l'aqua... l'uomo ha fatto il vino

-God created the water...man made the wine.

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touche, don't forget the sharpie!! here's an odd one on the wristwatch topic: none of my cooks wear a wristwatch in the kitchen because they are told in school they SHOULDN'T wear one in the kitchen because it might get caught on something and of harboring bacteria...

Yes. My school told me the same thing, and the health department dinged my last kitchen over a couple of us wearing wristwatches. If it's part of the regs, they have to teach it in school.

Nowadays I carry a digital clock/kitchen timer with a magnet in the back. Stick to metal surface, toggle between clock and three concurrent timers as needed. Sometimes one learns the most useful things from the pastry crew. :raz:

As for other suggestions for the OP, for home, get an aloe plant and an econo-size bottle of ibuprofen or whatever painkiller you prefer.

And sleeping with a pillow under the knees will aid in foot pain/fatigue recovery. Think elevation = better circulation.

Overall, try not to go overboard with tools, including my timer suggestion. With time, as you learn how to move around, you'll learn more about yourself and what you need to function at your best in that particular kitchen.

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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My personal recommendation would be to just start out with a decent chef knife and get the peices that you need as the come. You can get this and that and the next thing and be prepared for everything the truth is that you're not going to be preparing everything for one, and two wherever you work is going to have a variety of different tools for you to use for the jobs you need.

I mean do you really want to have to carry a box of shit with you everytime you come to work?

I know I don't.

I have a bag full of stuff. Full of it. Biggest one I could find. The only things I ever take out of it are:

A: my 8" chef knife

B: my diamond sharpening steel

C: a serrated bread knife

D: and on the occasion I'm feeling fancy, I'll pull out my Kershaw vegetable cleaver.

Of course it all depends on where you work as to what you'll need, but I rarely need more than this.

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I hear what several people have said about school. It's very expensive and (generally) such a low-paying industry, it's hard to justify. I decided to go to school because I'm a middle-aged guy and wanted to get a solid education in classic cooking and baking. If you want to benefit from the thousands I'm spending, check out my blog where I've been recording most everything I've been going through. There actually is some useful detailed information if you're up for it and don't mind reading it all. Notes from hundreds of hours of class really add up.

Best of luck!

-Mark-

MarkCooks.com click on the Mark's Blog page

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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Don't waste your money on a bunch of gadgets right off the bat.

A decent Chef Knife and a maybe a smaller knife for when the big knife is impractical.

Cooks Illustrated has rated the Victorinox Fibrox 10" chef knife as equal to the best of them.

Cost $25.00 brand new.

I would start in a hamburger joint or something similar to get your feet wet in a rush environment.

Why waste all the money only to find out it ain't what you really like?

A good restaurant does not expect their cooks to provide their own tools.

Just your favorite knife.

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  • 3 weeks later...
touche, don't forget the sharpie!! here's an odd one on the wristwatch topic: none of my cooks wear a wristwatch in the kitchen because they are told in school they SHOULDN'T wear one in the kitchen because it might get caught on something and of harboring bacteria...

Yes. My school told me the same thing, and the health department dinged my last kitchen over a couple of us wearing wristwatches. If it's part of the regs, they have to teach it in school.

Nowadays I carry a digital clock/kitchen timer with a magnet in the back. Stick to metal surface, toggle between clock and three concurrent timers as needed. Sometimes one learns the most useful things from the pastry crew. :raz:

As for other suggestions for the OP, for home, get an aloe plant and an econo-size bottle of ibuprofen or whatever painkiller you prefer.

And sleeping with a pillow under the knees will aid in foot pain/fatigue recovery. Think elevation = better circulation.

Overall, try not to go overboard with tools, including my timer suggestion. With time, as you learn how to move around, you'll learn more about yourself and what you need to function at your best in that particular kitchen.

Hmmm....well, I've not been to culinary school but I've been in the biz for many moons and never heard about the watch/bacteria thing. I've certainly worked with some well-educated chefs who wore wristwatches BUT health dept. regs certainly vary wildly. I guess a caveat should be "consult local authorities before wearing a watch." Regulations or no, I wear a waterproof watch and wash/sanitise it regularly. Also I try and not cook with my wrists, but that's just me...

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