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Help Wanted: Advice for Newbies in the Biz


Harry91
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I was recently asked by a friend at the New England Culinary Institute to help him out with a project he has going. He's interested in making a small book for incoming culinary students, and i figured this would be a good place to start. I would greatly appreciate it if everyone could reply to this post with just a single line of advice. It can be about anything in the restaurant industry. Working as a chef, culinary school, FOH, BOH, owning a restaurant, etc.

Thanks for the help.

-Harry

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Buy two pairs of the best shoes you can't afford so you can change them out and let them dry. Start wearing elastic stockings. Right now. Work harder than you ever thought humanly possible.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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You can't actually drink/smoke/snort as much as you think and still do a good job the next day. Especially not day after day.

Someone once said that Keith Richards was the leading cause of death among would-be rock stars. When you go through Kitchen Confidential, remember the part about AB selling all his rare early punk vinyl on St. Mark's Place because the only joint that would hire him -- and then, only as a short-order cook -- didn't pay enough to cover his habit.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Listen. You have to listen to people. It could be your chef, the servers, the orders coming in. Don't say anything - listening and observing is more important to a new chef than anything. Your opinion means squat at this level - but down the road, you heard something the chef said he wanted to happen - take care of it, do what you remembered later and earn respect of everyone.

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Work on "not taking things so personally". The kitchen is a harsh environment and too much emotion can really fuck up your productivity. You're going to get yelled at and you're going to have times were you may be put under more stress than you think you can handle. Creat a way to cope with this.

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Show up. Show up early.

Keep a Journal, start a portfolio and fill it with pictures of what you know how to make.

Laminate conversion charts and the like. While the rest of the class is looking for theirs pull yours out of back pocket on your way to the scale, ingredient in hand.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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I have noticed this, no matter what industry you are; in be nice to the "little guys" - the bus boys, the prep people, the garbage people, waiteresses, bartenders, the delivery guys, the order takers, customer service..... throw a bone their way (even if you just call or tell someone's supervisor how much you appreciate their help); they are the ones that will save you when you get into a jam.

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My advice would be: do something else for a while. Don't go into the business at a very young age. Work in a hospital. Do social work. Join the Army. Do something that will give you a sense of proportion so that later in life when you ARE a cook or chef or manager or whatever in a restaurant you won't think it's so damned important.

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First of all, don't complain, don't show weakness (it's like sharks when blood hits the water).

Second of all, stay out of the politics and/or brown-nosing, let your work do the talking. I have to put up with drama and backstabbing with some of the other cooks and I do my very best to stay out of it. Working hard says more than anything that can come out of your mouth.

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Take the hit for someone else. If Chef yells at you for doing something and you didn't do it, just say "yes Chef," and go on. They'll figure it out as they watch you work, your co-workers (the good ones) will appreciate it, and you won't get a reputation as a whiner.

Work tight and focused, and clean up behind yourself. Lend a hand, but don't be a wuss about it. If someone is in the weeds, help them out. If someone wants you to do their sh*t work so their time is freed up for something more interesting, just say 'nyet.' Unless they're the Chef.

Give the dishwashers a little food every so often, and fill their water if you're getting yours.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Practice saying "please" and "thank you" to the people you go to school with. Then keep saying that to the people you work with.

Invite your parents to dinner where you work.

Volunteer somewhere.

Grow something... herbs, lettuce, whatever... on your balcony or at a community garden.

Karen Dar Woon

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Train yourself to reply "yes Chef" whenever your chef/supervisor calls you a stupid fuc$^&* as$^%*! who can't even boil water!

Here's my advice:

1. Don't continute to work for someone that would call you a stupid fu$>$as$>%*! who can't even boil water.

2. Don't call the people who work with you stupid fu$>$as$>%*! who can't even boil water.

3. Work on having a life outside the kitchen

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Learn about all aspects of working in a kitchen and people managment, once you begin moving up the ranks your actuall cooking skills get utilised less and your managment skills (dealing with staff/suppliers/FOH, time managment, organisational skills, innventory etc.) come into greater use. However few people who work their way up actually get trainned in these skills and that can hamper their performance, a great cook can suck as a chef.

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