Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Internships in kitchens


Harry91
 Share

Recommended Posts

I am seventeen and am a junior in high-school. This fall, I'll be applying for college, and have my sights set on Cornell/CIA/NECI. In order to apply to the CIA (for the CIA/Cornell dual degree program) I need to obtain 6 months work experience in a restaurant kitchen.

I have approached five restaurants so far and have been rejected by all of them. This is what I have said: I'll be applying to college. I need 6 months work experience. I am not looking for a paying job, i'm looking for an internship. I will do whatever job you need done (sweeping floors, cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, prep work, peeling potatoes, etc). I can work everyday of the week besides Monday and Wednesday. I can be at work by 4 and can stay until closing. I am simply here to learn and obtain the work experience. I have taken two years of a culinary arts class in which we have done banquets for 80+ people. I regularly make dinner for my family (4 days a week). I am an excellent student (always have had straight A's, and i'm currently in 5 college classes-calculus, physics, biology, economics, and english). I am a very hard worker, and I learn fast.

Now, am I just young and nieve, or is that not a good proposition? I don't understand why these restaurants are rejecting me. WHO TURNS DOWN FREE LABOR? These are a few of the chefs responses: "I don't want another body in my kitchen", "I don't support internships", "You are too young", "Go get another job first, then come back", "You need experience first". Um, Yes chef, I am trying to GET the experience by interning FOR YOU?!?!?!?!?!

Am I approaching this the wrong way? What do I need to do differently?

Harry

p.s. I am approaching actual restaurants, not chains like Red Lobster, Chili's or Outback Steakhouse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Harry, Just go apply for a straight job. Dude, be worth something, get paid for your work. See which restaurant needs a busser or dishwasher. Don't even mention the school thing. My son started as busser in busy foodie bar type place. At this stage of the game, experience is experience. Obviously you need more than to be willing.

"WHO TURNS DOWN FREE LABOR?"

5 outa 5 so far.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lemme say something else. You are a successful individual. Above average and excellent in many ways. However, alas, the ability to maintain straight A's is not a marketable skill as you've just learned. Giving yourself away does not produce a merchandising coup.

Key phrase, marketable skill. Washing dishes at Olive Garden, marketable skill. Tossing burgers into bags at McDonald's or taking drive up orders at Taco Bell, marketable skills. Dishwashing for a caterer on Friday and Saturday nights after the wedding receptions are over and the trucks make their runs will kick your ass and make you very worthy of that pay check. There might be room to work your way up there a little if you can handle that kind of down & dirty thankless God forsaken labor.

Taco Bell and McD's and Chick FiLayLay's will open the door and invite you in and they will pay you. You get experience there, you're not begging. You're working. That's capitalism. You'd be on the bottom rung of the food chain, but that's at least one up from where you're at now. :wink:

Edited by K8memphis (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm really surprised that these places have turned down the opportunity to have free labor in their kitchens. Maybe they got burned (no pun intended) before or are concerned about the liability. When I was at ICE, we were encouraged to call restaurants and ask if we could trail or stage and there were quite a few in my class who did. I'm not sure where you are, but maybe NYC is more open to this type of labor pool.

I agree with K8memphis and Grovite - just apply for a job so you get the experience and get paid for your efforts.

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to respond to some of the replies this thread has gotten: I'm going to keep shying away from chain restaurants, try and get into the kitchen, and keep pushing my "no pay internship" approach. I had a promising meeting today with a sous chef at a restaurant today and am going back to speak with the chef on Tuesday. Fingers crossed.

Harry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe this analogy is a bit extreme but I believe true. Just as a heart surgeon would turn down free labor for obvious reasons so do restaurants. Why? Because in many cases it is not worth the time involved to have another set of inexperienced hands in the kitchen.

Even CIA grads are often turned down because the time it takes to teach them the individual character of each kitchen. Sometimes even knowing the basics is not enough to convince chefs you have something valuable to offer to his/her restaurant.

With that said my advice is keep trying. Avoid chains as no chef worth their weight in gold views opening bags valuable kitchen experience.

Start at the bottom if necessary like washing dishes. If this industry is truly in your heart others will notice and better opportunities and advancement will come.

Good luck.

Robert R

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are in Atlanta I will take you now.

Guy Anderson

Executive Sous

Golf Club of Georgia

email me - ciachefguy@hotmail.com

I know what you have to do for that requirment. I am a CIA grad that may be able to help you get through that requirment. Even though I had a guy that did not know which end of a knife to hold - starting from scratch is what he wanted to do...oh well - drop me a line - G

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was in the same position about a year ago Jr. in highschool, all that. I called the restaurant I wanted to work at, didnt mention much more than I was looking to pursue a career in the kitchen and would like a job. I never mentioned needing the job, only that I would like the opportunity to work in the best restaurant in town, id work for free doing anything purely for the experience.

I've held the Do-boy position for a year now.I only explained plans to go to a culinary school later; I tend to think mentioning CIA/JWU and the other large schools immediately pegs you as one of those whiny kids who is only going to school to be on T.V. ( if you think for a second that this might be you, please give it up for my sake) and that you only want the job to get into the schools, not that you actually want the position to learn. Make sense?

So dont mention school at all, in my opinion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...I need to obtain 6 months work experience in a restaurant kitchen.

I am not looking for a paying job, i'm looking for an internship... I am simply here to learn and obtain the work experience...

p.s. I am approaching actual restaurants, not chains like Red Lobster, Chili's or Outback Steakhouse.

But you understand the point? no?

No, I don't think so. In the real world, if you don't pay much you don't get much. Harry's proposition here requires everything of the employer and nothing of him. There is no job description for free labor. There's no responsibility. There's no expectations to meet. He wants to rewrite the rules for his convenience.

I mean it just ain't hard to find an entry level job a restaurant. Do the school requirements say it has to be in a non-chain restaurant? Mmmmno.

i'm looking for an internship. I will do whatever job you need done (sweeping floors, cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, prep work, peeling potatoes, etc).

You need an internship to clean the johns & dish wash?

p.s. I am approaching actual restaurants, not chains like Red Lobster, Chili's or Outback Steakhouse.

Red Lobster is an actual restaurant, Harry.

Usually you get an internship after school, after some experience or if you know someone. Not just because someone should give you a hand out. You need to bring something to the table to get an internship, some knife skills, some speed, some experience, something besides being willing to operate outside the rules as if you are privileged.

One day Chef-boy and I had a 'difference of opinion' :rolleyes: about his being a giant 6'4" unemployed teen-aged slug. He left the house and went for a walk seeing as how he didn't own a vehicle. He came back all excited with a job at the soon to be open Fat Boyz Diner a few blocks from the house. While there, he about severed his dang finger, cauterized it himself to stop the bleeding so he wouldn't miss anything at FB's, inhaled enough salmonella from a big bag of bad chicken to about knock him into eternity, 'borrowed' my Kitchen Aid mixer and measuring cups, made great cakes and disgusting ginormous sticky messes, unbelievable fresh french fries, nobody makes grilled cheese's like my kid, the place shortly closed but the bug had bit. He got into culinary school while working weekends at the Hilton and is at a very nice place now working his scrawny butt off.

Go get a job.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is my advice. Pick the one restaurant you really want to work at. Be persistent in letting them know you want to work there in any capacity possible. Call, email, mail a letter, fax your resume, go in for dinner, and do everything you can to bother the hell out of them until the chef gives up out of frustration and lets you wash dishes or cut vegetables.

I trailed one day at L'Espalier in Boston for my culinary school internship. This 18 year old kid was working sautee that day. I asked the sous chef how he got a job on the hot line at such a good restaurant. The sous said that when the kid was 16, he bugged the chef for weeks until they decided to let him stand in a corner and WATCH. He observed everything in the kitchen for a couple weeks every day, and then one afternoon someone called in sick and they needed help with prep. That's how he got his start.

Just don't take no for an answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Red Lobster and washing dishes is NOT what the CIA wants. They want to see that you have tried different types of cuisine kitchens. OK so go there and do a little out of a bag work - DO NOT DO A CHAIN - go to a hotel - call the CIA and ask for Alumni Office - ask then if they can give you the names of a few people or a mentor in your area that can help you with that requirement - forget what - whats his name said about working the mid chains - that is not what they want to see. The CIA and JW will strip you down of what you learned anyways --- good luck if I can help let em know I will be happy to help you -

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't speak of the CIA, but the previous experience requirement at J&W is BS. At least it was when I was there. Some of us were seasoned, but for many the school was the closest they had ever come to a kitchen. A close friend who went to CIA remarked the same. They will still accept ypur money either way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is for a couple reasons - first if you work in a place you get a feel for what it is all about before you commit a lot of money for a hard demanding job. As a career changer - I was amazed at the land rover, lexus driving "kids" that were in class and some of those kids did not make it too far once they found out they had to scrub pots ets....I think the other reason is to see the commitment level. Yep I think the CIA probably takes anyone too, but I was lucky enough that the people in my calss were mostly career changers and really checked to see if the food thing was a change worth making.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I get the feeling that a lot of people on this site are very touchy about people in the industry that don't really belong there; people that want to be t.v. stars or people that think working in a kitchen is an easy job. I am seventeen, but i'm not naive, and i'm not an idiot.

I don't feel like I have to qualify myself to whoever is reading this post, but because there have been several reply's hinting that "If I want to be the next Tyler Florence, get the fuck out before the kitchen eats me up and spits me out", I will anyway.

I don't want to be a television star. I don't think that working in a restaurant is easy. I am fully aware that it is a grueling job that requires a special kind of person. I know that to become proficient at the craft takes years of work.

I want to attend Cornell University in New York and receive a degree in Food Science and a degree in Restaurant Management. Then I want to attend the CIA and receive an A.O.S. in Culinary Arts. I want to learn everything I can about the science of food and how to prepare it well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But my thought was always, and this is no nod at you Harry, that going to these schools full-time was a great waste of time, because it's possible to learn everything they'll teach you regarding food preparation from they're books and applying these things at work is so much better. Any of the other stuff " Mise en Place" all of the sanitation you'd learn on the job. Plus there are Philosophies that you pick up and tastes that you acquire that you wont get at school.

So I see it as working for 6 months to get into a school where you stay out of a restaurant kitchen for too long. It's too little. The point was that you have to show that you want something from these restaurants aside from the "mandatory" 6 months. Apply your reasoning, who wants you if your just looking to say you've worked and are gonna leave seemingly as soon as your done wih that stint. As I said before dont mention it at first.

Oh and hows the search coming? Cause if worse comes to worse you can work at McDonalds and learn a hell of a lot about what not to do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cause if worse comes to worse you can work at McDonalds and learn a hell of a lot about what not to do.

Not entirely true. Working at fast food and chain restaurants may not teach a lot about good cooking but they're often busy places so, if you're actually there to do the job and not just skate along with the minimum required to get a paycheck, those places will teach you to move your ass even when you're tired and don't want to.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But my thought was always, and this is no nod at you Harry, that going to these schools full-time was a great waste of time, because it's possible to learn everything they'll teach you regarding food preparation from they're books and applying these things at work is so much better. Any of the other stuff " Mise en Place" all of the sanitation you'd learn on the job. Plus there are Philosophies that you pick up and tastes that you acquire that you wont get at school.

So I see it as working for 6 months to get into a school where you stay out of a restaurant kitchen for too long. It's too little. The point was that you have to show that you want something from these restaurants aside from the "mandatory" 6 months. Apply your reasoning, who wants you if your just looking to say you've worked and are gonna leave seemingly as soon as your done wih that stint. As I said before dont mention it at first.

Oh and hows the search coming? Cause if worse comes to worse you can work at McDonalds and learn a hell of a lot about what not to do.

You have good perspective. I disheartened to see people slagging your life choice without even "knowing" you. Not everyone is raised in the same circumstances, not everyone needs to start on the same square. You want to work hard and that's really all that matters. Don't let people tell you shit about who YOU are. People make up all sorts of stupid hoops for you to jump through, to "prove you want it" he proof they say, is in the pudding. You either do it or you don't. That's it. Go imagine the best internship you can possibly think of, the one that will elt you taste and learn, whatever food you really really like; the best sharpest front of house...whatever interests you. Go in on a weekday (NOT DURING SERVICE HOURS) and ask for the chef. Tell her your available hours to work and ask to do PREP or whatever (let someone else ask for the dishwashing job) take whatever they give you (even dishwashing) and do what YOU do, work hard and don't let anybody give you guff.

Somepeople will always be jealous of your oppertuneties and try to tell you that they're not worthwhile or valuable. Tell them to go fuck themselves. Two degrees at two of the major Hotel/Restaurant schools will be worth a lot in the hands of the right person, and worth nothing for the next.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am seventeen and am a junior in high-school. This fall, I'll be applying for college, and have my sights set on Cornell/CIA/NECI. In order to apply to the CIA (for the CIA/Cornell dual degree program) I need to obtain 6 months work experience in a restaurant kitchen.

I have approached five restaurants so far and have been rejected by all of them. This is what I have said: I'll be applying to college. I need 6 months work experience. I am not looking for a paying job, i'm looking for an internship. I will do whatever job you need done (sweeping floors, cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, prep work, peeling potatoes, etc). I can work everyday of the week besides Monday and Wednesday. I can be at work by 4 and can stay until closing. I am simply here to learn and obtain the work experience. I have taken two years of a culinary arts class in which we have done banquets for 80+ people. I regularly make dinner for my family (4 days a week). I am an excellent student (always have had straight A's, and i'm currently in 5 college classes-calculus, physics, biology, economics, and english). I am a very hard worker, and I learn fast.

Now, am I just young and nieve, or is that not a good proposition? I don't understand why these restaurants are rejecting me. WHO TURNS DOWN FREE LABOR? These are a few of the chefs responses: "I don't want another body in my kitchen", "I don't support internships", "You are too young", "Go get another job first, then come back", "You need experience first". Um, Yes chef, I am trying to GET the experience by interning FOR YOU?!?!?!?!?!

Am I approaching this the wrong way? What do I need to do differently?

Harry

p.s. I am approaching actual restaurants, not chains like Red Lobster, Chili's or Outback Steakhouse.

This is real easy. All you need is an entry level job in the next restaurant that needs someone, right? 17 year olds are fully qualified to do the jobs you've described, dish wash, bus tables, stock the bar, etc.

You asked what you're doing wrong? At risk of getting hit with a flying f u...she writes...You are getting the cart before the horse. There is a pecking order in any kitchen. It seems to me and the first five chefs you encountered that an 'internship' is like trying to take cuts. You have to pay your dues. If you know someone like Jakea222, then you've got a great 'in' and maybe you can get something going that way.

You asked what you are doing wrong. I mean many qualified chefs will stage or work for free just to be near that chef and glean from his repetoire. If you have no credentials, you have no 'in'. That's what you are doing wrong.

No one but you is standing in your way to get an entry level actual restaurant job. Giving a 17 year old a job at all is a risk because 17 yr olds are so untried. Add some attitude and that could also play into why your plan ain't working for yah.

Internships are a whole 'nother story. You have to be supervised to be an intern. Why should any business invest six months in someone to benefit the employee and not their own bottom line? Get it? They have to pay the person supervising you.

Did you ask what are you doing wrong because you wanted to know?

Edited by K8memphis (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just don't quite understand why it is a "risk" for a business to have an intern. Or why it wouldn't benefit them. Someone who is competent to do the task at hand offers to do it for no money. The company is essentially gaining an employee for free.

If this were a Emergency Room or a Nuclear Reactor, it'd be a different story. But it's not. It's a kitchen. The equipment needs to get cleaned, the food needs to get prepped, the dishes need to get washed. Someone has to do those tasks. Why would a business want to pay someone to do that when they can get it for free (i.e. me).

It seems like people who have replied to this post are assuming that an intern is an unreliable employee because they are not getting paid. But if they offered to work for free in the first place, the company should have no reason to think that they won't be reliable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just don't quite understand why it is a "risk" for a business to have an intern. Or why it wouldn't benefit them. Someone who is competent to do the task at hand offers to do it for no money. The company is essentially gaining an employee for free.

If this were a Emergency Room or a Nuclear Reactor, it'd be a different story. But it's not. It's a kitchen. The equipment needs to get cleaned, the food needs to get prepped, the dishes need to get washed. Someone has to do those tasks. Why would a business want to pay someone to do that when they can get it for free (i.e. me).

It seems like people who have replied to this post are assuming that an intern is an unreliable employee because they are not getting paid. But if they offered to work for free in the first place, the company should have no reason to think that they won't be reliable.

Well the risk part is your age. But you are a responsible person so that's not a factor necessarily. It's merely an occupational hazard of being 17. It's that you can get this exact job without the fan fair. (Not a garde manger though--bus tables maybe) Apply straight up for work. Like as has been mentioned don't let on about the six months thing. Don't mention the school thing. You don't need an internship right now. You need work. You will earn the money, take it.

Time to be noble is later when you have your hard earned degree/s and you can't get a good gig. *That's when you offer to work for free if you want to learn more of the intricacies of chefing. If you are going for management you should be more good to go as is but still you have to work your way up.

Another way to look at it. When I hire someone to do a job for me I have an expectation of what I'm getting in return, the job description. If the job is not done satisfactorily what leverage do I have to make them do it right if there's no pay involved?

*But I told Chef-boy to get paying jobs. He only staged when he was applying for a specific job or was on vacation and he just did it for a few days. Not in lieu of a real job. But some people do it.

It does not benefit them because it takes away time from someone they are paying in order for them to supervise and train you. They are not paying that person to edify you and help build up your skills so you can have a career. I get what you're saying but it doesn't work that way. Then look at their bottom line. The person they are paying is using their time to invest in you, so they are loosing money because they are not doing what they were hired for. Get it? It's about money. You might not agree but think of all the crap you go through to have a business especially a food bs. Then you can't waste time & energy babysitting (no offense) Know what I mean? see the point though?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't believe people think a intern is unreliable because we all had to start somewhere. But like I said up thread. It's a matter of having another set of inexperienced hands in the kitchen.

Picture this scenario. Chef says I'm going to a staff meeting and will be back in a hour or so. For service tonight I need four tenderloins broke down, plus three salmon. Scallops need prepped and start me a mirepoix for tomorrow. And by the way, I need a shallot confit and chive oil for tonight's skate special.

The last thing he/she wants to hear upon returning is how do I get these scallops out the shell. :blink:

Maybe this is not the best example as no one would expect you to complete the task but I'm sure you see my point. There are only so many people needed to peel shrimp in a kitchen. Paid or unpaid.

Robert R

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...