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Internships in kitchens


Harry91
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I understand what everyone's saying and do agree with it now (the last two posts were the most helpful). The reason i went the "intern" route was because I applied for a job as a bus boy at a bunch of restaurants in the area. After a week of waiting, I went in and spoke to the manager of each one. They all said they were fully staffed and didnt need anyone. So then i thought "Hmm, mine as well offer myself in the kitchen for free"

Gonna keep tryin to get a job. Somebodies gotta be hiring.

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With all said let me end on what I think is a positive note. Even though I never met you in person I find a determination in your writing that may be unusual in someone your age. You may very well be what every chef hopes for.

Please keep us updated as I have little doubt that you will accomplish your goals if you stay on the track your on.

Robert R

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The risk is that they go to all of the time to train you and you up and leave. It si a risk we all take taking anyone on, BUT in this case the place would know you were leaving and they could nothing about it...good luck

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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.

The risk might have nothing to do with reliability. It could be the business insurance doesn't cover anyone who is not a paid employee. It would be easier if people would just say so, but maybe that's part of the reason.

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One suggestion that's come up a few times above is to not start with the formal "internship" idea, but rather start by asking if you can observe & maybe help out a bit, just to see what it is like to work in a good restaurant. You may get more uptake from that -- you aren't asking to be trained, just to watch & get a feel for the job. (You might already "know" that this is what you want to do, but still, the basic idea is to get a feel for the field...)

Now, if in fact you can help out -- really help and not just slow people down by needing to be trained -- then if you make a request to make the arrangement more formal, you'll be in a better position. You'll have earned their trust, at least a bit.

This is more or less the path I took, before I decided *not* to pursue cooking professionally. I started out by hanging out in a (very good) professional kitchen, "just to see what it was like," and helping out w/ odd prep jobs, etc. I worked my ass off, helped with anything I could, stayed out of the way when I couldn't help, stayed 'til closing to help clean, etc. After a few weeks, I was "scheduled" into various prep jobs and to observe particular aspects of service more or less formally. And after another month or so, I was hired to do prep and a bit of garde manger. But after about 6 months, it was really time for me to decide which career option I was going with. Working in the kitchen was the best job I've ever had, except for the low pay, long hours, and appalling working conditions :rolleyes: Now I'm an academic who cooks for a hobby. I've still got the low pay, but the hours and working conditions are much more pleasant. The job isn't nearly as fun, though.

So starting off by taking that more informal approach might be a way to go...

Best,

jk

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Well, using my CIA degree powers (normally reserved for impressing nobody and the occasional 10% discount), I talked to the externship office on Harry91s behalf and gave them info to exchange; they said they would be very happy to help an interested party in obtaining required experience. Ideally, they're going to hook him up with some of the extern sites local to his area, who would be most likely to also accept him for pre-entrance experience.

Hopefully it all works out, but it sounded like the school was very interested in helping him find something. :)

Rico

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You know, I'd take Harry on in a hot second.......I always need the help, and my employer would just love the "free" part.

Here's how I view it though. It's a lot of work to train someone. Even if they're willing to do anything......like scrub pots, or chop stuff, or do anything fairly simple, you still have to tell them where stuff is, how YOU want it done, where to put things, what to watch for, etc. It takes extra time out of my already busy day, and when I put that kind of time into someone, I want it to pay off later. If I know someone is gonna be gone 6 months down the road, I'm not really interested in the time and effort it will take me to train them, because there's no real payoff for me. It just means that 6 months later, I have to start training someone all over again. I'm more interested in people who intend to stay. Some of them may not but I at least want that intention from them up front.

That could be why Harry is having trouble getting someone interested......even if it's FREE labor, there's still effort involved on the part of the person training you and it may be something that just isn't worth the hassle to them....free or not.

It just so happens that today I learned I'm getting my own intern. One day a week til the end of the year. I agreed to it, because it's only one day a week, and I'll be able to schedule a lot of the grunt jobs for the one day she's there, so it may mean an extra day off for either me or my assistant. So that's my payoff........ :wink:

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  • 3 weeks later...
It just so happens that today I learned I'm getting my own intern. One day a week til the end of the year. I agreed to it, because it's only one day a week, and I'll be able to schedule a lot of the grunt jobs for the one day she's there, so it may mean an extra day off for either me or my assistant. So that's my payoff........

HA! Ha ha ha ha ha! :wacko::angry::wacko::laugh::angry::unsure:

Ok, so check this out. I get my "eager young intern" Friday before last. Had her do some jobs for me, but about that last thing it seemed was that she was "eager". NOT! Even though I was told she was in culinary school, (Art Institute of Seattle), she informed me that she hadn't even started the baking portion of the program. She knew NOTHING. Zilch. Had to show her how to use a baker's scale. Seemed put out when I told her to clean up after herself. Even more put out when I told her to do her dishes. I didn't work her too hard.....instead I gave her jobs to do that were time consuming and easy so I wouldn't have to keep looking over her shoulder all the time.........

So next Friday rolls around and gosh, wouldn't you know it.......she's "sick" and can't come in.

Then today I learned that I no longer have an intern.

Arrrrghh!

THIS kind of thing is what sours me on interns. What do they teach in culinary schools these days?

And why are these young people so surprised when they show up to intern and discover they actually have to WORK? And god forbid, DO DISHES.

For cryin' out loud. Really. :sad:

Edited by chefpeon (log)
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Ok first I would not call her an extern. If she did not know the basics of scaling and so forth that she may have misled you to her abilities. We had one as I said in a post that came one day - and we had her panning up sausage and bacon and cooking it off. Cutting a few things that did not need to be perfect and then we never saw her again. She called, we put her on the schedule and nothing. So the first part that she told you that she had not started - I would have the horns in my head saying WHOA! I took a risk with a guy on this forum who wants to see about job jumping into this life. And he was great and eager and I think very excited to come back next week. I do not know how the intership or what we called externship at the CIA works at other places - but the school did not let us go out to do the extern without knowing how to cook. SO good luck with your - more work than I think you wnated to put into it. I am always willing to teach, but, when it comes down to knowing the difference between flour and sugar or which end of a knife to hold - makes me kringe.

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[The risk might have nothing to do with reliability.  It could be the business insurance doesn't cover anyone who is not a paid employee.  It would be easier if people would just say so, but maybe that's part of the reason.

Bingo!

Another stumbling block may be using the actual term "internship". To me, the term implies that there will be an instructional or mentoring facet involved. Usually, I am not able to commit the time required to provide a proper internship to someone. However, I am often able to accommodate an extra volunteer, or extra prep hands (I work in not-for-profit agencies, so we have insurance for volunteers)

And in addition, Harry, I wish to add that in the beginning, offering to work for free (outside of a "regular" volunteerism context) may be diluting your personal brand, rather than building it. In one of your later posts, I read "might as well work for free"; an indicator of some sense of resignation. Consider your self-worth: you are valuable, you have skills, and can bring a lot of informal experience to a kitchen. This brings to mind an old saying, into a new context "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free". Make them "buy the cow".

Please do not give up. You are young, and (I'll make a broad assumption here) have time on your side in terms of gaining experience. Summer is coming. Restos and catering companies will need junior staff. Might as as well make some money while you learn.

Karen Dar Woon

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  • 2 weeks later...

Contacted the CIA through the externship director. They put me in touch with Andrew Roenbeck, executive chef at the Boca Resort and Spa (they have 6 restaurants plus two grills). I emailed him, and after a few quick messages back and forth, he asked me to call him to set up a meeting. I went down there (the resort is about 30 minutes from my house) and went on a tour of the kitchens. After about 30 min, he told me he would take me on Wednesdays, every other week, from 5-9.

I'm in a couple orchestras (playing french horn) and I have rehearsals on Mon, Tue, and Wed. I tried talking my way into interning on Thurs or Fri, but he said he didnt want me in the way on those "busy" nights.

I'll be applying to Cornell soon (school of Hotel Management), and I'm pretty sure I'll get in (1500 SAT score, taken every AP course from Physics to Latin to Calculus to Microeconomics, etc). I figure that during my four years at Cornell, i'll eventually hold a job in a kitchen for 6 months, so I'm not fretting over the work experience before i graduate high school.

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Harry,

A chef-instructor at the CIA told me that the 6 month experience will no longer be mandatory. It will simply be "suggested".

But it is my opinion is that you will sorely miss out if you hit the management field without some bussing, waiting tables, dishwashing, near cutting off a finger into the salad feeling that intense and humbling heat in the kitchen. Screw 'the almighty internship' thing. Get the down dirty & dangerous under your belt before it's too late.

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It makes sense though. The CIA, just like every other college in this country, is nothing more than a business. Their main goal is to turn a profit, and if they can get more people to attend their school by cutting a previous requirement, they'll cut it.

I'm not defending it. But in the end, people that can't take the pressure or heat or demands of the kitchen will get out of the industry. So if they still want to shell out thousands of dollars to realize that, so much the better.

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