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First Ever Restaurant Job


apronless
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I managed to get offered a part-time position pending a trial-run at a wonderful restaurant here in Houston. The executive chef said I'd be at the cold station. I've done my research and know that this is a position where they usually put someone who doesn't have a lot of experience in a restaurant kitchen. I have zero years of restaunt experience, so I am very happy with starting there.

Despite being very happy, I am so nervous I could puke. My knife skills need some work, but (I think!) I can handle plating salads and desserts. I wanted to ask the chef more what to expect, but our conversation was cut short. He did let me know that he wouldn't let me drown when they threw me in the deep end though, which was somewhat comforting. I work full time in a field completely unrelated to restaurants and cooking, but this is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in what I love to do the most. I thrive in a fast-paced environment that requires attention to ten different things, so I am really looking forward to working in a kitchen.

I am going on vacation for a week starting tomorrow and I start the trial run the day after I get back (probably just a Saturday and maybe labor day). I will be going in there with what I know, but not acting like I know everything (I am there to learn, to help, not to show off). Non-slip, water resistant shoes- check. Black pants- check. Jewelry off, hair back, nails clipped-- check check check.

Every restaurant kitchen runs things differently, but what are some of the things I should expect while working at the cold station? Do I need to be agonizing about my knife skills? Should I go over eCI's plating post again? Should I pack my knives and cutting boards and practice dicing onions, mincing garlic, and cutting mangoes on the sunny beaches in the Bahamas? cause right now, I have "knives and cutting board" listed on my list of "things to bring on vacation." :laugh:

edited for formatting

Edited by apronless (log)
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I would say, don't stress it. You won't learn enough knife skills in a week to matter, if they're that bad. Go in there humble and do the job. It's not rocket science, and it'll only take a couple hours before you realize you've either got it or you don't. But coming in super high-strung and nervous is the very quick way to get yourself tossed off the line.

there are more important things than knife skills: ability to multi-task, an eye for a nice plate, the ability to work well under stress, and the ability to stay composed under pressure. These are the things I look for in my styages, much more than knife skills.

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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Enjoy your vacation, but if it would make you feel better, go by the kitchen grab a menu, if you can have the chef do a quick mis en place for each dish, you can spend a little time beforehand going over it so that when you walk in, your not totally in the dark.

Or you could just enjoy your vacation

and then wing it.

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david, I am nervous now, but I think I will be collected when I get to get into the kitchen. I am always anxious about the unknown, especially when this opportunity landed in my lap so I don't want to lose it. At my day job, I have to multi task and remain composed under stress in a high pressure environment, so I feel like I have a good foundation for the stress of the kitchen. Obviously its a different setting, but I enjoy being insanely busy and having to perform on the spot. I don't think any one has ever described me as high-strung. Maybe a perfectionist, but I havent heard high-strung.

I would love to grab a menu Timh, but I am not sure how much that would help me since their menu changes very, VERY frequently. Your suggestion of meeting up with the chef to see a quick mise en place is a great idea, but we fly out tomorrow morning early so that's out of the question. Everything about being offered this job was very last minute unforntunately.

stealw, I did read that thread and found it helpful. I do try to work clean, and am pretty obsessively organized, but I'm sure it will be a whole different set up when I get out of my own kitchen. I will keep that in the front of my mind.

I wish I could have the chance to talk with the chef before getting thrown in the mix, but that isnt panning out. I will have to go in there and fly by the seat of my pants without ticking anyone off, but I would feel a million times better if I knew whether I'd be chopping onions, deveining shrimp, plating salads, or all of the above.

Edited by apronless (log)
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david, I am nervous now, but I think I will be collected when I get to get into the kitchen. I am always anxious about the unknown, especially when this opportunity landed in my lap so I don't want to lose it. At my day job, I have to multi task and remain composed under stress in a high pressure environment, so I feel like I have a good foundation for the stress of the kitchen. Obviously its a different setting, but I enjoy being insanely busy and having to perform on the spot. I don't think any one has ever described me as high-strung. Maybe a perfectionist, but I havent heard high-strung.

I would love to grab a menu Timh, but I am not sure how much that would help me since their menu changes very, VERY frequently. Your suggestion of meeting up with the chef to see a quick mise en place is a great idea, but we fly out tomorrow morning early so that's out of the question. Everything about being offered this job was very last minute unforntunately.

stealw, I did read that thread and found it helpful. I do try to work clean, and am pretty obsessively organized, but I'm sure it will be a whole different set up when I get out of my own kitchen. I will keep that in the front of my mind.

I wish I could have the chance to talk with the chef before getting thrown in the mix, but that isnt panning out. I will have to go in there and fly by the seat of my pants without ticking anyone off, but I would feel a million times better if I knew whether I'd be chopping onions, deveining shrimp, plating salads, or all of the above.

Honestly, the fact that you enjoy being insanely busy, are able to multi-task and remained composed under pressure are the very most important attributes of a restaurant cook. I know that when I bring new people into my kitchen it is these things that I am most interested in observing, although retention of information is also very important. Knife skills, while important, are not a deal-breaker as these other things are. Of course, I'm not doing insane garnishes or anything. But, as I said before, your knife skills aren't going to improve enough in a week to make a difference, if knife skills are indeed what the Chef is focused on. Just enjoy your stage. You'll learn things regardless.

Edit: and, oh yeah: work clean, above all.

Edited by david coonce (log)

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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What others have said, keep your station clean.

Put stuff where it goes when not using it.

If it's slow, keep busy. Clean out your refrigerators and line the bottoms with kitchen paper so clean up is easy at the end.

Don't slop stuff around.

Communicate a lot.

If you need to restock something, ask if anyone else needs something while you are getting it. (expect off color responses when they don't)

Never except food or drink from anyone else in the building.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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