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.

professional skills


begpie
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've cooked with quite a few Society members -- professional and amateur -- and with few exceptions, most of them are capable of cooking at star-level restaurants, with a modicum of practice. What most of them don't have is the ability to hear four or five orders shouted through the din of a restaurant kitchen, then sequence and plate them perfectly -- and listen for the expediter to call an audible, which means diligent resequencing, replating, remaking. They also can't stay on their feet eight hours a day, six days a week and still maintain respect for the chef, the clientele and the process.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are cooks that only have to be on their feet 8 hours a day? I'm jealous. :biggrin:

My entire cooking career has been in a kitchen either alone or with one other cook to do it all so, even with experience, I would probably struggle for a bit on a line until I got the hang of it. Never done it. So I would agree with Dave. Having the ability to listen and process what you're hearing without interrupting the flow of production seems like it would be a big one.

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

In addition to the prerequisite knife skills, I think its necessary to be able to multi task with precision, to have intense focus and maintain that focus for long periods, under pressure. The mental aspects fatigued me way more than the physical work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alain Ducasse is quoted to have said this,

“The culinary world is very strict, very rigorous, very disciplined, very hierarchical. They’re not tortured, but they work hard. The ones who stay, they know what they’ll grow up, that one day I’ll call them and then they’ll be a chef, they’ll travel, they’ll be invited into the circle, voila.”

Alain Ducasse, New Yorker Magazine Jan. 14, 2008

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

what professional skills do you think is needed or bemastered to call yourself a professional cook or to work in a star restaurant??

Speaking at the Smithsonian in Washington DC Jacques Pepin said that he never hired cooks who wanted to show him "what they can do." "I wanted a cook who would do exactly what I want him to do, the way I want him to do it..." he said.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In addition to the prerequisite knife skills, I think its necessary to be able to multi task with precision, to have intense focus and maintain that focus for long periods, under pressure.  The mental aspects fatigued me way more than the physical work.

Amen to that. Multi tasking is a way of life in the kitchen, as is economy of movement.

IMHO the difference between a newbie and a good cook is the state of the station.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking at the Smithsonian in Washington DC Jacques Pepin said that he never hired cooks who wanted to show him "what they can do."  "I wanted a cook who would do exactly what I want him to do, the way I want him to do it..." he said.

here, here! I've had three people this year who couldn't do that. Everything I tell you to do is for a reason; not doing it the way I said to is why you made the mistake and cost me $ and time ...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

basic cooking fundamentals

the ability to work clean

the ability to multi task

the ability to organize and stay organized

the humility to call for help if you start to get in the shits and go down

the ability to put out your last plate and make it look just like your first and all the ones in between

a sense of urgency even when it is slow

a thick skin and the ability to take criticism even when it gets personal

knowing key phrases in both english and spanish

the ability to work with others as a cohesive unit

an appreciation for caffeine

an appreciation for jagger

a slight dose of insanity

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...
basic cooking fundamentals

the ability to work clean

the ability to multi task

the ability to organize and stay organized

the humility to call for help if you start to get in the shits and go down

the ability to put out your last plate and make it look just like your first and all the ones in between

a sense of urgency even when it is slow

a thick skin and the ability to take criticism even when it gets personal

knowing key phrases in both english and spanish

the ability to work with others as a cohesive unit

an appreciation for caffeine

an appreciation for jagger

a slight dose of insanity

I must concur with tiny. Mainly the affinity for caffiene and jager

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some skills you'll need:

Knife skills: You don't need to get hung up on being the 'fastest gun' with a gyuto, but you need to be very competent. Be able to dice, brunoise and chiffonade. You should able to bone chicken, process fish and cut meat (or at least be able to learn to do it).

Work Ethic: To get ahead you'll have to outwork the guy next to you. You have to keep quality in mind and bust ass just as hard for the customer that walks in at closing as you would for the diner that eats at 5:00. Cook like your name and business card goes out on each plate...because it does. You also have to be a person the Chef can count on. If you don't show up someone else has to do your work and theirs both- no one likes that.

Culinary knowledge: This varies depending upon the market you're in. An in-depth knowledge of the mother sauces isn't required if you intend to work for a big chain. But you should know the culinary basics and be able to execute them. This includes good techniques as well as a knowledge of basic recipes (eg can you make hollandaise from scratch, can you make demiglace, can you sautee).

Thick Face, Black Heart: You need to have a thick skin- there's no crying in the kitchen. Sure, you have to be open minded but you also have to be mentally tough. Don't let it get you down. Don't be too proud but be sure you have 'a pair.' If you fall down, dust yourself up and get back on the horse. You're gonna fail (eg have crappy shifts and get out in the weeds so far you can't see land) but you have to have a short memory. You need some Brett Favre in you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been doing this for 11 years now starting as a dishwasher and I am now a chef. I agree with what everyone here has posted. If you want to move into some sort of supervisory position you have to realize that people are going to be looking to you for help and answers. When the hollandaise sauce breaks during your dinner rush are you going to know how to fix it or are you going to go ask the chef. You should be fast, precise, and willing to sweat. I know this sounds the craziest, but you have to keep a clear head while doing a million things at once. You need to prioritize in your mind exactly what is going on and deal with each process one at a time while never forgetting the big picture.

First I put the water one for the pasta

Second I chop my shallots

Third I heat my sauce

Fourth my water is boiling and and I cook the pasta

It does nobody any good for you to stand and watch the water boil

Organization

MISE EN PLACE

Wait a minute Doc. Are you telling me this thing runs on Plutonium?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have questions.

I am from England, currently studying for a Masters Degree in Information Management. I've been honest with myself and decided after 21 years of education, that perhaps the academic route isn't for me. Perhaps what I'd rather be doing is working with food, since cooking is what I do a fair bit of at home and which has progressed to one of my favourite 'hobbies'.

I'm now asking myself whether I'd like to work in the kitchen. I'd rather not have to go through college, studying for culinary NVQs and such and would prefer to find a restaurant willing to take on a beginner.

Things may be different in England to other places but, can anyone tell me whether I'm likely to find restaurants/hotels with at least 1 AA Rosette willing to take on somebody who has no food qualifications.

I'm a shy person, more concerned by whether I'm likely to get YELLED at every 20 seconds, or get on with other cooks than the long hours.

I'm willing and hungry to learn and become a better cook but I'm not sure about how best to go about finding somewhere that'll take me on.

I've google searched trainee chef positions, commis chef roles etc. When a job description advertises for a commis chef, does that mean you must have experience or can you be fresh from nowhere, to take the position?

Thanks for any advice.

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

Most likely you'll have to start at the bottom, but cream always rises to the top. As far as being yelled it, it's gonna happen, but you kinda have to be thick skinned to work in a kitchen anyways. You brush it off keep your head down and work smart and you'll be hard. If i were you i would go into a restaurant and tell them you want to learn as much as you can and that your willing to do whatever it takes to get where you wanna be. Good luck.

Wait a minute Doc. Are you telling me this thing runs on Plutonium?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most likely you'll have to start at the bottom, but cream always rises to the top.  As far as being yelled it, it's gonna happen, but you kinda have to be thick skinned to work in a kitchen anyways.  You brush it off keep your head down and work smart and you'll be hard.  If i were you i would go into a restaurant and tell them you want to learn as much as you can and that your willing to do whatever it takes to get where you wanna be.  Good luck.

When I started my culinary journey I was only 16 and I was working at a fry house. I started from the bottom as a dishwasher. Working at a place with at least one rosette with no experience doesn't seem impossible. Be persistant. Like Adamsm83 says, you'll definitely get yelled at. If not by the chef, then by other co-workers. You can't take it personal though. I've worked with a few chefs that live by the philosophy that they break you down to make you tougher. You'll have your ups and downs, but ultimately, cooking is suppose to be fun. Best of luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My problem is, I'm so ridiculously thin skinned, I'm not sure how I would cope being shouted at. I envisage myself being stunned to tears by the slightest raise of voice. I'm incredibly weak when it comes to authority.

Which is annoying. I hate the idea of that standing in the way of me doing a job I'd otherwise enjoy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My problem is, I'm so ridiculously thin skinned, I'm not sure how I would cope being shouted at. I envisage myself being stunned to tears by the slightest raise of voice. I'm incredibly weak when it comes to authority.

Which is annoying. I hate the idea of that standing in the way of me doing a job I'd otherwise enjoy.

I'm pretty sensitive myself, and working in a kitchen and getting yelled at definitely toughened me up a lot. Quite often it's really a matter of the stress of service and it's all forgotten afterwards. If you can get over the shock of it the first few times you'll learn to shrug it off and perhaps learn to yell at a few people yourself :wink:

**Melanie**

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just took a entry level position at a 4 star a couple of months ago.

The co-workers of latin descent call me "Chico", which is funny because I am twice their age so it's probably a pecking order thing. They also tell me I work rapido. I'm full steam from start to finish even though I just worked all day at the job that pays my mortgage. This job feeds my soul.

If I don't have anything to do, I find something to do, usually reorganize the spice rack, and dry stores or go do the walk-in/freezer the same way. I make sure its all the way the Sous likes it. Labeled with green tape, sorted by type, then size and all lids on the cambros with the tab to the right.

If I see something is not right I immediately make someone aware of it.

I've worked the lead spot on the fry station 3 times, first was the busiest day of the week and I started in the weeds, but got ahead of it and helped to clear the board with 50+ people waiting to be seated. the second was a slow night and worked it solo, and the last time I had come in early to a short staffed kitchen where the sous was on fry and in the weeds and passed it to me. I didn't recover and when more cooks showed up I was pulled back off, I had to choke down a lot of pride.

The two most common phrases I say are "Yes, Chef!" and "Tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it".

I ask lots of questions when I see something or do something that I have not done yet, but usually only have to be told or shown once. The next time I can just be told to do it. I do however stop and ask a chef to check my work in progress. Is this chopped finely enough or is this mixed well enough, etc.. And of course getting them to taste or inspect my work.

I've been yelled at on the line when food is not out but not at any other time. It's old hat to me as I served in the Marines two and a half decades ago. I usually find what the chef is saying fairly comical because there is usualy a fair amount of dry humor and or sarcasm in it. But I'm smart enough to not laugh when its directed at me.

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...