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Mulcahy

Getting a restaurant job

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I am, as is delineated here, going to make a career change within the next six months. I am currently (as many of you seem to be) an attorney. I haven't applied for a non-legal job in about ten years, and I have never applied for a job at a restaurant. Anticipating that I may be doing so in the near future, here are my questions:

1) What do you wear to a restaurant job interview? Currently I wear a navy skirt suit and heels to a job interview. This seems like a poor choice of attire for a restaurant interview.

2) What do restaurant resumes look like? My resume has lots of stuff about "managing caseload" and "aspects of litigation" which is lawyer drivel for: "I am an associate, you should know what I do." What do cooks/chefs/waiters put on their resumes?

3) Do restaurant applicants send thank you letters?

Any and all advice is much appreciated.

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Think casual.

Sharp, neat casual clothing are great during interviews. When I was a manager at Shula's Steak 2 I was uncomfortable to interview line cooks but our chef asked me to do a first screening and get a feel for their experience. Many were en route to or from work in their chef gear (jacket, pants, clogs) which did not seem out of place at all.

I walked into my first restaurant job with a resume loaded to the gills with my odd combination of twelve years legal 9 to 5 and the two years of retail management life. I felt they were demonstrative of accountability and increased responsibility -- as well as a proven track record of working with people (clients, judges, opposing counsel, outside counsel, etc.).

I've seen many applications without resumes and management that is not phased by it either (waitstaff/barstaff/FOH) and I've also seen some beautifully and creatively presented resumes as well. Do what makes you most comfortable. :smile:

Unless it is for a management position, I'd safely say the 'thank you' note would appear odd, but not so when I was hunting down a new environment with less controlling managing partners.... :biggrin:

Good luck!

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Oops. I gave some thought about some of the food and beverage places I've worked....

I've worn a navy Ann Taylor pants suit to interviews (considered very casual for the law offices I worked in, but a bit dressy for f&b interviews). It primarily depended upon the establishment where I was applying for a position. Come to think of it, I wore this outfit at the members only ClubCorp, the now defunct Watermark (sort of fine dining), Shula's Steak 2 (where I was applying for a bartending position and instead got management :rolleyes: ) and something similar when I jumped through the lengthy interviewing process for The Ritz Carlton for their second street-accessible concept restaurant, The Century.

Does any of this rambling help? :biggrin:


Edited by beans (log)

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Does any of this rambling help?

Absolutely. I am flying mostly blind on this adventure, with only e-gullet and some friends in the restaurant biz (who are very generous with their time) to guide me. It's very intimidating, as I am sure you know (having made a similar switch), and I can use all the help I can get.

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I assume you are looking for a cooking job. If this is the case: I say wear chef clothing--clogs, chef pants, a clean chef's jacket. Tie your hair back if it's long. Your hands should be clean, including nails.

On my resume, I have my culinary school experience. I list some of the more important special events I have worked in the past, and list the champagne-and-desserts gala I cater every year. And I list my culinary employment, which is now reasonably substantial but which was limited to a few crappy foodservice jobs in college when I first started out. (Even those jobs were useful...I learned about portion control, customer service, stocking and rotating, prep work, all things I needed to know to work in a restaurant.) I list that I have a rudimentary grasp of conversational Spanish. I do not list jobs that are not food-related, even though those constitute most of my employment history. A restaurant shoudn't care about those.

The resume is definitely not essential to getting a restaurant job. Since I came from the white-collar world I tried to use my computer savvy and other white-collar job-search skills to give me a leg up. It usually helped.

I only sent a thank-you letter once. Before I went to school I trailed in a local kitchen, and had such a great time I sent a thank-you note along with a gift of some heart-shaped cookie cutters. (The ones in the kitchen were wearing out.) I wasn't even looking for a job there, I was just elated to feel like this was the right career field for me and thrilled that the chef involved me so much when I had no experience to speak of. I did not send thank-you notes for later, actual interviews, but then I rarely did that after an interview for an office job either--and it never seemed to hurt me that I hadn't.

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When I made the switch from lawfirm/retail to food and beverage I found the whole culture a bit intimidating. I was one of 150 servers and wised up rather quickly about who is scamming who, getting good shifts, gaining respect from the kitchen/bar staff and the like.

But then I saw something I never saw or even heard when working with all of the lawyerly sorts: people thanked me! It was very heady at first.

More thought on interview attire is largely dependant upon the type of food and beverage venue and position you are going after. Tiny, baby tee and a low rise mini isn't out of place when applying for a spot at a hot night club for a female bartender but certainly wouldn't fly at a conservative tuxedo'ed FOH staff type of place.

The interviewing process is quite varied. Don't be surprised if it seems a bit less than professional or doesn't last more than five minutes. That bothered me at first and found if the interviewer picks up on that it did not work in my favour to get that position. I chalked it up to being either I wouldn't have been happy working there or opted to smile and go with the flow always looking forward to having a good experience with my other fellow coworkers and guests.

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I've worn a navy Ann Taylor pants suit to interviews

This exchange is from the France forum.

The place: Taillevent in mid-October.

The players: me and my husband.

The problem: What on God's green earth do we wear to this thing?

(For those not familiar with Taillevent, it is one of Paris' more expensive and elegant traditional restaurants.)

answer

I was JUST thinking Ann Taylor/Talbot's for the average American woman.

No comment other than that I think I should look into their stock (shares of ownership, not what's in the stockroom or stockpot).


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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I've worn a navy Ann Taylor pants suit to interviews

This exchange is from the France forum.

The place: Taillevent in mid-October.

The players: me and my husband.

The problem: What on God's green earth do we wear to this thing?

(For those not familiar with Taillevent, it is one of Paris' more expensive and elegant traditional restaurants.)

answer

I was JUST thinking Ann Taylor/Talbot's for the average American woman.

No comment other than that I think I should look into their stock (shares of ownership, not what's in the stockroom or stockpot).

I once was a manager at Ann Taylor.... :biggrin:

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Having hired my fair share of servers and cooks, I think that the most important thing to remember for interview attire is that you need to be comfortable in it. If you are more comfortable and confident in a suit than in a conservative blouse and slacks for the situation, go with the suit. I truely don't believe that many will fault you on being overdressed. If a second interview is required (for a culinary position, I expect a second interview to be hands on) plan on traditional cooks uniform.

Be confident, enthusiastic and open to learn.

If possible be prepared to live on savings for a few weeks. I found trailing to be a very useful tool. Not just for the employer but for the potential employee. When I was young, I took a job or too that I shouldn't have because I didn't know enough about the lack of ethics of the owners. Trailing would have eliminated these mistakes. You will learn a lot about the operation and whether you will click with the gig.

Best of Luck!!!!! :smile:


Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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Oh, one other word of advice, aim high but be very careful about overstating skills. Be upfront about what you know and what you don't know. Enthusiasm will be your best selling point.


Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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Much depends upon where you want to work. Eat at the place. Observe the staff. Maybe even catch a glimpse of the chef during afterhours. Listen to the word on the street, as this can give clues as to the chef's true character and personality, not just the public one.

TJ Harris makes some good points. Trailing (or the french term "stage") is wise and will benefit a lot. Enthusiasm sells. Be honest about ability.

Also, professionalism is wonderful. I am a guy and I like to wear slacks and a tie to interviews. It refelects how I like to work, i.e. professionally and not just casually. Don't overstate yourself also. I will wear slacks and a tie, not an italian suit or gold chains.

If sincere, send or say a thank you also. They might not need you now, but may keep your resume around.

Just thoughts of mine... Everyone is different and different methods work in different places. Most the jobs I get are from referrals. I still dress up and act professionally anyways.

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I am a guy and I like to wear slacks and a tie to interviews. It refelects how I like to work, i.e. professionally and not just casually. Don't overstate yourself also. I will wear slacks and a tie, not an italian suit or gold chains.

Coming from many conserative and stuffy lawfirms (me), slacks and a tie would be considered "casual" (think something from Abercromibe/Eddie Bauer/J Crew/Banana Republic/etc.) Men wore beautifully tailored suits and generally patterned shirts, not matching jacket/pants or short sleeves were a no-no unless it was "Casual Friday" -- and even then denim was not permitted.

Trust me, I've seen all sorts of whacky dress codes at lawfirms -- women's skirts must be ___ inches long, wearing a red dress was not permitted....

Perhaps that is the best way I can qualify what I meant by "casual" in the posts above.

I didn't mean a t-shirt and jeans.

The formality of dress and structure of detailed interviews of the legal world are going to be much different than those of food and beverage. By my use of "casual" was not meant in any way to construe "less professional."

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I just want to reiterate the advice to wear clothes that are comfortable but not too casual. For a woman, I think nice slacks and a shirt or knit top are better than a skirt: for one thing, unless you're going for front of house (and possibly not even then) you won't be wearing a skirt, so why bother with the whole get-up? Likewise heels, unless you are more comfortable in them (although you had better get used to clunky lace-ups or clogs if you're going for b-o-h). NOT sandals: because you might have to walk through the kitchen, and trust me, that's no place for sandals, even on a quick stroll-through. No big jewelry -- earrings or rings (wedding is okay, but none is better). Neat hair, not flowing tresses. Don't worry about hats, scarves, etc. And no, do NOT wear whites to an interview! That is the height of pretension and presumptuousness, as far as I'm concerned. Whites are for when you trail -- and even then, don't wear them there, but change into them when you get there. Would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who wore his/her scrubs in the subway first?

TJHarris and others' advice about eating there first is dead on: you will know what their food is like, and can ask insightful questions. Just remember that an interview is also a chance for you to learn, as well as for the employer to learn about you. What you ask is as important as what you say. Even more so, if you have little or no experience.

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Perhaps that is the best way I can qualify what I meant by "casual" in the posts above.

Beans, I completely understood. In my world (also law firm) casual means nice khakis, tie, and blue blazer for men, Ann Taylor type get-up for women.

What you ask is as important as what you say. Even more so, if you have little or no experience.

Um, I have zero experience so I expect to be laughed out of some places, tolerated by others, and hopefully given a job by one or two of them. I interview well, so that is not a concern. The lack of skills (I am an advanced amateur, emphasis on the amateur) is what concerns me.

Whites are for when you trail -- and even then, don't wear them there, but change into them when you get there.

I will be given whites when I start school. Are those appropriate? Or should I invest in generic whites (no school name).

(although you had better get used to clunky lace-ups or clogs if you're going for b-o-h).

Which brings me to another question. (I know there have been threads on this before). But what type of footwear do all of you prefer?

Thanks again for the assistance.

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Which brings me to another question. (I know there have been threads on this before). But what type of footwear do all of you prefer?

Looky here.

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Will you be interviewing WHILE you're in school? Then at least you can let them know you are working on learning. And being able to learn, and learn fast, is a tremendously important skill. If you can demonstrate in the interview that you are a good learner, that can outrank experience (especially when you have none! :wink: )

A good chef will give you a trail based on how you present yourself in the interview (how interested you are in the kind of food s/he does, whether you seem like you would fit in with the rest of the team, etc.), then when you trail you demonstrate (or not :shock: ) how well and how fast you learn to do things as they are shown to you. When you get to that point, how much experience you have or don't have is less important, because each chef wants you to do things her/his way; the worst thing a job-seeker can do is say, "Well, that's not the way we did it at (vill in the blank)." The chef wants to see if you can be molded into a good worker.

Besides, the kind of jobs you'd be interviewing for would not require you to know much* -- usually prep or garde manger, where you just do whatever you are told/shown how to do. Not to worry about whether or not you know how to poach a chicken breast or make a gallon of hollandaise. *Although: if you know product, that's a huge advantage. That is, knowing different vegetables and herbs and such -- because when they send you into the walk-in for something, it's a definite plus if you can find the right item. :rolleyes:

As for what to where on a trail: your school whites are fine, as long as they are CLEAN.

Shoes, like knives, are a very personal choice. The last I had were Rockport lace-ups; I tend to fall off clogs. You want something that gives your foot good support and cushions your step. And that has a non-slip sole (super-important!). Looks are not an issue; safety and comfort are.

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As someone who switched from computer science and web development over to cooking, hopefully I can reiterate some of the really important points that everyone has already stated:

Enthusiasm, I believe, is paramount; and, where I have been, complaining and excuses are not put up with. Show to the chef and cooks that you work with that you are receptive to suggestion and criticism: it's really important that they can see that you can and want to be trained.

Even if you wait until after you go to culinary school to apply somewhere, don't assume you know ANYTHING. If you go to work in a good restaurant, they will, more than likely, have better and more efficient ways of doing things than what you learned in school, so be ready to be corrected and learn. Culinary school was a great place to learn the basics and make a start, but a restaurant is a different animal.

Your skills (early on) will probably the least of your worries. Restaurants will have their own ways of doing things, so observe others when you can and ask lots of questions.

Keep the hierarchy of the kitchen in mind (it quickly becomes second-nature). Make sure you pay respect appropriately up the chain of command.

And, enjoy your new career! There's nothing else like it!

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ummm interesting!A chefs interview normaly comes between 9 to 5 unless your going private owners and then it can occur at odd hours. The best advice I can give is to be yourself and be honest!Remember its not about what they can do for you!Rather it is what you can do for them! In our biz , well good help is still very hard to find and good employers to boot.A short 1 page resume is best as I do not want your life story!Talk the talk and walk the walk and you will be fine.

My 2, Doug..............


The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity!

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I had my first restaurant interview today. It was set up by a friend as a "ask a lot of questions about culinary school and if they like you maybe they'll let you work in the kitchen for a day" interview. I know the restaurant (and some of its staff) very well as a customer, but I had never before met my interviewer.

I did the following:

Wore black pants and a blazer with minimal jewelery, hair pulled back.

Called yesterday to confirm (the meeting had been set ten days ago).

Showed up five minutes early (this is apparently so unusual that it was commented on -- apparently most people show up late :blink: ).

Admitted I know zilch.

Asked a ton of questions.

And was offered a one day a week (Saturday) externship starting after Labor Day!

(I work full time as an attorney, so more time isn't possible, and externs are day workers at this restaurant). I do not plan on starting school (which my interviewer thought might be unecessary) until early next year.

Thank you all for your advice.

Woo hoo!

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That is so cool.

I think it's amazing that people don't take the time to show up just a few minutes early.

As for the experience factor, I think most cooks don't go to cooking school before getting a job, and even a few cooks are right out of (or still in) high school.

When I got my first restaurant job the summer before I started culinary school, I did basically what you did, down to the outfit and accessories, showing up early, admitting I knew nothing, etc. I got hired for like 3 days a week on the line. (Ended up hating it, but a) I didn't give it enough time and b) the atmosphere didn't jive with my style.)

Good luck! This thread totally renewed my excitement for cooking. (of course, I have the next couple days off, so I can say that now...)

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Don't do what I did. At age 23 I'd partied my way out of college and promptly scored two concurrent busboy jobs (one lunches - the other dinners) with the intent of working up to a waiter's position. Come to find out.... the one place never ever used waiters - only waitresses. The other place had an entrenched advancement system that involved being a drinking buddy of the owner or a friend of a friend of his. Applying for another job at a local lunch place as a bartender (no experience on my resume), the hiring manager took me aside and advised that I could unquestionably make a good waiter but would need a couple weeks of sink or swim hands-on experience to prove it. She suggested that I "fudge it" a bit on my experience and claim some out-of-town too time consuming to verify "waitering experience" for my resume, then apply to a few other places.

I applied to the newest hottest local bistro (the first fern bar in town - this really was way back when). I was hired on the spot (if nothing else I am a master of BS when necessary). I clebrated that night at my neighborhood watering hole. gleefully boasting to my drinking companions that I'd just gotten hired as a waiter at this hotspot and had not a day or real waitering experience to my credit.

Guess who was parked at the corner stool for his daily libations? None other than the head line cook of said bistro :shock: Needless to say.... I was unaware and more than a bit baffled at the sh#t I got from the kitchen staff during my first two weeks on the job (having failed to recognize him as a regular from the bar). They all tortured me relentlessly - even more than the average rookie. After the two week hazing was up the crew bought me a beer and laughed their asses off while they fessed up and recounted all the ridiculous mistakes I made during my quick learning curve.

It's a tribute to and commentary on the fact that in the restaurant biz it's what you can do that really counts. Get back in the kitchen and personal politics, schmoozing, being able to "appear" that you're getting work done..... none of that stuff can carry you even a little way as it often can in the corporate and office world (including the one I presently work in). Don't be surprised if you're hired with minimal experience for a job you may not think you're yet qualified for. If the hiring manager senses some maturity, drive and an iron determination as personal qualities you embody.... that will go a long way.

And who the hell is Ann Taylor? [rhetorical]Am I that clueless?[/rhetorical/]

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My experience is that culinary school just isn't much of an icebreaker. It wasn't for me. What got me my first job was establishing immediate rapport with the chef.

I had many interviews, mostly with HR types, and was screened out as unqualified in every case.

To soon to graduate culinary school types:

Your goal should be to get to see the chef or the sous or whoever in white needs the labor. HR types suck.

Take anything offerd to you. It's MUCH easier getting the second job than the first.

Work hard, take your lumps, and be ready when opportunity knocks, say when MR totally unreliable line cook pisses the chef off for the last time. Be ready to step in.

Don't be arrogant, but be SUPER CONFIDENT in yourself.

Believe that you can overcome any obstacle, any challange. Dive in. Attack the problem with every bit of energy and know how you have, and odds are, you will come out on top. A little luck doesn't hurt.

It's working for me, and I got into cooking at age 44, after a blown out career in aerospace.

I am on the line now, doing grill, roast, and saute, 60 to 100 covers a night.

Independant fine/casual dining establishment I have a good shot at becoming the chef shortly. It's hard work, but It's everything I wanted it to be.

Time from first day of culinary training to the present? 16 months.

Mind you, I never set foot in a commercial kitchen before that.

I just worked my ass off. I treated school like it was work. My school chef let me graduate early due to demonstrated competance.

Mind you, I never was a good student before then, but I applied myself this time.


Not to be confused with egullet veteran Ms. Ramsey

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