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Part-time Chef


frdagaa
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I'm thinking about making a career change and love cooking so much I want to try it professionally. But I love many aspects of my profession, and am weary of some of the down-sides of being a chef (e.g. bad hours for a family man). I am thinking about doing 2 things simultanesously, i.e. continuing in my present profession part-time and starting cooking part-time. My question (especially for you professional cooks/restauranteurs) is whether you've run into this before and/or whether you have strong feelings about it. Is it the absolute stupidest thing an otherwise-fairly-intelligent person could do?

This topic may be better placed in another forum, but I'll be damned if I can figure out where. Everytime I search for relevant discussion about culinary careers I strike out. Certainly the interviews with batali, etc. help out but I'm talking something more grass-roots for members. Shouldn't there be a forum specifically on careers? And one on cooking schools, perhaps?

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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I'm thinking about making a career change and love cooking so much I want to try it professionally.  But I love many aspects of my profession, and am weary of some of the down-sides of being a chef (e.g. bad hours for a family man).  I am thinking about doing 2 things simultanesously, i.e. continuing in my present profession part-time and starting cooking part-time.  My question (especially for you professional cooks/restauranteurs) is whether you've run into this before and/or whether you have strong feelings about it.  Is it the absolute stupidest thing an otherwise-fairly-intelligent person could do?

This topic may be better placed in another forum, but I'll be damned if I can figure out where.  Everytime I search for relevant discussion about culinary careers I strike out.  Certainly the interviews with batali, etc. help out but I'm talking something more grass-roots for members.  Shouldn't there be a forum specifically on careers?  And one on cooking schools, perhaps?

Is it the absolute stupidest thing an otherwise-fairly-intelligent person could do?

YES and enjoy it :laugh::laugh::laugh:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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One option that should be mentioned is that most restaurants will not turn away free labor. If you're willing to do this, I think most places will let you do a stage there, probably in prep or the pantry, a few nights a week. It would at least let you try out how you like working in a professional kitchen.

Hal

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One option that should be mentioned is that most restaurants will not turn away free labor.  If you're willing to do this, I think most places will let you do a stage there, probably in prep or the pantry, a few nights a week.  It would at least let you try out how you like working in a professional kitchen.

Hal

Actually, here in Kali i won't due to liablity issues. Had people trial for a couple of hours but thats it. Better off paying at least min wage and not worry about if or when something happens and they are not on payroll.

Part time chef is kind of an oxymoron. If its your passion it tends to take all of your waking-and sleeping-time. There are many facets to this business that can fulfill your needs though.

hth, danny

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I've been thinking on and off about your question all day today.

And I kept hearing this funny noise coming from my closet. A sort of small squeak...but more shrill with a crackling effect to it. Being busy, I chose to ignore it till just a moment ago, as it was getting louder and my heart was beating as if I were going to have a conniption if I had to think about all this any longer.

I went to the closet and opened it, ready to smack the mouse with the broom, but there was no mouse. It was my Curmudgeon Hat, and it jumped smartly out and directly onto my head. It is a terribly ugly brown color with chartreuse green spots on it, and it always remains stuck on my head till my mouth opens to let out the Curmudgeonly Thoughts.

No right-minded professional kitchen is going to hire someone for free, unless that is exactly what they have been set up to do....to train any variety of free help.

Liability, liability, yes.

Liability in the very real sense of insurance issues. Liability in the sense of potential lawsuits of all sorts.

Liability in the fact that a professional kitchen that is actually pumping out work of a good quality at a good pace does not have the time to babysit (sorry) an untrained person.

Liability in the fact that the other professionals in this hard-ass business will not likely take well to the fact that they are now expected to teach some...person that is coming in to do part of their job...for free.

Bad idea in terms of developing team spirit or management/staff communication and respect.

Liability to the customer. I don't want to eat at a restaurant where someone is in the back making my food who has possibly not even been trained in the many facets of sanitation that have to do with producing food in quantity and quality at the same time.

Good restaurants recruit, interview, and train based on what their needs are.

There are lots of people looking and applying for each job that exists, even in the low-end places.

The professionalism of the metier must be respected.

Finally...to put a more positive note on your original question...don't sell yourself cheap. If you are a fairly technically adept home cook, then you have some real skills that you should be paid for if you enter the professional world with them.

Assess your skills, be honest, then think about the sort of place you would like to work. Try speaking to someone there, in person preferably. Based on production needs, sometimes there is a need for an extra person now and then. (This will be more common as holiday time comes around, with catered parties and all...)

The best idea I can think of, though, is to call the catering companies in your area. They are more accustomed to hiring all sorts of people at all sorts of skill levels, and sort of have 'training' built into their system...just as a survival tool. Great way to learn a lot and be serious and make some money, too.

Phew...the Curmudgeon Hat is loosening....must go try and pry it off.....

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I'm thinking about making a career change and love cooking so much I want to try it professionally.  But I love many aspects of my profession, and am weary of some of the down-sides of being a chef (e.g. bad hours for a family man).  I am thinking about doing 2 things simultanesously, i.e. continuing in my present profession part-time and starting cooking part-time.  My question (especially for you professional cooks/restauranteurs) is whether you've run into this before and/or whether you have strong feelings about it.  Is it the absolute stupidest thing an otherwise-fairly-intelligent person could do?

This topic may be better placed in another forum, but I'll be damned if I can figure out where.  Everytime I search for relevant discussion about culinary careers I strike out.  Certainly the interviews with batali, etc. help out but I'm talking something more grass-roots for members.  Shouldn't there be a forum specifically on careers?  And one on cooking schools, perhaps?

What are your expectations? Someone with no experience in a professional

upscale kitchen will be relegated to peeling potatoes and onions for a year

working on a part-time basis.....maybe not,but close.

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I think it's worth a shot, actually. I wouldn't work for free, but I think getting your feet wet for a few months to see what the world of food is like beats quitting your "real job" and plunging in wholeheartedly. Lots of people do what you're interested in while trying to decide if this is the right career field.

Have you ever spent a night trailing in a restaurant kitchen? I'd start by doing that in four or five places that interest you, so you can get a sense of how different restaurant kitchens work. Bring your own knives and be prepared to peel potatoes and onions if they ask you to--or to just stay out of the way if they prefer that. Then if you're not turned off you have some sort of comparison and you can talk to the different chefs about any part-time work they may be willing to give you.

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Speaking as one who's in charge of such things, the liability issue is very much a reality. Heaven forbid you slice open a finger with your newly taught brunoise skills and require stiches. If you aren't on the payroll, then the business is stuck with your ER bill. Not a pretty picture.

The catering idea that Carrot Top brings up is deinitely worth exploring. The work is seasonal, you can decide which parties fit into your schedule or not and you'll learn a lot about high volume food prep and presentation in a short period of time. Most catering companies are so strapped at certain high volume times of the year that the hiring criteria are usually something along the lines of "Can you plate 200 salads? Do you walk erect? Do you have a pulse? Great - you're hired!" No prior "professional" experience won't work against you if you make it clear that it's your first entry level professional kitchen experience. If you're good, punctual, reliable and take direction well you'll advance quickly. Defintely an avenue worth pursuing and with a greater likelihood of getting hired and seeing some "action" than a high level restaurant kitchen.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Thanks for the thoughts. I have enough contacts, I think, to gain an entry and get a little exposure while figuring out if I want to make a career change, but I do like the catering idea.

But I guess my question really is whether I could become a part-time cook in a high-end restaurant--on a permanent basis. Because that's really what I want to do.

I'm not naive; I know about dedication, hard work, etc. Being a chef seems like a brutal career. In fact, my current career is brutal, requires dedication, and I'm no stranger to hard training and hard work. My reason for considering cooking part-time rather than full-time is certainly not to make my life easier (it won't be), but rather that I like certain aspects of my current career too much to leave it completely. But I'm getting to the point that I HAVE to cook. Who said "You don't chose to be a chef...it choses you"? Rings true.

Let's just say that I become an excellent pro cook. Will I be employable (in an upper-end restaurant) if I'm only able to work 3 days/week?

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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Chip,

I will pay you $.50 a 1/6 pan you fill for me and $.75 a 1/3 outa my own pocket.

Get a job as a prep/dish dawg, if after a month or so the line cooks still like you you may have the skills. Seriously, at a "high-end" rest. this is what you will have to do.

Don't wanna wash pots like most of us have had to ( and do when a dish dawg no shows)? Get a job at a sports bar. Learn how to grill, fry, saute(kinda), bake, and etc...

Learn humility. "High-end' chefs are as!-holes. You wanna start at the top, they will break you down. Give us line cooks respect, wash a pot, peal a potato, go to school...all of wich I have done.

Sorry to be so pissy, but my "real job"/your hobbie is paying my rent and baby docter bills for my unborn child.

LJ

Edited by LJFATS (log)

R.I.P.

Johnny Ramone

1948-2004

www.RAMONES.com

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Sure, it's possible to eventually land a part-time job cooking in a high-end restaurant. I worked in a place where a guy came in weekends only to work saute--he was a stay-at-home dad during the week. Although he was good friends with and went to culinary school with the chef, which may have been why he was able to finagle that schedule.

I think it may be a while of grunt work before anybody lets you near the stoves, though--longer than for most people, since you won't be there full-time. Are you really prepared to pay your dues?

Catering isn't a bad idea, but the sheer volume of work can get repetitive--and in some ways catering requires you to work harder and faster than line work. Speed is invariably a problem for people new to the kitchen world. I've shied away from doing it for other people partly because speed is still a problem for me. I think it'd be even harder for somebody totally green.

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frdagaa

a lot of what you have written rings true with my current situation. I have a new born and partner who isn't too keen on being on her own from 9 till midnight 5 days a week (and usually including the weekend), so I am currently investigating a similar possibility here.

I am in the UK and have found in the past restaurants willing to let me work on a part-time temp basis (weekend and evening shifts) while assessing whether I want to chef permanently. The one restaurant I did work in for 6 months did have me doing the low-end jobs, but also offered me the chance to learn new skills and taught me the basics along the way. By the fourth month I was cooking the vegetables for dinner service, as well as doing a lot of the veg prep, and preparing basic dishes. In the end I was offered a permanent trainee position, and have regretted not taking it ever since.

My point is, unless things are very much different over here, I think you will be able to find such an opportunity.

By the way - I can't see where in your original post you mentioned working for free - and it was something I never considered doing and was paid what I thought was a fair rate for the job I was doing. I was, after all, doing necessary tasks.

I would also appreciate further comments on this subject.

Good luck.

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But I guess my question really is whether I could become a part-time cook in a high-end restaurant--on a permanent basis.  Because that's really what I want to do.

Anything is possible in life.

The things one plans for and thinks will surely happen often don't, and the most surprising and odd and sometimes wonderful things often do happen...and they are things that nobody, absolutely nobody, could ever anticipate.

You won't know till you try. Go for it!

Sure there are rules. And rules are sometimes made to be broken by the exception.

Call someone...maybe even today...and let us know how it goes.

Bon chance!

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Of course I'd start at the bottom and work up only as fast as my skills and environment would allow. I don't mind working for free (for a while) and don't mind dishes and peeling taters.

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm going to go for it, but it might take a while. Next obstacle is the wife.

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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Having most of the downside covered by others here and rather well in some cases. Never work for free, work at Min. wage, as it will accomplish a few things the least being the general liability issues. There has to be some sense of value in the situation both for you and the people using you. There is no incentive for either party if all you are doing it for is “education”.

Find a place that does catering and banquets that may need people on an as needed basis. You will be giving up some nights and weekends but you will have an easier time getting your foot in the door. You also will learn a lot and have a little slack afforded towards the situation. As the old joke goes, I only work half days at my job. The first twelve hours.

Living hard will take its toll...
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