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Setting up a stage in France

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I'm planning on just using a tourist visa and taking bimonthly trips to neighboring countries. I tried to set this up 5 years ago with far less cash and a need for job security upon arrival. The work permit was the hardest step and the biggest hurdle. I'm hoping to just dive in and deal with it when I have to.

I want to come in the summer either June or july. which would be better? What should I have lined up before I go? Also, the cuisine de terroir is my tour de force as a disciple of Collichio, Waters, Keller, and the New England king of terroir Sam Haywood. I want the skill refinement, most of all, from this experience, though. Can the two be found under the same roof? Enlighten me further. Thanks for the posts.

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Assuming you have a US passport you can stay for 3 months with a tourist visa, unless the Laws have changed like right now. So don't worry about the bi-monthly trips unless it's for leisure. PM me and I'll tell you what my impression is of the three month limit.

You can fine cuisine du terroir and cuisine gastronomique under one roof, especially in the regions in France that are known for the terroir based cooking. Lyon is a shining example of this. But really at this level of restaurant, the ingredients will be top notch wherever you are.

As for refining your techniques, you can do this just as well in a one star place as you can in a three star place. Or even at a place that's very close to having a star. So I wouldn't fixate on the number of stars so much. Although the reality is when you get back home the number of stars will look pretty good on your resume. What you learn is still more important than that.

Things to prepare...

A place to stage first. I don't know how old you are, but age can be an obstacle, not an impossible one, but I'm trying to be realistic with you. I would suggest when trying to set up a stage, humility and eagerness to learn should be thouroughly expressed. The big names that you worked for in America won't matter so much over there, but you can use it in a different way. Tell them you really want to refine your skills in a way that you don't think is possible in the States (a little cultural ego stroking doesn't hurt). Don't give them the impression that you will try to attach yourself to the Chef, it can be a turn off. Remember at this level the entire line is pretty damn good at what they do. It's not like the chef is doing all the "hands off" work, highly unlikely. So even the cold section guy is performing up to snuff, don't forget to watch him too and on up the line. Learn from the entire kitchen system.

A place to stay...

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As noted, you have 3 months with a US passport without needing a visa, but you should also note for referrence that you don't leave the Schengen visa area by going to Spain, Italy, Germany, etc. In terms of visas and passports, there are no borders in the EU these days. They disappeared a few years ago. It's not quite all one big country, but it's one currency and one visa area.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

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.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Three months should be fine. If longer without a change I'll figure that out with them and worry about it then. I'm 29 and figure I might be above some of the pack but I am still in the absorbing line cook stage, even after 8 years. I find in kitchens staffed with high caliber cooks that everyone has something to teach. I think I know what to expect from hundreds accounts I've read and heard but the more the merrier. Who are some of the men and women your watching right now? I'm not concerned with 3 stars as much as finding a good match. Place to stay? What's up with that? Is it usually provided?

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Chances are you won't be paid to stage. You'll be lucky if you get to do it for free. There's a famous American chef who says he spent a year or so in France working at Michelin starred restaurants. My considerable knowledge of the French restaurant industry tells me that he most likely paid for the privilege.

As for a well known Chef IN the kitchen these days  :laugh:  (I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at the idea, please don't take it the wrong way). Even if the chef is in the kitchen, don't try to stay too close to him, he won't like it. Get on the good side of the sous chef. Watch and learn from everyone. At the level of restaurant you want to work at, you can learn from the entire line. 

As for accomodations that depends on where in France you will be working. There is an organization that helps students find inexpensive dwellings, I will find their website and post it for you if you are interested. I know you're not a student but I think they might be able to help.

I would also recommend working in Lyon at a traditional cuisine du terroir Bouchon.

Good luck to you. You will learn alot. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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A place to stay. ..

Sometimes housing is provided during a stage, but it's rare. I'm not sure in which direction your assumptions about that were leaning. If the restaurant doesn't provide housing, is staging still in your budget? I'm pretty sure you could find a place to crash even in Paris for cheap if your not picky about the neighborhood and don't mind sharing space.

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Nice topic! Please feel free to add more information. Ive been wondering about the same things as charlieredd, myself.

Setting up a stage in very easy the difficult part is getting in at the right time. There is only a few spots available each season. I was envited to stage at The Fat Duck and they require a 3 month commitment. I have staged here in the states from days to weeks. If you live near by simply knock on the back door and cross your fingers! As for pay, well you are there for the expeience not to make money, but some places will pay a minute amount but very unlikely. Set up accomadations and pay before you get there and plan on working.

I know that Anthony's in Leeds in offering shorter terms and he is doing some very impressive things! Simply visit the website and send your info and hope you hear something!

I agree - It is a good topic

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thanks. In my case, pay wouldnt be the issue, but accomodation would greatly help. Is it unusual for the restaurant to help with this in any way?

They may not offer it to you but they can point you in the correct direction. They sometimes have agreements with local places. The restaurant can help you with everything you need to know after all you are free labor to them - so they are going to make sure you are comfortable.

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I was going to set up a stage at a famous chocolate shop in France, and they sent me a letter that it was 400 euros to work there for a week. That is, they wanted me to pay them to work there. I guess a lot of these places have so many people want to work there they can do it (...it is more work for the people who work there, and the chef, having people rotating through and asking lots of questions...believe me, I've been on the other side of that...one intern once told me after peeling apples for 5 minutes, "This is really boring.")

I asked around and a friend said that some of the really famous places are asking people to pay to come and 'work' there. Also with problems with immigration in many EU countries, some places are reluctant to have people from other countries in their kitchens. I did a stage somewhere and they made me carry my passport at all time, since they said they get 'surprise' inspections.

Yes, to stay in France longer than 90 days, officially you need a Carte Sejour, but not many people get them, so I am told (I have one and it took over a year to get it...and you need to begin the process in the US.)

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It's who you know, not just what you know, in regards to setting up a stage. The only incentive a restaurant has to teach you anything is in return for your free labor. You have to think of your stage ONLY as a continuation of your culinary education. There are hundreds of applicants who wish to stage at a multi-starred French kitchen, so: why should the Sous chef pick you to work in his kitchen? That's the question that you should ask...

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I will try and avoid the use of "most" or even "many," but more than some of the cooks I know who have staged in France have been able to do that only because some French chef in the US arranged it via the old boy network. Nevertheless, some cooks manage to wander in and make the right impression and succeed. In both cases it's being in the right place at the right time. The surest way to do that is to work hard at impressing the right chef in the first place.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

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.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I am also very interested in this thread, I graduated from culinary school in june and have been in the industry for about a year now, I don't have years of experience but I learn fast and constantly read up on cooking and try and refine what I learn. I am in a situation now where I have learned all i can from the current restaurant where I work and the season is slowing down in montreal so looking for work becomes more difficult. Also I think that it would be good for me to learn outside of the city. I have french citizenship so working permits and the ilk aren't a problem I am just wondering how to go about finding a restaurant that will take me I know so little of the scene there and where to go. does anyone have suggestions?

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cricklewood,

Try calling(or writing) to a resto that interests you! I managed to for Michel Bras where i staged while at culinary school in the U.K. I was hired as CDP the following year(his first with 3*) straight from school. It was fucking hardcore, but what you can learn is immeasurable- really different from Canada(i'm here too!) I kinda jumped in at the deep end, but you either sink or swim ; you choose! I have written from Canada to Olivier Roellinger, but never heard back so be persistent. The big boys in France have no end of kids looking to work for them, your lack of experience will likely mean that you will work unpaid(if you are looking at the top end).I had to giggle at the slap thing on another thread- these guys(& girls Ghislaine Arabiane is scary, allegedly!) really care about what they do & emotions can spill out unpredictably, but what do you want? Good luck.

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I know this may be a bit of a late response but i just got back from doing a stage in France. As well as a few of my friends we got all lodged in different establishments according to what we were looking for. I was in a 1 Michelin star Au Moulin De La Gorce in La Roche L'Abielle, very nice classic french cusine. My friends however wanted the 3 star as u do. Thiers no way in hell youll work with the chef, or even see him, 1 friend was at Michele Trama and another in Marc Vayrat and they both didnt even come close to learning or doing what i was doing. another friend was at Philippe Etchebest in st emilion 2 star. The friend at Vayrat was put in the back refridgerated room with all the other stagirs doing prep not taking part in service, pretty much the same for the guy at Trama, but myself and the friend at the 2 star did alot, i was the poisonnier whenever the sous chef had the days off, which for a stagir in france, is pretty damn exciting. I always got to talk to the chef, eventhough he loves yelling, he was a resonably nice guy and in the end out of all of my friends, i got the most parting gifts from my chef, 3 bottles of truffle oil and a pile of things from the restaurant itself. anyways maybe this will help out people searching for stages, oh ya we also all got paid about 300-350 euros a month lodging and meals included, i also had the company car my entire stage fuel paid by the chef, very memorable experience and if i went back, it would be 2 star, never 3, not after the storys, also im canadian and was insured before i went. no papers to sighn or anything, always paid in cash. good luck

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Crinklewood,

if your in Montreal you should sighn up for the FSC course at ITHQ, thats how we got all our stages in france, insanley cheap course and lots of learning and a garunteed stage. plus their are tons of gastros here in mtl so maybe you should find another other than where your working.

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this is a very helpful topic. i'm going to finish up the ritz escoffier program in paris in december and do a short stage in the hotel kitchen as part of my culinary school program. after that, i would like to secure at least one stage somewhere else in paris. i'm hearing different reports about the feasibility of this; i am not eligible to apply for a carte de sejour according to the visa i was issued in the U.S. before i left, which means i can't work legally here. does this also mean i can't work unpaid in a kitchen? i'm wondering how other americans have gotten around the carte de sejour issue...or do you not need one if it's an unpaid position?


www.foodmigration.com

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How crucial is it to speak French (and how much French) in order to get and actually perform the stage? I have just started cooking school and have some friends that could help me get a stage when I have more experience but my French is limited to what I have learned via cassettes. IE I have no real life experiences with the language and my vocabulary is tourist centric not kitchen.

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Hi everybody! This is my first post.... I am trying to get a stage together in the south of France. I'd like to go this September. I was wondering if anyone here has worked or staged in Avignon or Marseille.

I am an American, and I know that I can only go for 3 months on a passport. I'm not really interested in all of the red tape with getting a work visa. Yes, I know I won't be paid, but I don't care! I just want to get there. I have a place to live already (friends), so as long as I can sneak a few bites in at the restaurant, I'll have enough money to last for at least 6 months.

Another question is about the 3 month time limit on an American passport. Is there a loophole in that somewhere? Like maybe taking the train to Switzerland (non EU), and then coming back?

Any and all help will be greatly appreciated

Thanks!! :biggrin:

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I'm hoping someone who has staged here in France can answer some of the hanging questions in this thread:

For Americans or Non-EU citizens, are you required to get a work permit for an unpaid stage? Insurance? What is the norm?

Can someone who came from another country chime in on the level of French required? I am assuming the more the better but if anyone has first hand experiences from stages...

Also does anyone have a suggestion for Chef_on_the_go for the search for a restaurant to approach in either Avignon or Marseille?

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I'm hoping someone who has staged here in France can answer some of the hanging questions in this thread: 

For Americans or Non-EU citizens, are you required to get a work permit for an unpaid stage?  Insurance?  What is the norm? 

Can someone who came from another country chime in on the level of French required?  I am assuming the more the better but if anyone has first hand experiences from stages... 

I have an American friend who did a stage at a one-star in Paris and she definitely had to get papers. I don't know if this is always the case, but the restaurant can get in a lot of trouble for having someone without papers, even if it's an unpaid position, which they very well might not want to risk. I think she may have even paid an intermediary person to set up the stage for her.

I'll see if I can get some more info from her.


www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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This is a great topic, sorry I cant be of any help as I havent staged in France. I do have a few questions though.

Is three months a timescale that exists because most of you are from outside the EU? Could you stage for two months if like me you have a UK passport?

If I had all my own private finances for board and money to live on would these kitchen be at all flexible in days you could work? For instance could you go out to the producers farms or markets while you were there, or would they demand 6 days of split shifts from you?

Any help would be much appreciated, I have money to go on a stage when I want but I want to make sure that I get the most out of the whole experience, not just be peeling carrots for 2 months!

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This is a great topic, sorry I cant be of any help as I havent staged in France. I do have a few questions though.

Is three months a timescale that exists because most of you are from outside the EU? Could you stage for two months if like me you have a UK passport?

If I had all my own private finances for board and money to live on would these kitchen be at all flexible in days you could work? For instance could you go out to the producers farms or markets while you were there, or would they demand 6 days of split shifts from you?

Any help would be much appreciated, I have money to go on a stage when I want but I want to make sure that I get the most out of the whole experience, not just be peeling carrots for 2 months!

If you've got a EU passport, you're on a completely different program. As far as the shifts and everything, that is entirely up to the restaurant. I think you would have a little more freedom if you were completely supporting yourself. I have friends that are going in a month and their chef is sending them to a foie gras farm for a couple of days, and then on a fishing trip.

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Thanks for the info chef, im hoping to get one at la tupina, my father has done a bit of cooking from there on his TV programme, so the chef may be happy to take me even though I only have a years experience in a kitchen.

Plus Bourdeaux is only a short distance from Hourtin plage, my favourite surf break in all France :)

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