Apprenticeship Countdown – 0 days to go

It’s the night before my new apprenticeship at Crown Melbourne!

On Friday I went to pre-induction, to be fitted for my new uniform and to get my ID photo taken (always an awkward moment for me). I bumped into R, who I’d met during the interview process. R is a girl in her early twenties who has way more experience than I have in the kitchen. When I’d met her we’d had a giggle, and I admired how calm she seemed during the cook (a part of our interview). I was hoping that we’d both make it through the group interviews – and we did!

With pre-induction done, a million forms filled out and a friend made, I’m super excited to get to the actual food part. We will be rotated through various restaurants on a six-monthly basis.  For my first assignment, I will be working at Mesh Seafood Buffet.

I’m stoked. It’s a lovely casual dining outlet that caters to seafood lovers. Now I’ve never been a seafood lover. I find the insect-like features to be creepy. But as I’ve grown up I’ve challenged myself to eat foods that, as a very fussy child, I had refused to try. So I’ve started eating prawns and oysters and, my god, I’ve been missing out. Because of the fussy eating and the insect-phobia, I haven’t really adventured into the world of seafood properly – this is the perfect opportunity for me to learn! I’m thinking that the next six months might have a lot of seafood related posts.

Well, that’s it for this post. I need to get a good night’s sleep before day one of induction. Wish me luck for my first day! 

 

 

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Chefs Apprenticeship: Countdown to Start Date

I’m super excited to be starting my apprenticeship at Crown Melbourne in only three days! 

On Friday I will attend a pre-induction and then from Monday through Wednesday the actual induction will be held. During that time we are measured for our uniforms, given thorough general training and allocated our given ‘outlet’ for the next six months.

I have no idea which outlet I’ll be allocated. If you’ve been here before, you’ll know I’m crazy about all kinds of food. Crown has an insane range of restaurants with premium offerings like Nobu and Rockpool, casual dining like Emporio Pizza and Pasta, as well as two food courts. There is also room service to its three hotels as well as private dining options.

Naturally I’m dying to be placed in Nobu or somewhere else fancy but as a first year apprentice perhaps they’ll ease us in slowly with six months in casual dining first. Who knows what’s to come! I’ll be happy wherever I end up.

I can’t wait to share all the things I learn as an apprentice. Join me on my apprenticeship journey by clicking the follow button below.

 

Apprentice Chef’s Wish List

I’m a newbie apprentice chef. I’ve barely done ten shifts in the kitchen. But I’ve already got a growing wish list of all things in the kitchen that will make my heart happy and my shifts easier.

Note to reader: this article contains Amazon affiliate links. By clicking on these links and shopping in Amazon for any item, you are supporting this blog and my chefs apprenticeship. By clicking on these links, there is no additional cost to you.

Chef Shoes

Any chef will agree your feet are so important in the kitchen! They have to endure 12+ hours of standing, sometimes in one spot for hours. They have to balance through wet, slippery conditions and withstand high temperatures. These Blundstones are my dream chef boots. They are all round safety boots but I love the look and the comfort and safety features they offer.

Chef Knives

This knife set by Wusthof is a bit dreamy. It is worth saving up for your first set of knives. If you invest the right amount of money, and care, your knives will last a long time. The restaurant I work at has been happy to provide me with decent knives while I save up for my own set. In the meantime, a girl can only dream!

Chef’s Books

There are an infinite number of books on cooking and the culinary arts. I wish I could own them all! Here are just a few to get us apprentices started:

Larousse Gastronomique is a classic encyclopaedia of cuisine. Julia Child said it was her most important cooking reference. It contains recipes, histories, guides and how-to’s.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell gives an honest insight into the oftentimes brutal kitchen. George Orwell works as Plongeur, doing the dirty work (the “Charlie Work”) for the kitchen. He scrubs dishes and mops floors in the hot hell of a traditional 1930(s) French kitchen.

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential tells a chefs tale of cocaine and cooking. It’s a great read. But remember not to indulge too much in the darker side of the cooking scene lest you burn out before you can shine.

Chef’s Uniform

At Crown we have tailored, dry-cleaned uniforms provided to us for every shift (I’m so excited to start!). But most restaurants will require you to provide your own uniform. If I could get away with it, i’d totally rock these bad boys. They would serve as a reminder to always wear gloves when chopping chillis.

Just for Funsies

This is a wish list after all. I love how this chopping board can be used to get a feel for the size of different chopping methods. I would probably only use it at home, but I know my knife skills would benefit greatly.

What are your most important tools for surviving the kitchen? Leave a comment below.

Applying for a Chef Apprenticeship

Over the last few months, I have been interviewing for an apprentice chef position with a particularly exciting company in Melbourne, Crown. If you’re from Melbourne you’ll be familiar with Crown. From their website: “Crown Melbourne is a large integrated resort and has Australia’s largest casino, three hotels, function rooms, award winning restaurants and world-class shopping and entertainment facilities.”

The apprenticeship includes six-month rotations at different world-class restaurants. It also includes paid training in a fully equipped apprentice’s kitchen and restaurant. The opportunity to work under world-class chefs is like no other in Melbourne. The apprenticeship is fully recognised in Australia and after three years you receive a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery.

I’ve been lucky enough to get through three rounds of interviews. The first round was a phone interview where I got to chat about my experiences and my motivation. The second round was a group interview at Crown. We were taken on a tour of the impressive staff facilities at Crown, including the free staff restaurant, free uniforms and dry cleaning and a super discounted gym. After our tour, we were taken to the Culinarium. This is Crown Colleges very own training restaurant. Here, we were given a demonstration. Our French, award-winning instructor, cooked a fish dish with a fennel citrus salad, asparagus and potato and dill salad. Yum!

Then we, the aspiring chefs, had to recreate the dish from memory. It was really fun. My dish was decent and the amount I learned in that interview was incredible. It made me want the position more. Also, I got to eat the food!

After this interview, I was instructed to provide references and had to pass police background checks. I expected these to take a while as I needed to pass a United States police check which can take up to six weeks. To my surprise, about two weeks after the round two interview, Crown called to offer me an apprenticeship. 

I’ll be sad to leave my previous apprenticeship, but know I have so much to learn at Crown. I’m excited to dive into this new apprenticeship and know I’ll have a lot to write about.

Please note: This blog does not represent or write on behalf of Crown and all its related brands. This blog speaks only for myself as an apprentice chef and is not affiliated with Crown.

Respecting Your Ingredients

Baby Carrots. In season. Chop tops off. Leave a few centimeters of stalk. Wash carrots in cold water. Gently peel. Place in a bowl of ice water.

Using beautiful ingredients in a respectful manner is the key to creating good food. You need to be thoughtful. Say you find beautiful baby carrots at the markets and you know you have to cook with them. How do you decide on a recipe or method of cooking them? Do you roast them, boil them, steam them? Do you drench them in sauce or do you leave them bare? Do you chop them up and chuck them in a soup? What do you do with the scraps? Save them? Use them for stock? What is the right way to cook these carrots?

Being thoughtful, you might decide to roast them, drizzled in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds and serve them as a side. You might compost the scraps or save the peels for a veggie stock. You might blanch them or steam them. You might serve them on a bed of mashed potato with a side of gravy. With thought and care you can serve incredible, simple ingredients easily. 

The View From the Kitchen

 

I’m on plating and salads tonight. It’s my first time at the pass, it’s Friday night and I’m nervous. Chef is explaining the rules to me. Have all your mise en place ready. Know exactly where everything is. Maintain a clean and organised station. Chef shows me how to do salads. A basic roquette (arugula), walnut and parmesan salad with a creamy but tart vinaigrette – yum! It was my job to make this simple, delightful salad.

It was fun. I love working in the kitchen once I’ve grasped a concept. It is a time of inspiration and I find joy in it. The hours fly by. I watch from the pass of our open kitchen while I make salads. There are customers eating and drinking delicious food in a warm, beautiful old pub. There are candles flickering and the atrium dining area, full of exotic plants, is packed. The music is loud and the people are warm with beer and steak. It’s awesome. A part of me longs to be one of them. The other part of me is enjoying contributing to the warmth and joy in a small, salady kind of way.

I look at the guys – professionals in the kitchen. All sweating, swearing and scrambling to get the food out to the people at lightening speed. It really feels like a pirate ship on a Friday night. These are the nights I love my new job.

The Trouble With Ice Cream – Plating Up Desserts

Scooping ice cream seems pretty simple right?

As one of my first responsibilities in the kitchen during service, Chef has asked me to take on the responsibility of plating up desserts. Mainly we serve sticky date pudding – this consists of a moist warm date cake, with sticky butterscotch sauce and home made vanilla ice cream. It is divine. 

Serving this delightful dessert seems relatively simple. Warm the cake, warm the sauce, plate cake, drench in sauce and place delicious scoop of ice cream atop the saucy cake.

It seems that plating even a simple dessert is fraught with pitfalls. Every ice cream scoop I have brought up to the pass on my sticky date has been rejected by the head chef and redone. They are either too small, too melty, or too funny shaped. I can’t seem to get the damned thing right.

To be honest, when I scooped the ice cream, I was having an awful time of it. The desserts took more than twenty minutes to get out, the chef wasn’t pleased and I was dealing with a bad skin reaction to deseeding chilis – which I was still trying to do at that stage.

I think this says a lot about attitude and preparation. I was finding it hard to plate up these desserts for two reasons. One I hadn’t prepared properly. I didn’t have my station set up as I wasn’t aware I would be plating desserts. I think it is now important for me to confirm with Chef that this will be my responsibility of the night service. After receiving confirmation I need to set up my station, ice cream scoop in hot water, correct bowls at the ready, pan ready for sauce, oven hot enough to warm the cakes fast.

The second reason I was struggling was my attitude. Due to said skin reaction, I was distracted and losing patience fast. I was unable to recollect myself and make the rest of service work. That’s okay. I’m only human – but I can do better next time.

All of this to say, plating desserts is harder than I thought. I think the solution to this problem is clear: I’ll have to purchase some ice cream, or better yet make some ice cream, and get to scooping!