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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

For the Love of Food

Food is everything to me. I fell in love with cooking when I started to cook through Martha Stewart’s Cooking School Cook Book. While I never did make it through the book, nowhere near in fact, I did learn how to truss a chicken, make pastry for beautiful biscuits, make stock from scratch and caramelise onions. Somewhere in between doughy cheese and chive biscuits and the sweet aroma of caramelised onions I fell head over heels.

That was some time ago. Since then I’ve sought the most beautiful ingredients and played with all kinds of cuisine, making everything from Amatriciana sauce to candied kumquat jam.

Through all this cooking I still wasn’t satisfied. I needed to know more. I wanted to learn everything. So I applied for chef apprenticeships across Melbourne. I was lucky enough to be interviewed and offered a job.

I worked in a cozy pub kitchen for about a month and learnt so much. I learnt how to peel potatoes fast without slicing my fingernails off. I learnt that there is always something to do in the kitchen – if you don’t know what to do ask someone, or clean. I learnt how to tell the difference between coriander (cilantro) and parsley – our produce guy left the roots on the coriander (clever). I was adjusting to the long hours and the time on my feet. I was getting to know all of the kitchen crew. Things were going well.

But during that month, opportunity knocked. When I first applied for all the apprenticeships I could find, I had applied for an apprenticeship at Crown in the centre of Melbourne. At the time I was offered the apprenticeship at the pub, I hadn’t heard from Crown and assumed they had placed me in the ‘no’ pile of applicants. I was okay with that because I had decided I would apply again the next year, once I had more experience.

But then I got a call. They offered me the job. The Crown apprenticeship is a very special opportunity to work under world-class chefs across a range of world-class restaurants. Gordon Ramsey says to work with the best chefs you can. Who was I to question Ramsey? So I accepted the offer.

I handed in my resignation at the pub with mixed feelings. I felt bad for leaving and appreciated all the help I had been given. But I am so excited for the next chapter. I start at Crown in two weeks, and it’s two weeks too far in my opinion.

The work will be tough, the hours long and the risk of injury high. But I’ll do it for the love of food.

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.