6 Things Working in a Professional Kitchen Can Teach You

6 Things Working in a ProfessionalKitchen Can Teach You-3.png1. To Be On Time

If you’re not on time in the kitchen you will quickly lose the respect of your co-workers. Being on time is a non-negotiable, in fact, it is common to hear the phrase “15 minutes early is considered on time in the kitchen”. Follow this rule and you’re on your way to being a decent cook.

2. To listen properly

If you don’t learn to listen properly in the kitchen, you’re not going to survive. Chef’s are short on time and short in temper, so they will only tell you what to do and how to do it once. Listen carefully, to all of the instructions. I find repeating back the instructions helps me get it right. If Chef says, “Get three carrots, one daikon, three chilis. Thinly julienne carrots and daikon. Finely dice chilli.” – I will respond with “three carrot, one daikon julienne, three chilli fine dice. Yes, Chef”. This allows you to confirm with Chef that you have heard the instructions properly. It allows Chef the chance to correct you before you’ve made any mistakes. It also helps you to remember the instructions properly. I find most chefs won’t mind you doing this as an apprentice.

3. To cook

Pretty obvious, but learning how to cook is an essential life skill and there’s nothing better than learning how to do it properly. From making the perfect fried egg to the creamiest mash potato, life in the kitchen will equip you with life-long cooking skills.

4. To respect authority

The kitchen is a tough, militaristic environment. As a kid I questioned authority constantly, I think it can be a healthy thing. But in the kitchen, especially as an apprentice, the only option is to respect those above you (i.e. everyone) and to obey orders.

5. To think for yourself

Sometimes in the kitchen, you will find yourself standing at a bench, alone, wondering what the f*** to do. Everyone is busy, you don’t dare interrupt. What do you do? Any chef will tell you, the last thing you want to do is nothing. The old adage goes “if there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean”. When in doubt – clean! But look for other things to do. What jobs do you know how to do and that you know need doing. Do sauce bottles need refilling? Do it. Does the cool room need cleaning? Do it. You’ll find that as you get on with these self assigned tasks, chefs will find you to do other work. Don’t worry, that’s what you want. To always be busy and to not need babysitting every second of the day.

6. To be a perfectionist

Good is not good enough. Okay is terrible. Whatever you do strive for perfection. Don’t cut corners and if you did it wrong, do it again. Work clean, work fast and never give up.

 

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! 

 

 

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.

I Asked Reddit For Advice on Being an Apprentice Chef – Things Got a Bit Silly

I recently shared my blog on Reddit, along with a question to the chef community – “what advice do you have for a newbie apprentice chef?

I got heaps of helpful feedback. A lot of the advice reflected the military background of traditional kitchens – work hard, respect your superiors, never stand around bored, show up early, work clean and communicate well. It is important the kitchen crew abide by these rules. When you don’t have organisation, dedication and discipline across your team, things start to fall apart.

Another comment said, “Focus on work, not blogging”. This comment was followed by a heated discussion about whether I, an apprentice chef, should blog or not. This discussion quickly spiralled into a tired ‘millennials are spoilt and don’t know anything” type tirade. Things did get a bit silly.

To be fair, the rules for this particular Subreddit are as follows: “If you are not a chef, please realize you are amongst a group of highly sarcastic, profane, and vulgar people. This is the nature of the people who work in the business. Downvotes based on this are highly frowned upon.”

I’m cool with all this – it’s the same in the kitchen, don’t expect people to coddle you or censor themselves. Anyways, check out the conversation here and let me know what you think.

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.