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.
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.
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.
William Zinsser is talking about his craft of writing, of course, but one can easily extrapolate this quote and apply it to any craft. Even to the craft of say, cooking? Absolutely!
Being an apprentice chef can be frustrating and sometimes we lack inspiration. As a new apprentice, you are learning the basics in the kitchen. You are still learning who is of authority, what the unwritten rules are and what is expected of you. You are still adapting to the long hours and the aches in your body. Sometimes you don’t know what the fuck you are doing. In the kitchen, it is natural to lack inspiration sometimes.
But this is your craft. You must push through the times you lack inspiration. The times when you want to give up. These are the times you are really learning your craft, your trade. If you love something you will do it, with a smile, even when your body and mind are screaming at you to sit down and have a beer and a cigarette.
The nice thing about the kitchen is that you know your shift will end. No matter how deep in the weeds you are, service will end, you will clean up and then you can go home and have that beer. The stress stays in the kitchen and the exhaustion at the end of the shift is a satisfying exhaustion. You pushed through and you feel amazing!
What is all of this hard work for? In life I’ve always tended to be a big dreamer and a bit of fuck up. Starting awesome things and not finishing them is something I’ve been infamous for. Take, for example, that time I completed three semesters of a bachelor of Biomedical Science degree with high distinction and then dropped out. As a measure to combat this tendency, this blog is a way to keep me on track to completing this apprenticeship, because it is something to which I am truly dedicated.
So what are my goals?
I want to get my Certificate III in Commercial Cookery with at least some of that as an apprentice with Crown. (Update: I have been accepted as a first year apprentice at Crown!). This certificate means so much to me for a few reasons. First, because I haven’t got any formal education past my GED. Second, the formal recognition and training is a great way to get started in the business, and where better to learn in Melbourne than Crown?
I want to work overseas, maybe in Paris and Italy, at top restaurants. Young cooks often get involved in Staging – a French word for heading to a foreign country and finding the best chef you can, begging him to take you on and then working like crazy for free for a given time. I have such a romantic picture of this. I picture myself like Remy from Ratatouille (but less like a rat), making bubbling, herb filled, creamy soups in a French kitchen. More likely it’ll be six months of potato peeling. Most chefs will agree that you have to find the value in the mundane and shitty tasks first, and then you can move on to the fancy and the fun, with a solid understanding and respect for your ingredients.
I want to open my own restaurant in the country side, where sustainable farming meets high end cuisine. Now maybe this one is the most fanciful of all, but hear me out. I have a desperate love for gardening, especially veggie gardening. I hope to one day I combine my love of cooking food with my love of growing food. I have dreams of an old farm-estate in the South-West of Australia amongst the vineyards and close to the beaches. I would love to grow sustainable, organic produce and work with local suppliers to create an incredible food experience for people.
Pretty big goals. But thats the point right? Looking at the bigger picture, what we want in the long run, can help us get there faster in the end.
Wish me luck!