Career tips for chefs
CAREER TIPS FOR CHEFS
Turn up early– Always turn up early. Regardless of how busy your day is going to be. Get to work, get organised and get started. A chef that always gets to work early is often the sign of a good chef.
Eat out when possible – It will be hard to find the time with your new found career, but eating out is a great way to boost passion for the industry. It keeps you up to date with the standards in your area and creates a great community bond with the other chefs in your region.
Research – Whether its discovering new techniques, different styles of plating or information about seasonal produce, culinary research is more accessible then it has ever been. Top restaurants show their skills on their website, Youtube videos, chef’s Twitter and Instagram pages are all great places to start.
Show initiative – Once you have completed the tasks set by your chef, take it upon yourself to find something productive to do. An apprentice that can keep themselves occupied and remain productive without constant supervision is an asset to any kitchen.
Gather experience – Avoid the trap of assuming that the kitchen you work in is the best. No single kitchen can offer everything you need to become a well-rounded chef. Fine dining may be your passion but functions and pubs can offer a range of skills that are invaluable to your fine dining repertoire.
Remember that every chef you work with has something to offer – Whilst you may not think it at the time, every chef that you come across will offer something that you can use later on in your career. There is the obvious such as techniques, recipes, tips and tricks. But whilst every chef you work with may not have a recipe or trick for you, observing the way they work and interact in the kitchen will be essential later on in your career when you are managing your own kitchen. You will undoubtedly come across characters you will compare and relate to other chefs you have worked with before, knowing how to get the most out of them can be invaluable
Experiment – Whilst you are thinking “I wonder what chocolate covered bacon tastes like?”, chances are high that someone else has done it. So don’t hold back, when you have an idea, find out if it works. If no one has the answer, try it yourself! Whether it works or not isn’t so important, there may be something you come across that sparks other brilliant ideas.
Be confident with your creativity – Sometimes the things you try will be good, sometimes they will be not so good, and sometimes they will be terrible. Don’t let the small failures stop you from trying though and be confident enough to ask for feedback and criticism. It will only make you a better chef.
Remember the customer – You are now working in hospitality, and without the customer there is no job. Cooking a steak well done will undoubtedly reduce its tenderness, make it dry and spoil its flavour, but you are not eating it. Too many chefs get caught up in how food “should” be. Food is very personal to people and there is no “correct way” to eat it. If the customer wants a well done steak, then it’s your job to produce it. Lose the “I know best” attitude and keep your guests happy.
Do not let your new found profession consume you – Working in a kitchen is tough and stressful at times. Always remember to maintain a lifestyle outside of work. If all you do is eat sleep and work, you will burn out in this industry before your career even starts. We all love cooking and that’s why we work in the industry, but no job can substitute for all that life has to offer. Get up early and do something before your shift starts, embrace your days off and see your family and friends. It’s the little things that will keep you grounded and happy in the industry for years to come.
Mark Bennett is the Head Chef at Esca Bimbadgen, located within Bimbadgen Winery in the heart of the Hunter Valley, NSW Australia. For more information visit Bimbadgen