The New Bakers Dozen
Student Chef starting part-time work - newbie

The The Bakers Dozen: Student Chef starting part-time work - newbie
By Cheftoni (Cheftoni) on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 04:32 pm: Edit

I'm new to this forum. To be brief, I am a culinary student at a community college in NJ. I've finished a semester (with top grades, except for in a production kitchen class wherein I received a C+...which I will be fighting). I worked in offices my entire adult life--so deciding to become a pastry chef is a change for me. For the most part, I've cooked and baked for my family/friends, occasionally baking items for my husband's clients. In December 2002, I quit my job at a hotel when I decided that I had had it with them(I just knew it was going to go nowhere, when they moved me to another department from F&B, which I was hoping would lead to better culinary opportunities. Basically, they told me they needed someone in another department, and couldn't afford the additional salary--they are a new hotel, and they had their budget...whatever. It was either take the position, or don't have a job). In any case, although I couldn't afford to go to the school I wanted, I spoke to a few people and students at the community culinary school, and then decided to enroll in their AAS program. Seven months later, and I still hadn't looked for work, when I decided to go to a local cafe/restaurant that had gotten good reviews by the NY Times, and I had eaten at and liked the atmosphere. I dropped off my resume with a server and told her I was looking for a server position. The chef/owner called me the next day and asked me what I was looking for, etc. He asked to meet with me and I did. Now, I get very nervous on's a curse I've had to live with my entire life. But, overall, despite my verbal diarrhea, I muddled through. I was as honest about my culinary skills and interests as I could be. I thought for sure that the chef would not call me back. But he did. See, he has a guy who is really an actor, acting as his pastry person, using the chef's recipe's. This guy will be taking on a role soon. So the chef is looking for someone to work with him, then pick up his duties when he leaves. It will only be part-time, and it is flexible. Originally, this wasn't what I was seeking. I was looking for a server position, because it would enable me to switch my classes to daytime. But he's offering me this. It will only be 4-5 hours starting out. Now, he just called me today and asked if I could come in tomorrow to help his kitchen do some pre-dinner prep work. Translation: trying me out to see if I had the 'nads for a professional kitchen yet. When he interviewed me, he said that he was looking for, mostly, someone with passion, not necessarily the most experience. First, I'm nervous as hell, because my knife skills aren't wonderful. (I need to replace my's just too large and cumbersome...I have small hands). But I've also never worked in a pro kitchen, and I wonder what he expects. It's a small cafe, but very popular, and the food is really lovingly prepared. I know that their style is that of the French Laundry--the chef even told me to take a look at Keller's book, because it is that standard and cuisine with which they are most related to.

My question is, should I do this? It can't hurt, I'm thinking. But I am so nervous...I feel like a deer. Does anyone have any tips for me? I posted this in the Pastry forum, because ultimately, that is what he is looking for...and perhaps a bit of garde manger. Any advice would be welcome. Now I'm going to throw up my butterflies until tomorrow at 3 pm, when I am supposed to put on my show =)


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 06:16 pm: Edit

Go for it dude!
You have nothing to lose and all to gain!
This may tell you if this is what you want to do the rest of your life.
Good Luck!!!!!!!!!!

By Matisse (Matisse) on Friday, August 01, 2003 - 12:27 am: Edit

By now, your chef has an idea what your skills are considering that you just finished school. So don't be nervous. As an experienced chef he is looking for someone who is dependable, trainable (follows instruction) and has a good attitude. If you posses these characteristics, the job is yours!

By Cheftoni (Cheftoni) on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 01:36 pm: Edit

I did it!! Oh my feet and back are killing me. I need to get better shoes. I had some Dansko clogs, but the school I attend wouldn't let me keep them (jerks). They made me buy those work shoes (black, low top, laced) that you can find in Sears or Kmart or WalMart. And everything hurt last night. I couldn't speak when I was done--9.5 hours. And that's just the beginning...I know. Hey, I have two questions...First, I've read several posts in different forums about shoes (did this last night, half asleep, at 2:30 a.m.) and it seems there everyone has a different favorite. The most popular were now I'm considering them and Dansko. If I do get the Birkenstocks, which kind...there are 4 different varieties that are used for work purposes, it seems. And my second question is, what do you think about cell phone usage in the kitchen, if kept to a minimum? My daughter was home alone yesterday, and my husband sometimes works *long* hours (he's a freelance photographer/assistant...he never knows what time he'll be through). I need for her to be able to contact me if necessary. Let me know what you guys think...Much appreciated

By Corey (Corey) on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 02:05 pm: Edit

sounds like your body is out of alinement.
find a Good Feet store and get those shoe
inserts. you need to be able to stand up
for long hours without crippling or death.
ah, the agony of de feet...

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Sunday, August 03, 2003 - 12:31 am: Edit

I was wondering about the shoe thing too. I'll be needing some pretty soon too. School won't let us wear clogs... have to have closed in heel/toes. *8(

As for the cell phone... I wouldn't see anything wrong with it as long as 1: you ask his opinion and permission 2: don't answer the phone if it's not your daughter... and its an emergency.

By Flattop (Flattop) on Sunday, August 03, 2003 - 01:56 pm: Edit

Chefs direct carries "protected" heel clogs one of which is Dansko.

A cell phone should be okay if you give the number to some who would call only if it was an emergency. Otherwise if it's going to be ringing and not answered it still could be annoying. I'm getting a pager for just that reason. Set it on vibrate that way no one else is disturbed if I get a call.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Sunday, August 03, 2003 - 09:28 pm: Edit

This is what I wear.

Professional Birki Clog - Black Polyurethane

They'er also great to wear hen you have your computer strewn out all over your desk, putting in a new hard drive and copying the data from your old disk. They have Electrostatic Dissipative (ESD) qualities.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, August 03, 2003 - 10:34 pm: Edit

Clogs suck!!! wear real shoes....Red Robin!
Solid, steel toes
I find with clogs if you twist your ankle your are toast! Espacially the ones without back!!!!

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 12:25 am: Edit

damn, too expensive for a broke fella like myself. What about tennis shoes?(all black ofcourse) I have a pair of NB that are all black, but they are bit too big so I dont wear them too much.

By Pastrycrew (Pastrycrew) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 03:20 am: Edit

About shoes. I wore birkenstock the longest time. They are nice and the investment is worth it, but the past couple of years I've switched over to sneakers and "clogs" from I get over 13 months of use out of a pair which costs less than $50 delivered. They feel great and are slip-proof. Even on an oily hotline.

I've just recently seen slip-proof shoes at Walmart for about $20. I doubt they feel so great, but with a Dr Scholl? arch support inside it may pass.

Find something comfortable for you. To make them safer for you and cover you in the work place, look for NSF or OSHA approved footwear.


By Flattop (Flattop) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 04:34 am: Edit

Last time I worked on a line I wore plain old combat boots. Feet never hurt, only issue was traction. I'm planning on finding a good set of boots like that Manny. Those things nonslip? I couldn't wear clogs if my life depended on it. way too hippy for me.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 07:33 am: Edit

They are non-slip. One of the only that are really non-slip.
I used to wear Braggard also, very good but they stopped making the boot I used!

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 01:49 pm: Edit

It's not like you have a strong opinon of clogs is it?

By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 02:51 pm: Edit

I just bought a pair of the Professional Birki Clogs, $70, worth every penny. They're incredibly comfortable (and I thought I'd never like clogs), they're half the price of the Dr. Martens I just chewed through in less than a year, they don't slip at all, and if they get dirty I can throw them in the dishwasher. After I take them off my feet, of course.

I tried sneakers at the restaurant one day. Traction was so bad on wet floors that I fell on my a** twice -- the first two times ever. Never again for me.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 03:31 pm: Edit

Clogs are ok I guess, if you have one call a plumber!!!!!!

By Matisse (Matisse) on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 09:15 am: Edit

Everytime I see a fellow chef wearing clogs, it reminds of the women in the Netherlands who actually wear or have worn these things, wooden ones :)

Seriously, different strokes for different folks. Buy the the ones you feel comfortable with and don't look for the price tag. Your feet are one of your most valuable assets in the kitchen. I wear Naot, very light and durable, they breathe, too.

Your cell phone issue...there is nothing wrong with your daughter calling the restaurant in case of an emergency. Just check with your supervisor about cell phone usage. I am sure they have a policy.

Have fun with your new job!

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 10:24 am: Edit

where's spike? i thought for sure he'd have something to say about this.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 12:02 pm: Edit

I haven't seen a pastry Chef at Rocco's, he probably doesn't care!!!!!!!

By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 04:01 pm: Edit

Rocco would be flat on his back with a black eye after 10 minutes if Spike was working there. He probably gets his desserts out of a Sysco box.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 05:37 pm: Edit

'Ya think???!!!!!!

By Pastrygirl (Pastrygirl) on Wednesday, August 06, 2003 - 02:05 pm: Edit

Hi everyone! I'm new here. It's great to have a place to speak with other pastry chefs!

As for you Cheftoni, don't worry about grades. Your attitude goes a long, long, way. A lot of jobs that I got were part time pastry jobs with a little prep or saucier work on the side. The bottom line was, when I proved to the chef that I could make him some cash by executing his or her recipes to perfection with little supervision, I got a little more money and creative room to maneuver. Just keep your head up and work hard. If you have passion for your work, you'll go pretty far. Always remember to catch some recreation on your day or days off. It keeps you sane and keeps the passion going.

By Flattop (Flattop) on Thursday, August 07, 2003 - 12:40 am: Edit

Celeste!! I've wondering how long it was gonna take you to get in here. FIW She teaches at Scottsdale and has been stealing my ideas that I bounce off of her for my class work.@=;) She's also one of the reasons for my high GPA and sticking with school.

By Pastrygirl (Pastrygirl) on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 12:47 am: Edit

What's up Zeke!!!! Thanks for the kind words! They are appreciated.

Long time no e-mail! How's it going for you? I hope that everything's going really well. I really need to update my site...thought I'd say that before you busted me on it!!! I don't have any excuse at all...I've been LAZY! I'm trying to maneuver my way into a promotion, too. I want to start a Baking and Pastry society for all of the serious pastry students at SCI. If you have any tips, hints, suggestions of anything that you'd wanna do if you were a member of this type of society, let me know! I could use some fresh ideas!

Same goes for all you guys out there! gimme some feedback!

By Flattop (Flattop) on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 12:11 pm: Edit

I've been busy. Summer classes just wrapped up. I've got some time off before fall classes start up on the 18th. I can't say anything about your website as Steve asked me to send any ideas I had to you. Hell, I need to completely redo mine.

As for the club you're looking to start, I'll send you some of the stuff we've done in getting our student chapter of the Colorado Restaurants Assn rolling. It's been a pain trying to get people involved but the benifts will be worth it.

By Pastrygirl (Pastrygirl) on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 12:33 pm: Edit


I'll E-Mail you my address! Fall classes start on the 18th? That's fast! Enjoy your time off. You deserve it.

By Cheftoni (Cheftoni) on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 07:58 pm: Edit

Okay guys and dolls. I don't think I got that job. By the way, thanks for all of your input.

Basically, I worked one Friday night in the kitchen of the restaurant. Then he said he'd call me by Monday. Monday passed. Tuesday afternoon (while I am buying more comfortable shoes...I was in so much pain, I couldn't walk the next day....I used my "work" shoes with the non-slip soles...a nightmare if I ever had one), I called him. He tells me he is busy moving around scheduling (he's got a faux pastry chef, one garde manger-sous chef, a guy on the grill with I didn't know what he meant...they all work everyday) and he'd like me to come in that Friday and bring him a sample dessert. I bust my ass (small apartment kitchen, NO fridge space, and 5 cats...of course I'm terrified of a stray hair making its way in) and come *ON THE BUS* with my daughter, and plate up the best I can. First, I forgot one component at home (I made four desserts) and one I had to cut...and because of the cut, it didn't quite make it intact. I thought he would taste alone...but no, all the chefs come out and taste. I got some nice comments, and some pointers...which was good. Then I speak to chef alone. He tells me that he needs to speak it over with his partners and see what's going to happen--he'll call me in a week and a half. That time seems excruciatingly slow and then I call him. I get his wife, who is the FOH manager. When I ring, she tells me it's her, and I couldn't remember who she is for two beats, and then I go "Oh, yes, I'm sorry, the wife...sorry, I'm just not good with names!" She says "I'm not just the wife...I'm the FOH manager," rather icily, I might add. I back up and apologize again, and she is silent...I hadn't meant to be rude, and it was one of those situations that you could tell I didn't mean it to be insulting by my tone of voice and my natural girly chuckle. Ah, well. In any case, I asked her to please give chef a message, because I didn't want to disturb him during prep time...that if he could just call me back.

Now, am I being too pushy? Rememeber, I went into the restaurant for a server position...I need a job, I need the money, and I didn't feel I had enough experience (yet), so I didn't go in there with that in mind. But he offered to "try me out" so I complied. I told my husband that it bothered me that he STILL hasn't called. I've worked in the corporate world my whole adult life, and for open positions that people interview for, we don't call them back if they aren't chosen. But I felt this was different. It was a position that wasn't opened, so there weren't 100 people interviewing for it. To me, it would have been common courtesy to call me back and tell me yay or nay. The second time I was there, when I made my four desserts, I asked him, pointedly, what his feeling was, where he thought it was going. He started to explain that "in this industry" that people are subjected to trial runs. I knew that.

By Cheftoni (Cheftoni) on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 07:59 pm: Edit

I told him I knew that. But I also told him that I was moving school around and I wanted to try and adjust my schedule for this chance he was so graciously opening to me. I mean, I didn't come there for an apprenticeship or externship--I came for a job. If he wasn't considering me for a server position, but a kitchen position instead, he needed to understand that this was still a job I *needed*. I don't know if I was being pushy. I wanted to show him that I had passion...and some skill..despite that I had only one semester of school under my belt, wherein, to be perfectly honest, I really hadn't learned anything yet. I presented to him a lemon-curd-and-lime-curd-interspersed-with- whipped cream-filled cream puff, sitting on a pool of coconut creme anglaise, and garnished with sugared lemon and lime zest and curls of lightly toasted coconut [opening a coconut in a small kitchen with a 12 year old is NO fun...and messy =); also, a multi-berry and white peach tart with frangipane filling in a nut pastry shell, garnished with brandied cherries and strawberry coulis; in addition, a chocolate crusted orange chiffon tart, topped with chocolate ganache and garnished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings (actually, chef liked me balance of flavors on this dessert, but unfortunately, it didn't look that pretty, because this is the one that I had to cut into pieces to be able to tote it there, and you know chiffon slides if it gets jostled after it's cut...ugh...I was *so* pissed...also, always watch a dark chocolate crust in the almost burned, but instead just "looked" like it..not happy about this to say the least); and lastly, some small dark chocloate rum-soaked cakes covered in ganache garnished with vanilla creme anglaise, raspberry coulis and chocolate sauce (I went too light on the rum, but the cake still benefitted from the moisture, even though it was moist already...I went too light on the sugar in the coulis, but I didn't want it to be too sweet since the cake was heavy). So, I think that was pretty good for someone who wasn't taught anything but how to make bread and cookies (which I already knew) in culinary school. So he didn't love my plating, but I wasn't reporting to the French Laundry. His feeling, for his restaurant, is that of the French Laundry. On our first visit, he told me I should pick up the book...I did eventually, despite the $50 price tag. But I'm not there yet, and I have a lot of ideas.

So,what do all of you think: should he call me back? Should I call him again (I don't think I should...I think that's going overboard)?

Oh, and aside from all of that, does anyone have any idea, besides shoes, on how to relieve knee and joint pain in the legs? I figured Epsom salts, but haven't tried it. Arthritis runs in my family, and I think that it just starting to show itself in me. Any suggestions?

Sorry about he lengthy mail...I welcome any advice, comments! thanks!

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 10:42 pm: Edit

OK, first, take a deep breath, and RELAX. It sounds like you did all you could and then some to get this job. If they're at all serious about you, they'll call. I know it's excruciating to wait for that call, but if you continue to call, it only makes you look desperate. Which you might well be, but you don't show it.

That's a lot of hoops to jump through for any job, culinary or not, but you did them. And the wife/F.O.H. manager gaff is understandable and not insurmountable. Try to just let it happen in its own time. I know it's easy for me to say it, but, now you just wait. The decision is theirs and if you hear back, GREAT! We'll celebrate with you. If not, you're not any worse off than you were a month ago, except for the shoe thing (by the way, can't help you with shoes, I wear sneakers and suffer--Birkies too pricey).

Anyway, Good luck! Let us know either way!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 07:02 am: Edit

Rev. is right on!
Don't call!
They sound like idiots frankly and, I always "HATED" working for places where the whole family worked!!!
It's like, everybody is the boss and everybody wants things done their way or, different than what everybody else wants it done!
So you are always wrong and/or getting bit#&%& at!

By George (George) on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 08:16 am: Edit

For the leg and foot pain- Ibuprophen.<sp>


By Matisse (Matisse) on Sunday, August 31, 2003 - 05:05 pm: Edit

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, a professional manager or chef who wants to hire a student is not looking for experience, he should be looking for dependability and trainability.

From what I have gathered, the situation you described, the process at the restaurant in question seems to be very unprofessional and not acceptable (preparing desserts at home... - I have never heard that.

As harsch as it might sound, forget about this job and move on to the next. Believe me, this ludicrous demeanor will reflect throughout the operation. Don't waste your time.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, September 01, 2003 - 09:43 pm: Edit

It is illegal, (as Carl would acknowledge), to prepare food at home for COP at a restaurant!

By Pastrygirl (Pastrygirl) on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 12:16 am: Edit

As a professional, I'd say don't worry about it. I always say that you didn't get that job for a reason. There's going to be better on your horizon. Plus, I totally agree with the other chefs on the dessert thing...that's really shoddy.

Now as a vindictive girl type...I'd turn 'em in to the health department!!!


By Chefhdan (Chefhdan) on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 08:35 am: Edit

Exec. Chef's wife FOH mgr OHMIGOD shades of DEJAVU. Forget about it & move on to the next. You'll be much better off

Executing a tasting from home is beaucoup unprofessional & seems that it might have been a hurdle thrown at you to see if you'd give up because the "chef" didn't have the stones to tell you he was going to go with someone else

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 04:54 pm: Edit

Any word on the job? Did you run screaming away from the place or just breath a sigh of relief they didn't call back...or did you get the job?! I have no life so was wondering how it all turned out. Either way hope you're happy.

Please post if you see this. Thanx!

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 12:46 pm: Edit

I agree with many of the comments posted before mine, therefore I will not be redundant. Whenever I had to demonstrate my cooking skills to the chef, I had to do it on premises, timed, under scrutiny, and using their ingredients. I'm surprised that that chef had you use your own ingredients at your expense at home and had you transport them from home to his restaurant. It's best just to look for another job. Look at it this way, "I was looking for a job when I came here, I found this one, I will find another." They might fantasize about being like the French Laundry restaurant, but they sound very unprofessional. A friend of mine who works as an executive chef in a country club had dined at the French Laundry restaurant. The "sous-chef" who cooked/burned his fish was a greasy, long-haired ski bum from Colorado, came out and said, "Hey dude, I really burned the fish for ya!" My friend who had spent nearly $200 for his dinner and a bottle of wine was not amused, nor did he find that cook's lack of decorum very professional for a restaurant as famous as the French Laundry.
Clogs might be the trendy fashion statement these days, but they are completely inadequate in providing ankle support and protecting your feet from falling sharp or heavy objects, hot grease, etc. I must carry 70 lb. steamship rounds, heavy stockpots of grease, trashcans, chafing pans, etc. on slippery, uneven floors, up & down stairs, on icy decks, parking lots, or through the mud, or snow, etc. and when the temperature is minus 30 or 40F outside, I don't think that I want to be wearing clogs. On one occasion, a careless cook accidentally spilled warm grease down my pants and into my boots. Just think that if I had been wearing clogs and if the grease had been hot, what kind injuries would I have had then? If you're going to work as a pastry cook or baker, you might be moving big, heavy mixing bowls, some up to 80 qts or larger. What if you slipped trying to align the bowl with the mixer or dolly and it stubbed your toe? I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from wearing clogs, but just consider the hazardous nature of the environment you're working in. Clogs might be comfortable for just standing in, but I've never had the luxury of just standing still very long before the boss says, "move this, or that..." By the way, I had heard that organic flaxseed oil might be good for arthritis. Good luck with your baking and pastry arts career.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Friday, October 17, 2003 - 06:25 pm: Edit

My podriatrist recommends a running shoe. I prefer Rocksports (a type of Rockport) and I haven't had leg or feet trouble in years (and I am an old broad). As for the leg pain... sit with one foot planted squarely on the floor and cross the other leg over your knee. Putting your hand on the sole of your foot press hard until your toes are pointed toward your knee and hold for 10 seconds. Do this 3-4 times morning and night and anytime that it is convenient during the day. It sounds silly, but it worked for me. Anytime I have a little twinge, I do it a few times and it stops. The first time it took about two or three weeks to take effect, but now once or twice does the trick.

I think those twits at the restaurant were afteer a freebie and you were sucker enough to fall for it. Well, I guess you learned that lesson and now you an go on to a truly good quality restaurant job. Best of luck to you!

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