I've been thinking a lot about how my whole 3 1/2 week process of interviews/tasting went for the try out of this last job opportunity. Some of you have addressed or asked about some particulars and I want to speak to those inquiries.
Although I have worked a few other jobs here and there, I have mostly been a professional cook for the last 14 years. I entered the industry with no culinary school experience, not even a class. All my training was acquired on the job, trial by fire, quite literally.
I watched, listened, asked a million questions, read all that I could get my hands on, followed my mentors around, arrived early, stayed late and worked incredibly hard. I just did it. I didn't question the insane hours, the low pay, the abuse, the ferocious competitiveness, the flirtations, the food preparation shortcuts, the body's moans and screams, the lack of sick days or vacations or sunned skin, or the veritable absence of sober people.
I walked into the industry and knew. I made the mistakes we all need to make first hand. That the Latino cooks I worked with weren't nice to me because they wanted to be my friend. That your partner on a station might do things to injure you severely, perhaps for life. That women in kitchens were rare for a reason. That minding your own business is a good thing. That chefs could be violent and get away with it.
That cooking was an aside when it came to navigating a restaurant kitchen.
I will never forget the people who taught me. The cooks who took me under their wing, kept in touch with me, made an impression. Inspired others even when exhaustion wasn't the least of their problems.
These days I field a lot of emails from people who ask me for culinary school advice. They are young and old, male and female, queer and straight, American and not. They ask me for ideas, suggestions, names & locations.
Approach a few restaurants whose food you like/love. Figure out how many days/hours you could give over to working for free. Tell each chef that you love their cooking and want more than anything to work in their kitchens, for free. Tell them you'll do anything.
People who have worked for me have heard me say this many times, "Flattery will get you everywhere."
Work in that kitchen for 6 months. Then decide if you want to write a check for $40,000. Or if you want to pull it out of your parent's bank account. Or your trust fund. Or if $40,000 might be better spent funding the next few years of working for free/close to minimum wage. Or better spent elsewhere, like in another country.
Professional cooking, in restaurants- on the line- is for the young. The nimble. The dumb/inexperienced. The star struck.
Or the insanely passionate. Remember: the pay is low, the hours are long and weird, the substance abuse rate is through the roof, the physical injuries are many: SO SOMETHING HAS TO DRIVE YOU!
Something that won't be found by putting your emotions under a microscope. No. Passion is not quantify-able. Have you looked up passion in the dictionary lately?
Because of the "underground-edness" of this industry, our interviews are also a little off the beaten track. The actual sitting down-talking-answering questions-getting dressed up-looking good-sounding good-lying about your past-beating around the bush-puffing up your chest like a peacock is fairly insignificant. Sometimes this whole process takes five minutes.
The talking? It's mostly to see how you answer the questions. Do you know the lingo? Will you dish your last chef/restaurant/sous chefs? Will you figure out that the person interviewing you knows all the people you just worked for? And has slept with them.
Or just fucked them in the walk-in.
The trail, now that's where the "interview" takes place.
That's a chef interviewing a cook. When it comes to being interviewed for a chef position, things get more complicated.