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« Chef Advice. on what it means to be a worker among workers. | Main | Croissants & Danish: Bakery Production by Vincent Talleu »

12 May 2010


My first job was washing dishes, cleaning floors, peeling shrimp, deseeding raspberry jam, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, anything I could get my hands on, I did, just so I could see what was happening.

Anything they dish out, take it and throw it back even harder. Show them how hungry you can be.

If you bitch and moan while doing it, the life isn't for you.

S's pluck, gumption and writing are all so impressive. I hope it works out for her, but if not, at least she'll no longer be dreaming, she'll be doing.

Excellent posting!
However, you failed to mention that knowing the "peanut butter" song will help her to acheive her goals quickly. :-)

Just don't take a dishwashing job a new corporate restaurant. I did that and ended up washing dishes for 2 months, destroying my hands and my back, and still looking at 15 people who had to leave before I was allowed to peal a potato. After talking to the manager, he agreed I might have several more months to go. I can't say it was worth my time, but it is a good way to get in the door.

Great post and I love coming here for your great advice. I'm in a similar situation and landed a prep cook PT job with a well known caterer here. It's hard work, and I do cleaning, washing and prep. I have also had front of house and server jobs in a PT status to learn everything I can about the industry. Can't quit the day job yet as it pays the mortgage and car, but these gigs are the most satisfying work I have known.

I remember an intern tell me, on her first day, that peeling apples was "boring". And she wanted to be a pastry chef? But I suppose that wasn't as head-scratching as the woman who showed up on her first day, wearing pumps.

That was great! S's letter pulled at my heart and expressed so much of what I feel about your blog, along with the passion to be in an industry I love. It's like she took the words right out of my mouth, but in a much more eloquent way (there's no way I could ever write like that if I tried). Thank you for sharing your advice Shuna--your boldness knows no fear. You're awesome.

Great answer. I hope that if she writes you back in 6 months with what happened (and agrees to have it posted publicly too), you'll keep us informed.

This letter reminds of the first day I set foot in a professional kitchen. And it strengthens my resolve to stay in the professional kitchen. I now appreciate a little more where I am now because of where I started: washing dishes and mopping up the mess in the kitchen.

Well done S. The first step is the hardest.

This is really great to read. Somtimes you think that your dreams are silly and fancifiul but reading this reaffrims them. I'm a home cook who fancies a bit more so I have been working my last few saturdays helping with lunch service and evening prep in a great small bistro ... it's so much fun and I'm learning so much that i'd do it for free (reading this post has made me realise I lucked out big time). Ironically I haven't told anybody but my close family about this as they wouldn't really understand why I'm spending my saturdays earning minimum wage doing what is, for the most part, hard hot dirty work.

I have a desk job mon-fri but it doesnt give me the satisfaction I feel after a hot, sweaty and tiring shift in the kitchen. Maybe it's just a novelty but right now I'm enjoying the experience so I won't ruin it with cynicism just yet!

I think I'll volunteer for a couple of shifts washing dishes... if I want to be cook I should learn to do everything.

Shuna, you are my daily inspiration and 'kick up the butt'...I read ~(and reread)your blog to remind me of the cook, teacher, parent and person that I would like to be someday. I'll follow the six months rule and keep you posted.

Keep up the good work.

Shuna, you ROCK!! That you take the time to impart your wisdom like that is truly exceptional. (That you have the wisdom is a whole other story!) You're a good human.

That's the way I started out. I'd always be looking at what the chefs were doing. I wanted to chop mushrooms that fast. I can now, and get to cook in some of the most amazing houses. Hard work pays off. As I always said right from those days washing up - this is a life, not a job. Starting at the bottom and learning as you go along seems much better than going to catering college - experience is everything, though the college diploma helps the CV.

Wow. just... wow. s, you go for it girlfriend -- I can't *wait* to see where this first step takes you. And Shuna, you ROCK for all you provide to all of us with a passion for your industry (regardless of how we choose to "deploy" that passion).

I heartily second Gluttonforlife's comment. I remember being in my young '20s and asking seasoned old pros for help - I remember the ones who gave it gladly...and now that I'm a grizzled old pro (not in the culinary arena), I try to dole out worthwhile advice to the young'uns if they care to ask. This girl can't know how lucky she was to have approached someone like you for advice. Not for about 20 years. Let's hope she pays it forward.
You really are a kick-ass human. I love your blog, too.

I'm in a similar position to "S", but I'm still finishing up a degree in Biology. I just found your blog and have been loving all of the great advice about entering the culinary field. Thank you so much for the great info!

After reading all of it I can't say I'm not intimidated.

I'm wondering what you think about "S"'s question: "Does it reflect a lack of passion if I question myself?"

Part of me says go for it, you'll never know if you don't try it! and the other says, shouldn't you go find a research position in a lab? (yuck!)

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