Chefs Explain the Keys to Success For an InternAdviser | Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
For some culinary students, the internship is the time they get to display everything they learned in culinary school. They may have completed a few semesters or maybe even completed their degree or certificate (more on why that’s a BAD thing later) and some feel that they are ready to shine on the big stage: an actual professional kitchen. However, “shining” on the big stage is probably not what most chefs are going to need out of you during your internship.
Here are a few pieces of open and honest advice by some Chicago area chefs courtesy of the Restaurant Intelligence Agency website, Soapbox.
“Speed, technique, and sense of urgency: Without these you can not become a good cook. It is impossible,” wrote Executive Chef Chris Pandel of the Bristol.
Chef Cary Taylor, Executive Chef of The Southern expects interns to be “Clean, organized, respectful, and on time.”
Even though some chefs will focus on some of the basics like technique and common sense, others will focus on humility and the proper mentality for interns.
“A lot of interns I have talked to are in some sort of la-la land and don’t realize the laborious nature of the job. Cooking is not what you see on TV,” wrote Chrissy Camba, Chef de Cuisine of Vincent. “You work over 9+ hour days, you don’t have time to take breaks, you make very little money and you don’t have the luxury of taking time off. You choose this career because you have a real passion – not because you want to be on TV.”
“Just because you’ve gone to culinary school and done an internship does not mean you are ready to be a chef,” wrote Chris Curren of Blue 13.
David Posey, Chef de Cuisine at Blackbird stressed, “The importance of knowing that you are never “the shit.” Everything can always be better from your attitude to your work.”
While success in a classroom experience may help a student think that they are ready for a professional kitchen, Hillary Blanchard-Rikower, Pastry Chef of one sixty-blue, feels a classroom cannot necessarily replicate the real thing.
“Actual experience in the kitchen is mush more valuable than school courses,” wrote Blanchard-Rikower. “You can learn the basics there but nothing will prefare you for the real world except the real world.”
Because the food industry doesn’t have the same restrictions as other professions, there really should be no reason why a student’s internship is their first experience in a professional kitchen although it does happen.
Expectations of the industry are sometimes not set by the administration of culinary schools and the schools that do that let themselves, their student, and the industry down by pumping out mediocre to terrible cooks…especially mediocre and terrible cooks with an ego.
Keep your head down, work hard, and understand that a mistake will happen but it’s how you respond to that mistake that may separate you from just a failed intern to an employed cook.