This article deals with the importance of the first place in which you’ll work/become proficient, whether or not you first attend a culinary school.
We have to make many decisions throughout our lives. Every day, from morning until night we need to decide what, who, how, and more…why I (Michael) entered the kitchen, etc. Right now that’s not important, but what I experienced in the first place that I worked—had an impact on me for the rest of my life, and this “lesson” I want to share with you in order to help you understand the importance of your first job in the business.
Here I’m speaking mainly to those who are young in age, spirit, and experience, who have decided that they want to enter the professional culinary world.
Before I continue, internalize again and again the fact that there is no connection between your mother’s kitchen, your father’s, your grandmother’s, or your aunt’s, and that of a professional kitchen. Correct, both have the same raw ingredients, inspiration, and creation, but please, separate the two. Work in a professional kitchen is a way of life, profession, career.
There are many ways to acquire the culinary profession:
- By working in a restaurant, hotel, catering company, etc.
- Through a culinary school—in Israel, abroad—there are many types and levels
- A combination of the two
After all of them, many years of experience.
Personally, today, after 25 years in the profession, I understand how important a culinary school is—from the simple reason that it makes everything clear and orderly.
Order in the basic methods, order in the basic approach, basic order in most of the relevant things—and that makes it very easy to start in a professional kitchen. But it is possible to do very well even without a culinary school, and there is no shortage of examples of cooks and chefs of the first order who succeeded nicely without schooling.
Again, please internalize—no school teaches you to be a chef—I personally know of no school in the world that claims that it gives a “chef certificate.” Schools teach how to cook—and mainly to give a good base and approaches to understanding how to cook.
“The First Job”
The first place you work is of utmost importance: in many cases, it sets the level of your enthusiasm to continue onwards. The bottom line is that the level of self-confidence it gives you has an almost direct affect upon whether or not you remain in the profession, and, for better or for worse, in many cases it gives you the strongest seal.
Try to relate to your first years as your period of education—just like every student who enters university and dreams of getting accepted at the best university, so too I recommend you try to get accepted from the start at the best restaurant you can, because, of course, generally those are the places that strive the most for excellence—and excellence begins with the leaders.
Just as a student at university knows that he won’t sleep much because of exams, work to turn in, and the day never ends—I recommend you come with the same approach: the approach that the first years are for acquiring experience—taking this method will generally bring about a few things:
You won’t be depressed with the wage—the opposite! A student at a university pays tuition, and you are receiving an allowance!
The perspective will push you to learn more, to ask more questions, and to prepare for the next stage. This approach generally leads the head chef to want to invest in you.
How can you know what’s a good place to start:
First of all, always be interested in leaders in the field, second of all, try to arrange a meeting with the chef, try to receive information from other cooks who have worked in the kitchen, get advice from teachers at the culinary school, and it is no less importance to go to the restaurant to see, taste, and feel the generally atmosphere of the place, because that has great influence on your gut feeling, which is no less important.
Lastly, you don’t necessarily need to seek out fun—it isn’t always fun, sometimes more so and other times less so, but you are coming to learn, to become a professional. Like any student in any framework, this isn’t always accompanied by fun. Therefore, it is always important to look far, beyond the horizon, and to understand that no journey begins easily.
I hope that I helped you here a little bit to understand why your first job is so important.
Thanks for reading,