6-Months in the Culinary Industry and What I've Learned So Far
So it's been approximately 6-months last you heard from me. I know it seems like forever and day but I wanted to my sole focus be working in a restaurant. For those who don't know, I quit my job to pursue a career that I'm passionate about. I had always wanted to own my restaurant but I thought I'll do it when I'm 40 or 50. I never imagined getting a head start on my dream by 20 years! It's been a great experience so far. I literally go into work wanting to learn, see, touch, taste and get better every single day. I'm so appreciative that I was giving this opportunity because going into any place the first thing that look at is ... experience. The only experience I had was cooking in my own kitchen, eating in restaurants and serving at the homeless shelter. So I knew when someone gave me the opportunity I had to kick ass and show the chefs that I wanted to be there. Of course in the beginning I was slow AF (not fast now, but I'm working on it) and had a huge learning curve about just about everyday operations of a professional kitchen. The more and more I did things or started to prepare, prep and serve, I have only gotten better. Understanding that my fellow cooks that have way more experience and are good at what they do are are able to show me better techniques that would have taken me awhile to learn solo. It's a bit eerie and surreal doing this because I never thought I would have the courage to go for it. That's why I get so excited about what is on the horizon for my career in this industry! So I wanted to part with five things I've learned so far in general and about myself while working in the culinary industry:
Know your WHY.
There are people with 5, 10, 15+ years of experience and some know their shit and others seem very complacent. WHY you're doing what you're doing, I believe makes the difference between someone who is just going into any job and go home vs someone who puts in their all every single day because they love and are passionate about what they do. Also, when you know the reason why you're doing something starting from the ground makes it easier because you know where you currently are is only temporary.
I'm a bit of a control freak.
I like things to look a certain way because I learn a lot visually. One of my strengths is making sure dishes aesthetically look pleasing each and every time. Unfortunately, that means I'm very territorial when it comes to the station because I don't want the quality to diminish if someone is helping me. The guys at work blame it on the fact that I'm a Capricorn, I say it's because I have pride in my work lol.
Being open to constructive criticism.
For someone who's never worked in a kitchen before I'm constantly working to have my work critiqued. Something as simple as you cut your carrots to thick (which has happened to me more than once) helps improve my knife skills. If I know the person that is giving me advice is coming from a good place and I can only get better; I adapt and slow myself down to get the technique down proper.
Terminology in the kitchen. (Every place has their acronyms).
Growing up cooking in my family's kitchen, I'm familiar with a lot of cooking processes but had no clue what the proper terminology or what they called until working in the kitchen with professionals. I'm learning the difference between stocks vs. broths and rendering vs. shallow frying. You don't realize how little you don't know until your chef says something they think you should know and you just stare at them with a blank face as if they were speaking Japanese. What's been helpful, and I recommend, is reading books or articles in and about industry.
Over the past couple of years, I've been changing my diet to be about 90% plant-based (it's a personal choice, more on that later). Obviously working in a restaurant that has so many different influences, a lot of the dishes have meat (chicken, pork, beef) in them. At first, I was very hesitant even tasting the dishes because I assumed it was going to trigger something in me and I was going to go back eating meat constantly. It hasn't happened, I still cook mainly plant-based dishes at home but tasting the various dishes, at work, not only I'm I ensuring the food I serve taste good but I'm able to better articulate how various flavors either work or don't work.
PS Sorry for the ginormous photo! It's a little obnoxious but admit it, you love it!! :P