The culinary industry is very tough and fickle. And there is a section of it that is virtually impenetrable to almost everyone aspiring to be in it. In fact, only a few have actually been able to crossover from the sidelines to the mainline like of Wolfgang Puck, Jacques Pepin and Emeril Lagasse. These folks dedicated years of their lives honing their skills to get to where they are now. But what’s certainly amazing and somewhat disappointing about the culinary scene is that a degree doesn’t actually guarantee anyone the same celebrity and breaks as those mentioned above. Mario Batali, for instance, is not a graduate of any culinary institution. And yet, he was able to achieve greatness in the craft. Yes, he did spend time in Le Cordon Blue. But he got out shortly after and decided to just introduce himself to a professional kitchen right away and learn from experience.
Play it smart.
Now, don’t get it wrong. This was not emphasized to discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams. But it should be noted that attending a cooking school can only do so much for you. Given this, it’s important that you also take note of lessons that teachers within traditional cooking institutions won’t share with you that might help you make it in the same way the aforementioned culinary idols did. Among the important is to work smart, not hard. Sure, being diligent and taking on multiple responsibilities can earn credit and praise. But it doesn’t really do anything for you career wise, except probably become the lap dog of every other individual in the kitchen. You need to be strategic about your moves – when to lay back and when push hard – that way, every effort you put out actually pushes you closer to your goal.
In relation, you should always take on a challenge when it is presented. It doesn’t matter whether you are experienced or not. If it means being up front and center for those who are important to notice, then you grab hold of that prospect and milk it. If there is failure, then so be it. But you walking the line will say more about your character and potential than your mistakes ever will. People who are too shy or insecure about their abilities often find themselves at the back of the pack even though they are talented because no one really sees anything in them but talent. If you’ve seen a real chef in action, you’d realize that it takes more than just cooking to be successful in this calling. So you have to be out there, showing people that you are more than what you seem.
Know your place; be humble.
Another important knowledge that you won’t normally take away from a cooking school curriculum is humility, probably because chefs are always trained to be competitors in such settings. When you’re starting out in the real world, you can’t be in a competition with everyone else in the kitchen. Sure, you have to try and push out of the fray. But when you are asked to work as a team, you do so as a team and accomplish your job well. Standing out doesn’t mean you compromise your integrity and take credit for what you don’t deserve. If you did something wrong, accept the criticism as humble as you can manage. And never forget to stay cool and stay your course. No one will like you and trust you with a bigger title and power if you end up mumbling and complaining about how you are not supposed to be treated a certain way.
Develop good social skills.
To add to the given, it is also vital that you practice your social skills in and outside of the kitchen. Public relations is a huge part of being a chef and being a celebrity chef at that. So you must learn how to conduct yourself in public in a way that people will get drawn to you. Gordon Ramsey plays up the role talented but hot-heated culinary master pretty well. Rachel Ray goes for the amiable and amazing health-conscious kitchen goddess. This does not mean that they are such characters in real life all the time. But they found a way to translate their passion for food and cooking through their interactions with people that everyone actually wants to eat what they serve.
On a related note, your social skills will also be responsible for the connections you make within your work environment. If the right person like you, then there’s a huge chance they’ll promote you from line cook and trust you as a Sous or Executive Chef. And if the clients equally like you, then you can bet on an ever growing consumer base.
Finally, never forget to have fun with it. Teachers will always remind to be serious about what you’re doing since much is at stake. But don’t drive yourself too hard that you’d forget to forge an appreciation and passion for your work. It’s unlikely that Wolfgang Puck was able to dedicate a significant portion of his life to his career and succeed in such manner if he did not love what he was doing.
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Cedric Loiselle is a highly talented writer providing quality articles for a wide range of niches including health and fitness, as well as food and cooking. If you are looking for the best New Orleans cooking school, read his articles for tips and advice.