Becoming a respected chef is, like any profession in which a single minute error can be catastrophic, a painstaking process. At times, you will be overwhelmed, frustrated, and under enormous pressure when things go wrong during the learning curve, but that is no reason to be discouraged. These moments arise in the career trajectory and timeline of all chefs as they rise through the ranks.
Hansel Bailey, a professional chef in Newport Beach, California, who works as a consultant, assisting other chefs and restauranteurs within the industry, provides a few helpful tips for all aspiring chefs.
Master the Basics First
Some chefs will be eager to try their hand at creating an extremely elegant dish that would be difficult for even the greatest of experts in the kitchen to make, but Hansel Bailey is adamant that you should focus on the basics first. Learn how to blanch a carrot, truss a chicken, make a broth, and cook meat to an ideal temperature. Once you can prove that you are capable of the basics, then you can experiment with new techniques that can present a greater challenge. As an aspiring chef, particularly in the early phases of your career, it is critical that you understand your level and limitations.
Enroll in a Cooking School
A cooking school allows aspiring chefs to learn and study the foundations of the culinary arts, Hansel Bailey states. Students can acquire crucial knowledge of the industry, improve from those methods, and utilize this information as they gradually ascend in their status. Many of the world-acclaimed chefs began as busboys or dishwashers before reaching the pinnacle of their careers. By working their way up and witnessing the unique difficulties presented in each position, they truly become capable head chefs who can run a kitchen skillfully.
Be Willing to Work Gratuitously
When seeking an opportunity to work in a restaurant, there is a strong likelihood that you will need to volunteer your time and efforts, professional chef Hansel Bailey concurs. Even then, you are not guaranteed to be recruited, so don’t be offended or disheartened. Attempt to get your foot in the door of an establishment that you admire, whether it is in exchange for a modest payment or free of charge. There, you will undergo your development as a chef, picking up bits of knowledge such as how to make stocks, butcher, and order inventory.
Positive Demeanor and Hard Work
For all the natural ability and knowledge that you might possess, it is irrelevant if you are lacking a tremendous work ethic and attitude throughout each shift. Yes, there will be blunders that are committed by your teammates and certain circumstances will be completely out of your hands; however, that does not give you the right to be insolent through your body language or offhand remarks. Work past these setbacks and help your co-workers as best as you can, because, when the shoe is on the other foot and you are the one who is error-prone on an off day, you will want the same courtesy, notes Hansel Bailey.
Ignore the Glamorous Aspects
Although various renowned chefs have seen their careers culminate in the form of a television show that focuses on their cooking, this should not be the motivating force behind an aspiring chef’s decision to enter the kitchen. All successful chefs, regardless if they have a television slot or not, are in it for the love of their craft. Years of sacrifice and studying eventually paid off for these individuals. If you are looking for a massive salary or limelight exposure, then cooking isn’t likely to be a suitable career path because you cannot progress without an abundance of passion.
Form Your Own Style
While it is useful to learn from several people, over time, you will be looking to take that enlightenment and employ it to create your own dishes. Use the greats as inspiration, implement some of the techniques that they perform admirably, and allow that to be a guide for your culinary preparations. Your food should be authentic, naturally produced dishes that contain a piece of your personality, says Hansel Bailey. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yet, at some stage, you will need to put your own interpretation and imprint on the recipes.
Consistency is Key
It is not a matter of if, but rather when you endure failure as an aspiring chef, as the restaurant industry can be very unpredictable. Despite the dinner rush putting you under duress, coupled with a potential burn or cut in the line of duty, you are expected to power through the day-to-day happenings. And, similar to your dependable attitude in overcoming any obstacles, the plates must be repeatedly perfect in their presentation and quality. One minor detail out of place, such as seasoning or temperature, and you could have a customer complaint.
Take it All in
Having summarized all of the various duties and circumstances that aspiring chefs will need to acclimatize to, Hansel Bailey suggests that you consider all of it before investing time and energy towards this profession. No reputable chef is above working a specific station when required, as there will occasionally be days in which a staff member is absent and a fill-in is needed. A successful chef is a jack of all trades, prepared to step in and step up when called upon. Each day is different, so be ready to adapt on the fly and put in extensive hours.
Your Growth and Path are Never-Ending, Says Hansel Bailey
It is difficult for a chef’s career to stagnate, as every day is something different and there are constant opportunities for chefs to grow and further develop their skills. Cooking has endless goals for you to strive for and your expertise in one realm will not necessarily translate into another one that you are less familiar with. Seek out cooks who have original recipes and distinct dishes that differ from what you specialize in. Take advantage of these encounters with other chefs to the fullest and pick their brains, since it will add to your overall repertoire.
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