I still remember with pride those days chopping vegetables, peeling potatoes, cleaning a preparing herbs for the next service… all this and more are a normal beginning for a cook.
I was lucky to do my practice in good places, hotels and restaurants. I’ve never complained for any kind of task they gave me to do, I was damn curious, always alert and always showing interest to my work. Thanks to this attitude I showed, my superiors took the time to teach me their working and cooking techniques. I am sure that these initiatives have led me to what I am today.
But these days I’ve noticed that there are apprentice’s cooks that do not have the dedication of his superiors as I had, as I see people that don’t care much working as a cook by simply demonstrating weak and disinterested performances.
But if you’re one of those people who want to take full advantage of every opportunity, then I invite you to follow these 10 tips that will help you in your future experiences:
1 – Question everything you need
Don’t fear to make questions for clarifications to your superiors, even if you think they are very basic questions. Remember there are no stupid questions, but stupid mistakes.
2 – Taste each preparation
Train your taste buds to the fullest trying sauces, side dishes or desserts. Always carry a spoon or two and ask if you can try the preparations that other cooks make. The idea is to develop your palate so you can compare and eventually give your opinion. Do not fear to try to eat everything. Don’t be one of those people who avoid eating some kind foods… those people shouldn’t belong to a professional kitchen!
3 – Keep a notebook and take note of everything.
Buy a good notebook, mini notebook or little black book where take note of preparations, recipes, techniques, mise-en-place (setting), tricks, etc. I recommend one hardcover since it must resist the kitchen conditions. Treasure this kitchen diary as it will be very handy.
4 – Show that you like your work
Go to work with a smile! Give the best example, after you do your mise-en-place or task given do not just stand waiting orders. Go and help other cooks or chefs, show that you want help. Over time you will gain more knowledge and it will be vital for promotion to other positions. Show you want to work harder and never let your guard down
5 – Buy a good knife
A good knife will last your entire career, don’t be stingy buying cheap tools. Save money and invest in good knives and kitchen tools, good quality and design. I got my knives set when I was a students and I’m still using it now, just take good care of it and your knives will last forever.
6 – Read magazines and blogs
Try to read cooking magazine and to visit blogs regularly. So you can stay updated on new trends, reports, interviews and new recipes. That will develop your knowledge and you will see what is happening out there in other hotels, restaurants and countries.
7 – Get familiar with all the products.
Try to follow the different orders of merchandise that make your superiors, or even take a look at the lists of food requirements. You will have more knowledge about fresh, frozen and canned goods required to run a kitchen.
8 – Learn about wine
Start adding some wine to your meals once in a while. Not all wines are expensive; you can find some good wines at an affordable price. You will train your taste buds and discover a new world. Remember that gastronomy is not just food and winemaking takes a fundamental role.
9 – Travel and meet new places
When you finish your practice, career or job, pack your things and travel somewhere else. Whether in your country or even abroad if you have the chance. Not only will you learn the local cuisine, but also the culture and customs of living. This is the stage where you will really start to cook.
10 – Be humble in your actions
This is the most important. Being humble means that you are aware of your knowledge and skills and you know what you are able to do. Remember that you are in a learning stage and you are just after your superiors’ approval. If you make mistakes, learn from them and try to don’t repeat them. Be very self-critical and do not brag in front of anyone. Show your maturity, your responsibility and your humility.
If you follow what I’m saying you here, I’m sure you will achieve great results during your experiences. Don’t forget that you never really stop to learn in a kitchen, but this is your initial step and it will be the base for your future opportunities.