4 Pieces of Career Advice for Every Young Chef

When you're just starting out in the culinary industry, it's important to rely on others for insight and words of wisdom. 

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April 26, 2016 4 min read

In weeks past, we’ve shared several valuable pieces of advice from celebrated professional chefs from across the country. That includes insight about the importance of maintaining your knives and tools and how taking one’s time is essential to cooking. These tidbits are important for recent graduates and current enrollees of culinary academy. They help young chefs set goals, focus their professional development and establish expectations for their future career.

So in the interest of offering further guidance, here are four more pieces of advice for young chefs everywhere:

1. Watch and learn
Anthony Bourdain is a world famous chef who travels the world speaking to other chefs about their techniques and passions. t’s no wonder then that he wrote a blog post explaining the importance of watching pull quote redculinary expertise in action. Every chef has his or her own style in the kitchen, and everything from the way they chop food to the kinds of salt they use can differ vastly. By seeing how someone else approaches a dish, a chef can learn a new way of cooking. Even if you don’t make use of a particular technique or ingredient, being exposed to new ideas is a great way to boost your own creativity. At the same time, encourage others to watch you work; this sense of cohesion generates great ideas.

2. A tale of two sides
Chef Susur Lee’s resume includes leading several illustrious restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. When it comes to effectively running a kitchen – a dream of many up-and-coming chefs – Lee said that people must be both firm and flexible. When you’re in charge of other chefs, you can’t be afraid to lay down the law. You must be demanding if things are ever going to get done on time, and as the leader it’s up to you to enforce schedules and everyone’s role. At the same time, chefs must be willing to listen and understand the needs of their underlings. Support staff have to feel like they can trust and rely on you if they’ll ever listen to anything you have to say.

3. Be forever fearless
Between the constant demands, the high temperatures and the endless interactions, working in a kitchen can be pretty intense emotionally. But in an interview with PIX 11, chef Ragan Oglesby said that the No. 1 key to success is to be perpetually fearless. By that he meant that chefs need to operate without any hesitation. If you need something done in a kitchen, don’t be afraid to shout. If you’re not getting the help you need, speak management and menuup right away. This fearlessness should extend to any other kitchen task. Don’t feel limited by what you think you should do with a certain recipe; feel free to experiment without fearing the outcome. In the end, fearlessness is how chefs break new ground.

4. Don’t take it to heart
Before he spent his days running Passionate Culinary Enterprises, Kenny Gilbert was a contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” competitive cooking show. So believe him when he says that all chefs must have thick skin. During your career, you’re going to face some harsh critics, be it agitated patrons or potential employers. They may say things you do not agree with, or that make you feel like your cooking simply isn’t up to snuff. When that happens, it’s important not to let their words affect you, and to remember your passion for cooking as a way to move forward. It’s not about ignoring what they have to say, because sometimes their words can be useful. Just don’t feel like you’re less of a chef or person based on the perspective of others.

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