Chefs at Austin culinary arts academies and around the world have a unique practice for learning new skills and seeking employment in new kitchens. Trialling and staging are time-tested, closely related processes than stretch back far into the history of the profession.
The two terms are distinct: Staging technically means a brief period of unpaid work rewarded with new knowledge and abilities, while trialling refers to a similar effort, but with the primary purpose of securing a job in the kitchen. However, they are used interchangeably in many modern kitchens, where the process is often used to advance a chef’s career.
No matter what the head chef you contact calls this short probationary period, it’s clearly in your best interests to be prepared. Use this advice to make your tryout as successful as possible.
Prepare for a potential new chef job
As you seek out employment opportunities – with assistance from Escoffier’s global network – you’ll find a variety of different restaurants serving many types of food in as many locations as you can imagine. Whether you’re just starting out in your career and eager for any opportunity or looking to make a jump into a specific region or type of cuisine, a trial period at a new restaurant is a critical step for all chefs.
How can you make a great early impression, both when getting in contact with the restaurant’s head chef for the first time and when you physically arrive in the kitchen? Do your research about the restaurant, understand what’s expected of you during the trial and show up on time and ready to work.
Learning about the kitchen you could soon work in
The amount of resources today’s chefs and culinary arts students have on hand to resource potential employers is truly staggering compared to just a few decades ago. Restaurants put menus, photos of food and locations, contact information and even mission statements and chef biographies online, offering you plenty of ways to learn about a potential new workplace. You shouldn’t have an excuse for showing up to your trial or stage without a strong basic knowledge of the menu.
This approach lets you spend more time learning about the kitchen you’ll work in and chefs you’ll work with. That provides more information that will help you determine if you want to accept a position, should it be offered.
Knowing what to do and bring
You can get the basic information – where the restaurant is located, how to get there – from the internet, meaning your discussions with the chef in the days leading up to the event should focus on what to bring and what kind of work you’ll do in the kitchen. Asking for this kind of information helps you appear focused and prepared, while making sure you show up with everything you need to be successful. Bring a clean chef’s coat and pants and your favorite kitchen knife along with any tools specifically requested by the head chef.
Show up on time and ready to work
This is simple advice, but it can be overlooked in the rush to find a trial position and secure a job. Ensure you have everything you need before you leave home and give yourself plenty of time to arrive there and get in the right mindset for a shift in the kitchen. Showing up five minutes early never hurts, and having your head in the right place as you begin the process helps you feel more confident and organized as the shift goes on.