Grills flaring, knives flashing, communicating in what seems like a secret code — working in a kitchen is fast-paced and exciting, but it can be intense!
If you’re the type that thrives under pressure and keeps a cool head, you may excel in the kitchen environment.
Here’s how to know if the chaos of the kitchen is right for you!
You Love to Be Part of a Team
It’s Saturday night, and the dining room is packed with people. The printer spits out tickets, one after another. The kitchen crew works together feverishly to churn out dish after dish, never letting the happy diners just outside the kitchen door see how much work is going into each meal.
A kitchen is a special place. The entire squad is “in the trenches” together, fighting the clock while also maintaining high standards of culinary excellence. This camaraderie can turn coworkers into lifelong friends. If you thrive on being part of a hard-working team, you’ll love working in a kitchen.
At Escoffier’s Boulder and Austin campuses, students get to practice this teamwork as they complete group assignments – although due to the COVID-19 pandemic these may look slightly different. In some courses, students are split into groups for a little friendly competition to see who can complete the dish better. They get to build that sense of camaraderie and collaboration while they learn and prepare for their future.
“Everyone at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts campus was so welcoming — it felt like a family.”
Brittney Castro, Austin Pastry Arts Graduate
You Don’t Take Things Personally
The days of chefs throwing pans and shouting at the cooks are mostly in the past. Chefs these days want their teams to feel valued and appreciated, and many of them work hard to make kitchens welcoming. Plus, with the rise of open kitchens, what used to be behind closed doors is now often out in the open, in full view of restaurant guests.
Still, the chaos of working in a commercial kitchen can be stressful, and feedback has to be quick. So there may be times when communication is brusque.
Cooks need to be able to receive feedback — and not take it personally if that feedback is abrupt. So if you’re the type to acknowledge a correction, make a note, and move on, then working in a commercial kitchen could be a good fit.
In culinary school, students receive tips for how to improve on a daily basis. They know that feedback is how they learn and get better. Escoffier’s Chef Instructors are looking for perfection in everything from taste to aroma to texture, so students get plenty of practice taking criticism and applying it to their next session in the kitchen.
You Like to Hustle
Put a step tracker on a cook during a busy shift, and you’d be astonished at how much they move, even in a tiny space.
High energy and enthusiasm are vital to success in a commercial kitchen. The shift doesn’t end when you get tired — it ends when the restaurant closes and the kitchen is clean and set up for another day.
If you’re the type who likes to go, go, go, and can stay sharp through a busy brunch or slammed Saturday, the kitchen could be perfect for you.
Many culinary students — especially those attending online culinary school — have part-time or full-time jobs while they’re getting their education. Online Culinary Arts graduate Nahika Hillery, for example, attended culinary school online while running her own food truck in Austin, Texas.
Nahika’s strong work ethic and respect for the hustle have helped to not only start Kreyòl Korner Caribbean Cuisine, but also to pivot her service model during the pandemic to focus more on delivery food.
“[Escoffier Online] Chef [Instructor] Pablo was pretty surprised that I was running a business and attending school at the same time. He really encouraged me to keep going on the days that I would come in tired during class after working a full day at the truck.”
Nahika Hillery, Online Culinary Arts Graduate and Chef/Owner, Kreyòl Korner Caribbean Cuisine
You’re Not Easily Overwhelmed
Noise, heat, and tickets that just keep coming. Can you keep your cool?
Being able to maintain focus and think several steps ahead is what helps cooks and chefs to keep pressing through these challenges. And if this isn’t a natural gift, that’s okay. It often comes with time.
The longer you work in this tumultuous environment, the better you’ll be able to maintain your equilibrium — even when it feels like there’s no way you’ll be able to make it through the night.
Culinary school helps students to discover the basics of cooking, so they’ll have their foundational knowledge to fall back on when things seem to spiral out of control. With their hands-on practice in mise en place, organization, problem solving, and much more, students will come from a place of knowledge instead of confusion.
“Being at Escoffier taught me to be flexible and to keep pushing through even if everything is going down. [It] taught me how to become the leader and get each task done.” Joseph Han, Boulder Pastry Arts graduate
What If This Doesn’t Sound Like Me?
If this doesn’t sound like you, does that mean you can’t have a culinary career? Absolutely not!
First of all, remember that not all kitchens are the same, and the level of intensity can vary dramatically from one to another. So it’s absolutely possible to work in a slower-paced restaurant kitchen.
Plus, there is a wide range of alternative culinary careers that a culinary education can prepare you for. You don’t have to work in a restaurant kitchen at all, if that’s not your goal. You could be a recipe developer, an artisanal food producer, a food photographer, a wholesale baker…the list goes on and on.
In the fast-paced, chaotic environment of a working kitchen, it can be hard to get a good explanation or demonstration of a technique from a supervisor or co-worker.
That’s why a focused culinary education is so valuable. It’s a time when you’re expected to be a beginner and ask questions. Chef Instructors are there to help you — not to serve food to hungry customers. This education can help students to dive right in to the high-speed kitchen setting when they complete their programs.
Take the next steps toward this exciting world with a culinary education from Escoffier!
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