Starting Out: The Do’s And Don’ts

August is here, and our Summer Internship Program is well under way. It’s an exciting time, and the first opportunity for many of our students to step into a professional kitchen. They benefit from valuable on-the-job experience, but it can be a steep learning curve. So we decided this week to catch up with some of our C-CAP supporters and alums and asked them to share their kitchen woes as well as some advice for our budding chefs.

We asked them to describe their first job in the industry, the mistakes they made along the way (that they can laugh about now), and most importantly, the advice they would offer to the beginning chefs as they embark on their first jobs in the kitchen.

Here’s what they had to say:

Andrea AnomExecutive Pastry Chef, Streetbird Harlem

My first job in the industry was hosting at TGI Friday’s. Most kitchens weren’t thrilled by a résumé of mostly office work, so I began my journey in the front of house.

During a stage, the Sous Chef who interviewed me asked me to fetch the cabbage. I returned with a deep lexan full of cabbage heads. He responded, “Wow, I only needed a couple heads, but you’re strong!” I worked for that company for four years.

A great attitude is contagious. If you have drive, determination and a good attitude, nothing and no one can stop you!

Jason McClainExecutive Chef, Jonathan Club, L.A.

My first job was at the Riverton Country Club. I was a bus boy, dishwasher and prep cook at 16 years old.

When I was a butcher, I forgot to scale the fish. Once the orders started going out, the chef started to yell!

Learn your craft and take your time. Create a discipline and work on your time management, organization, and learn good technique. Work for a great chef and don’t worry about the money in the beginning.

Benjamin Miller – Co-Owner, South Philly Barbacoa, PA

My first job was washing dishes at my grandparents’ restaurant when I was 6 or 7. I used to work for cheeseburgers and milkshakes. They had a luncheonette which served the local community of Easton, PA for many years. It was the kind of place where customers served their own coffee and you would always see my grandfather working with a white t-shirt and apron. I have the same uniform.

I once cooked a terrine without a water bath.  That experiment failed!  I learned my lesson, and the reason for my failure.  I guess it was worth it!

Observe everything.  Then use your discrimination to choose what good you want to take with you when you move on, and what things you saw that you would do differently in your own place.  As a future chef and business owner/entrepreneur, you can make a big positive impact on your community.  In some respects, it’s more important to focus on that, because as your community grows and gets stronger, their ability to support your business improves as well.  If you are just worried about making money, the love and the quality just won’t be there.

Carmine GuglielminoC-CAP Alum and Self Employed

My first job in the industry was at The Hudson River Café back in 1996.

My first (painful) mistake was not using the protective guard the first time I ever used a mandoline. All it took was one slip and there was blood everywhere. It made for a very interesting rest of my shift. To this day, I try to avoid using a mandoline at any cost!

It is the most basic rule, but read all recipes from start to finish! I still do this, especially when I am trying out something new. Learn the proper way to perfect the recipe, and then make it your own from that point on.

Antonio Tanzi C-CAP Alum and Roundsman, Hilton Garden Inn

My first job in the industry was at the Marina Café in Staten Island as a prep/line cook.

Probably preparing more food than was needed, but it seemed like a good idea at the time to have enough food than to run out!

My advice is to trail first to know what you are doing and what tools you will be dealing with. If you do not know something, it’s better to ask than to mess it up or risk injuring yourself.

Bethania PeñaC-CAP Alum and Line Cook, Restaurant Daniel

My first job in the industry was right out of summer job training (FOH) at Café Gray.

My first mistake was to complain to one of the pastry chefs that my feet were hurting!

Take the first week of your first job to learn and see exactly what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it. Take notes and listen. If you have to complain, wait until you get home and complain to your cat.

Stay tuned for more stories from our friends and alumni, and share yours with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! #CCAPIsCooking

By Guest Blogger, Kieran Cawley

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