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September 2002

I would like to know... if your boss steals your ideas in kitchen and presents them with his name what one should do in this case. Thank you.

Suck it up! This is kind of the way life goes until you are the boss. One suggestion I do have is that before you show your boss one of your ideas make sure you have some witnesses to it then your co-workers will know that the idea came from you! This is not an original sin, you know that Escoffier did not come up with all of those ideas himself!

I'm thinking about re-entering the culinary field after a long absence. This time I would like to attend a culinary academy such as Le Cordon Bleu to get some professional training. I enjoy all aspects of cooking but would like to concentrate on their pastry courses, as pastry has always seemed somewhat of a mystery to me. But I'm not sure if that is a good career choice. I don't think I'll have the economic resources to study both cuisine and pastry. What would you recommend for someone who is not sure what to study? My long range goals are to work in hotels (Marriot, Melia,etc.) as I live in Costa Rica and tourism is a big industry here. Thank-you.

Stuart. This is a real easy one, you absolutely should study pastry exclusively, it is a wonderful career choice, and cuisine is unnecessary if you goal is to be a pastry chef. Pastry is much better choice because, 1/-pastry chefs are increasingly difficult to find and recruit, 2/ it is a specialized field that ultimately commands higher salaries. Studying pastry at Le Cordon Bleu will be a fantastic start for any career; if you concentrate on just this you will be successful providing you develop your own quality and style. Good Pastry chefs are a rare thing in our industry right now so you will have no problem getting a position once you graduate - best of luck…

Hi, how does a 33 year old (UK based) get to be great pastry chef with only Navy Catering Core training (NVQ 2) and 8 months subsequent experience in small restaurant? Paid apprenticeship is a possibility, but where do you start looking and would my age count me out for this?

Romy, age will not be a factor as far as i am concerned, your training with the Navy will be enough to get you in as a starter in any Hotel .The old fashioned way would be to start at a basic commis level and work up. With your experience and maturity level this should take a lot shorter time than normal.

Check out the openings in places around you, pastry staff are becoming increasingly difficult to find and recruit so I really do not think that you will have a problem. Use whatever resources you have then to do some specialized pastry courses to supplement your on the job training. This combination will push you ahead faster than you would expect. Try to find a place with a really good name so you will work with only the best.

If Hotel hours do not suit you try one of the really good specialized pastry shops, if the quality is really good then the only thing you will miss out on is plated desserts but that can be made up for later , best of luck with your search.

I have a fairly broad range of cooking experience spanning at least ten years. I have worked all positions in the kitchen and in a number of four-star restaurants in the states. I am currently a chef de cuisine with full control over the menu and kitchen. However, I feel less fulfilled with Such a position because the restaurant as a whole isn't nearly the same caliber as the other restaurants I have worked at. I have been seriously contemplating applying to a large hotel with a good reputation such as the Ritz or Four Seasons because of opportunities that I might not have elsewhere. What kind of advice can you give someone like myself who has a few years of experience and feels a bit stuck as to what their next move should be? Part of my interest in researching hotels is for the ability to work in another country. I haven't been to Europe yet and I feel like I'm missing out on a lot. Thank You!

Arthur, you should first realize that should you join one of the larger companies after 10 years in other kitchens you will be expected to assume a lesser role until you get your feet wet. You experience and drive should be enough however to move you up quickly. I would suggest that you join the company that you choose in a location close to you to begin with, then push for the overseas postings. This is not as difficult as it sounds as very few people are willing to relocate outside of their comfort zone at home. Not having worked in Europe is not such a bad thing considering the exciting and varied cuisine being served in restaurants across the USA .I Would also recommend as an alternative that you try the old 'show up and Ask'style, just go to wherever it is that you want to be based and push Your resume around town until you get started, it is I am sure bound to produce results.

I have been in the restaurant business for about 8 years. I do private catering for business colleagues of my father in law and I work full time in a local restaurant. I have been feeling pressured from myself to begin looking for a executive chef position or at least a sous chef position but I do not have formal culinary education. How much does the lack of formal education hurt my chances? I read everything about food and techniques possible, I have created at least 8 full menus from original ideas and I feel I would not benefit from a culinary program. Is this just my own arrogance? Thank you, Jason

Jason , I don't think that this is arrogance ,an expensive degree does not Always guarantee that the person will be a successful che . However,in the United states job market, culinary credentials are becoming increasingly Necessary, few places will hire without them. This is basically a assurance For the employer that the individual has at least the basics and will not Be starting from the ground up. There is nothing wrong in getting for Yourself some kind of formal training, this, coupled with you good Experience that you already have, will make you much more marketable as a Chef. The problem with experience alone is that it should be from an Establishment with an incredible name in the market , a name that really Stands on its own . Without this you will always have a difficult time Selling your credentials, good luck.

Hi chef, I'm a graduate of a great culinary school and after working in the industry for almost 8yrs now. I'm getting tired of working the busy restaurants and would like to try other jobs that are not always in cooking. I really would like to be a Food Stylist, have you heard of this type of job and what kind requirements/credential do i need to have? I really do not know how about to go and find a job like this. Help me !!!! thank you chef…

Chad. I'm not so familiar with this career choice. I have worked with food Stylists but they all seemed to have at least a basic culinary training and Were employed mostly by magazines or worked with freelance photographers. I Would assume that the safest route to such a position would be through large national publications that work with food. Why don't you get yourself a portfolio of pictures and approach the better-known ones and see what the have to say. I am not sure if you would need to tie in some form of educational credentials for such a job but I'm sure the would be able to Fill you in on the requirements. Good luck

August 2002

I am a Kenyan, currently employed here in Kenya as an assistant chef de partie, in one of the five star hotels, and I need a change or I would wish to work abroad , what should I do to get a good, challenging job? Is there any hope?

Michael, try to contact the larger hotel chains and check out the Opportunities with them .a lot of them have web sites with employment information, including overseas opportunities. Use any contacts you may have within your area, especially with foreign chefs who might be in a position to help you relocate. Finally just mail your resume or e mail it if need be to as many people as possible, if this is something you really want then you will need to give it all your attention.

I am currently employed as a chef in Austin, Texas. U.S.A. I am 2nd in charge. I am feeling in a rut lately. I have always wanted to travel, but it seems there is not a job out there that would want to help me even 1/2. What I am looking for is a creative place to be able to use my knowledge, and travel. How would you go about doing that? Thank You

Brian, I will give you the same advice I try to give people in your Situation. First try to identify exactly where you want to go, Paris, London, Berlin or wherever, decide whether in a restaurant or hotel then start mailing your resume off. Try to find people who have been there before and worked, work their connections, personal relationships will always open doors. Contact the larger hotel chains, they all have websites, send them your resume and specify that you are willing to relocate overseas, this should get their attention as there is a shortage of trained chefs in a lot of the major cities. Do not expect any of these establishments to sponsor tickets, accommodation etc as this is usually not the case, this would only apply in extreme locations. Finally try calling the hotels directly, this shows an aggressive spirit And enthusiasm, which goes a long way in the hiring process, good luck, Ciaran

I am a 25-year-old culinary graduate, and am currently working at a four-star four-diamond hotel for the past year. I am looking to work overseas, but it seems the only postings are for Exec. Chefs. How do I go about finding a sous chef job or even demi chef position overseas? Is that even possible for Americans. Thank You

Chad, if you are working for a chain look at you options there, otherwise Look into traveling to wherever it is you want to work and starting from There, London for example has a great demand for trained cooks at the Moment. The easiest way is the un official chefs network where people are passed from one kitchen to the other, if your current chef worked with someone before who maybe has moved and is looking for staff. There is a wonderful website called which has a lot of great Opportunities posted, look into it. The last advice i have is get hold of a international hotel or restaurant guide, for example the leading hotels of the world guide and use the addresses to mail off your resume, the might just be in a position to take you on. Good luck, Ciaran

I am a '95 CIA Graduate looking for experience overseas. I have opened and sold two restaurants (one fine dining) in the states but I feel like I need overseas experience to get to the next level, as I have been self-employed since I graduated. First, am I correct and second, how will my resume be received in Europe? Most establishments want Michelin Stars.

Stuart, your CIA credentials will carry a lot of weight wherever you go, stars are nice to have but not necessary. It sounds as if you are heavily In to the business side of the restaurant business, can you adapt to being an employee for someone else. This could be a difficult transition for you if you have been used to calling the shots. Most of the fine dining kitchens are as you know strict and very much ordered by rank, you will have to focus on learning the cooking which will make you successful in the future. Your resume will as i said be evaluated based on the position you are applying for. You should look to start slow, long hours and unexciting salaries but you will for sure pick up enough ideas and styles to make it worthwhile. An other option which is popular in London is to go and work for free in the really high end Michelin places, you have no guarantee they will take you but it is a good place to start, I have seen many situations where this kind of approach has always led to a permanent position with the restaurant and shows the owner / chef that you are serious about your career, you never know, give it a shot, Ciaran

I am, just like many I am sure, planning on leaving the high Tech industry within the fairly near future to pursue a job in the culinary arts. My ultimate goal being to own my own restaurant, I understand that I will be working my way up the ladder after completion of culinary school, but my question is how long can a competent person expect it to take to become a chef, and will my previous experience of managing people as well as experience of being a line cook years ago help that much? Also, do you have any recommendations on how I can make myself more familiar with culinary lingo? I read lots of recipes and many times I don't understand what some of the ingredients are and what some of the lingo means. Thanks, Jack

Jack your previous experience will of course help you along faster but of course is not the sole aspect of your new profession. Firstly it is usually assumed that 5 years is the average training time for a chef, again depending on how that person moves around to gain as much experience as possible in that time. If you choose to work in a large operation with a few different outlets that would be a big plus as you could do everything under one roof. Once you master the culinary side your previous experience will accelerate your progress along for sure. As for the lingo there is a great book called the 'food lovers companion ', a well know reference in the trade, which is fill with explanations of everything to do with food and ingredients, I would really recommend this to you Best of luck with your career.

Dear Chef, I would like to know, what equivalent position you believe I could apply for overseas as a chef or cook. I have held Sous Chef jobs for 5 diamond hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton, and for large casinos such as the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. I have 7 years of experience and have a formal education. I do not speak another language, but have a working knowledge of German. I am very aware that European vs. American training can be different and the approach to kitchen management quite different. Can you give me some insight on what to expect from an overseas offering?

Based on what you have told me you should have every confidence to apply For the same position, kitchen management is not so different here. The job you go for should however be of a similar standard to your current Hotel. If you feel that you want to polish your cooking skills it would not be Harmful to take a lower position in a very high-level restaurant or hotel, This kind of training will always pay off. Do not however expect to find the salaries similar as the cost of living in Europe is generally higher than the US and the salaries can be a little Lower. Best of luck, Ciaran

June 2002
I am interested in changing my career from the high-tech world to that of a professional chef. What is the best way to go about making this change? The starting pay for a line cook around here is below what I can safely pay my bills with and the culinary institute in town would not allow me to work full-time while attending classes. I have a strong passion for cooking and wish to begin my career as soon as possible despite these challenges. Help!

It sounds like you have your hands tied a little here. My suggestion to you would be to approach a local restaurant or hotel and apply for some part time kitchen experience (unpaid if necessary) in your spare time while continuing with your current career. Use this experience as a base and try to convince the establishment at a later date to take you on full time at a slightly higher position while also looking for a culinary school with more flexible conditions. It is very difficult to get into this line of work late as the initial stages are always tough and underpaid, there are very few ways around this unfortunately... good luck.

June 2002
Hi, I plan to attend culinary school after I get out of the army. As of now I am working as a food inspector, and towards the end will switch over to Cooking to gain experience for Culinary school. I am also working towards a degree in business management. How more desirable would the business and food inspection background make me to any prospective employers along with the B.A in culinary arts I hope to get? and how useful will these skills come in handy if I am ever the executive chef in charge?

Your skills attained in the Military will of course go some ways to helping you along but ultimately the base for your goal as Executive chef must be primarily your cooking skills. It may be possible to get a position with academic know how but it will be impossible to keep it. Of course what you have learned to date is relevant and will shave some time off your training period , but you must get as much time as possible in on the stoves , there is no other way .You are of course a good ways there already with your experience but do not rely too much on it as it is important but still secondary to the main job in hand, cooking.
I am an African Lady who has trained as a chef and worked as a chef for a about 4 years. Though I am not in the profession now I do wish to go back and I have since landed a job as a pastry lecturer and I feel a bit rusty. Please give me tips on how to brush up before I go back and what you would write down as tools and equipment for a budding pastry demonstration kitchen. I will be very grateful for this. I should start my new job in July. Meanwhile I work at an Internet cafe...

Alice, The best advice I can give you is to get as much experience as possible in a busy operating kitchen , 2 weeks should do to re cap your knowledge. Invest in a few good general pastry books and practice at home if you have too, every little bit counts. If you are in the Internet cafe then you must know the website , this has a huge recipe base to draw from for all areas of pastry production, also you will find links to the equipment that you would need. Good luck with your new position. Dear chef, why do you think it is good for chefs to work overseas?

Working abroad has a few things going for it and several against. Firstly as a chef you are in a creative profession and the only way to feed this creativity is by constant exposure to new ideas and techniques. Being over sea gives you this opportunity as well as learning from the culture that you live in daily. The other thing that I have found is that because you are expected in most cases to be a teacher of sorts also, you push yourself harder to come up with ideas to share with your guests and staff. If your goal is to learn, then of course you would not head for somewhere that you think that you will be more of a teacher than a student. If you think you are ready to share your knowledge then by all means do so.

The downside of being overseas is that you run the risk to loose touchwith what many people would call mainstream food styles. No matter how global food style and culture has become, it will no do your career any good to be too far off the beaten path for too long. If you go make sure you keep up to date with food magazines, books and web sites - it is vital to stay current. Good luck!

I will be a graduating culinary student in march. First question is do I call the restaurant first to talk to the chef or someone else or do I just mail my resume. Second, If I just mail my resume, who would I mail it to if I have the address.

My advice here is always the same. If you want to get a job really badly, go if at all possible and knock on the door personally. If that is not possible fax the chef your c.v./resume and then call the him/her personally as it is always best to start a dialogue. Out of all the c.v.'s yours will be the one that is remembered.

I was wondering what the starting pay was working as a line cook (or pastry chef)for upscale hotels like The Four Seasons or The Ritz Carlton. I am asking because I am in culinary school, and I spoke with a rep. from the Four Seasons and she said they started at about $14 an hour, but that it was always changing and she wasn't sure what the current rate was/is. Do you know if other hotels pay more? I would appreciate any info. Also, is it possible to work Monday - Friday and not weekends? Do they have people doing those shifts? I ask because I have an infant. Thanks

A couple of things, where are you located (N.Y?) $14 an hour is decent if you are in N.Y or San Fran, else where in the US it is good money. I can tell you first hand that the majority of hotels will want you on the weekends and in many instances the employees who get the weekends off are the ones who have been working there the longest not the new employees... Sorry! Good luck,

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