Having spent the last six years working in North America,
I am often quizzed during my trips home; how do you get to
work in the US, is it different in an American kitchen and
how good is the food….
are the main differences between a European and an American
The differences are many. There are not so many layers
within the brigade; you are either a cook or sous chef. Cooks
are hourly paid - by the minute in most hotels, sous chefs
are salaried. You need to find another way to motivate your
staff other than waving a long mis en place list at them -
they get paid overtime after eight hours. This means as a
sous chef a big part of you responsibilities lie with controlling
payroll. As a chef or sous chef the way you treat your staff
is a big deal. You can not swear at your crew and harassment
of any kind is a big deal. European chefs are a little more
disciplined and patient with their career goals. Here most
new cooks coming out of college want to climb the ladder as
quickly as possible. This culture is generated by the fact
that cooking schools here can cost up to $40 000 for a two
year program - and they need to pay off their loans.
What about the food?
When I first arrived in the States I thought American food
of hot dogs and hamburgers. How wrong I was. The food scene
here was buzzing when I arrived and has continued to improve
year by year. Chefs here rival the chefs of any other nation.
In the US clients are a little less snobby and a little more
open minded. This attitude frees up a chef and allows them
to take a chance or two. If a dish does not work out then
it is not the end of the world.
We have great products to cook with, meat, fish and vegetables
to work with. Nearly all commodities are available domestically
- this means that they are super fresh when we get them and
they are quite affordable - as they are not imported and therefore
subject to less taxation.
How easy is it for European chefs to find positions in
When you have a contact in the US it is not so difficult to
find a position. Whether you have a connection or not there
are several options a chef can use to pursue the opportunity
of working in America. The first and possibly the most accessible
is the J-1 visa.
J-1 visa is designed towards the nonimmigrant to come to the
US for: teaching, studying, researching, consulting, demonstrating
special skills or to receive training. The basic idea
is that chefs can come to the US to train and gain new culinary
experience. The intention is that when the visa expires the
chef then returns to their country of origin and utilizes
their newly acquired skills. This is best suited towards a
chef with modest experience (five years or so) if your experience
is greater than that you may well be denied and you would
do better to look at one of the other options.
The next option is the H-1B visa. This visa is valid for
three years and renewable for three more. It is directed towards,
specialty workers and it is probably the most common temporary
work permit available to professionals. The worker must either
have a university degree or a combination of education and
experience equal to a degree in a field related to the offered
The third option is to work for a hotel company that has
properties in the US. With the hope of eventually transferring
to America utilizing an L-1 visa. An L-1 "intra-company"
transfer visa is available to qualified "international
managers"(persons with current managerial experience),
and specialized knowledge. It is designed to allow professionals
working for an organization outside the US the opportunity
to work for the same organization within the United States.
That means you do not have to work in your home country to
use this visa. For example - you could work in a Hyatt hotel
in the Caribbean for two years gaining international experience.
Then hopefully get transferred to the US.
All the visas are based on an (advanced) offer of employment.
To qualify for the J-1 visa you must be working in your country
of origin. To find an employer willing to hire you utilizing
a J-1 do a web search or e-mail Sartori
& Associates they specialize in global career development
(tell them GlobalChefs.com sent you). If you are a more seasoned
professional then a head hunter should be your port of call
with your interest being an H-1. Finally if you are not in
a big rush and would like to gain some other international
experience before heading to the good old US of A then look
for an overseas position in a company that has North America
properties. Be focused on an L-1 down the line. My final suggestion
would be that which ever option you think suits you best make
sure you have a big bag of patients with you - no visa happens
By Jeremy Emmerson