Are You Cut Out For The Professional Kitchen?
By Food Gypsy on October 15, 2012
Do you long for a career in the food service industry? Do you spend hours watching The Food Network dreaming that some day you, too, will grace the stage of Kitchen Stadium, standing toe-to-toe with Bobby Flay? Take this handy quiz and find out if you're living the dream or just dreaming: are you cut out for the professional kitchen?
When the man in your life is a chef, and they fall short-handed in the kitchen, it's only a matter of time before you find yourself at the business end of a knife. Sure enough, last week I was drafted as things heated up in the kitchen at Tulips & Maple, where our Chef B (Benoit Gelinotte) is currently cooking as the Executive Sous Chef. It's a busy time of the year for catering companies, and Ottawa's Tulips & Maple is no exception. Summer holidays are over and the entertainment season has begun. Cuisine students return to class and kitchens scramble for help. Somehow four shifts 'just to get us through' has morphed into a nice little part-time job for this Gypsy, who was thrown feet first, into the fire.
This is my first time working in a professional kitchen outside a scholastic environment, complete with big, shiny stock pots and multi-tray ovens, multiple walk-in coolers, freezers and staging areas. As kitchens go, Tulips & Maple's is enormous, and very well-equipped. You don't rise to the top of a competitive industry without taking your business seriously and delivering quality product, and Tulips & Maple takes great pride in delivering great product. Even stocks, sauces and condiments are made with care, from scratch. It's a solid learning experience, a way for me to build skills, broaden my cuisine knowledge and glean some great ideas (which I'm sure to share with you).
While I'm grateful for positive cash flow, this is not my dream job. I am a writer and communicator of food, beverage & culinary travel—for a reason. I am under no misconceptions about kitchen life because I've lived it (all be it on a smaller scale) as the solo owner/operator of a small country inn, and the man in my life has been a kitchen professional for twenty-five years. It's not glamorous, it can take years to make a decent living, the hours can make family life a difficult task, and it's far from easy. I'm happy to be a part of a good organization, but last week has served as a reminder that kitchen life is not for everyone.
If you're considering a career in the industry, take this handy quiz and see if you have what it takes. Read the following ten statements, and if you have an aversion to four or more of the statements below, and find yourself shaking your head and saying "no freakin' way"... kitchen life might not be for you.
Are you cut out for the kitchen?
- I love the heat. Even better, I love steam and hot oil! Being sweaty, covered in a light film of oil, on hot summer day is the best. Bring it on.
- Standing for ten to sixteen hours a day is how I like to spend my time.
- You know what I love? Smelling like food! (Preferably soup, but in a pinch fish or onions or a combination of many foods mixed together will do.) If I could come home each night, smelling like food, with my shoes sticky with sugar, raw chicken, or soup; my life would be complete. Dogs will LOVE me.
- I am very fond of chopping. I find chopping, slicing, dicing and repetitive tasks soothing. Just give me one job, all day long; like cutting and peeling stuff, preferably in cold water. Oh boy, can't wait.
- I thrive in a noisy environment and adore the sound of hood fans, timers going off and chopping. This is my Zen.
- I respond well to authority figures and have respect for a chain-of-command environment. I listen and take direction well. I know that I am not always right and love to learn. I am a sponge. (PS: I can handle being yelled at.)
- Ratios? LOVE THEM, HEL-LO! Please, oh please, ask me to do math in my head.
- Nothing makes my day quite like the thrill of making a couple hundred portions of rice pilaf. Unless it's tying 180 bundles of asparagus with blanched leeks into adorable little bundles. *Cue chorus of angels singing; I am in heaven over here!*
- Could I start early and finish late please? I require very little sleep.
- Being around super sharp things, items that have just been removed from a 400-degree oven, and scalding hot liquids perched at precarious angles makes life more interesting. I enjoy coming home at the end of the day knowing that I have navigated my job safely and still have all my body parts intact. I live for this shit.
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