That… Pretty much sums up “getting your foot in the door” aka “job hunting.”
I spent a few weeks scouring Craigslist for kitchen position ads, be it dish washing or prep or even a “kitchen assistant,” then drove down to the place to fill in their application (in addition to submitting a resume) during “off” hours, and went through the above conversation many, many times with the hostess or manager whom I handed the paperwork over to. I can tell them that I’m starting culinary school and need experience, but that message is rarely relayed to the chef, who does the actual auditioning. The hostess/manager would always tell me that I would get a call back if the chef is interested, and then I would go home and spend the rest of the week growing mold and wallowing in self-pity. Definitely a blow on one’s ego.
Which is completely understandable. A professional kitchen is a very dangerous place, and no matter how deft of a office hero you are, you’re still a kitchen n00b, and thus, a liability. And restaurants hate liability… So my hireability is equivalent to that of a chia pet. While an internship might be something of interest, unfortunately I still need to pay bills.
Some restaurants ask you to come in and submit an application, some ask for an email first. I decided to shoot some emails to local restaurants too, just to test my luck. None of them replied back, which doesn’t surprise me…
BUT one well-regarded Japanese restaurant’s owner did reply, much to my dismay. He replied that “it takes at least 7 to 10 years for Japanese people in Japan to become an Itamae. Someone with out the cultural background may take longer. Anyone can cook a teriyaki lunch with 1 to 2 years of training, but Japanese people will not touch it.”
WTF? Was it because my name doesn’t sound Japanese? Or was he just having a shittastic day and needed to undergo some catharsis? At first I was butt hurt, but manage to shoot back and email that went something along the lines of “um… it takes a long time for anyone to become a great chef in any cuisine. btw i’m japanese, lived in japan before, and am properly cultured thankyouverymuch. never mind about my inquiry, kthxbai” (in proper Japanese, of course, just to be extra bitchy). Just because my credentials are not ‘optimal’ does not mean that you can be hostile to me! It’s not like I asked you to make a bloody sacrifice out your first born son.
So that went on for a few weeks, and eventually (and naturally) I started to doubt my decision and my “I’m young and invincible and I can do ANYTHING!” bit… Until I received a call. I was on the way back from a date night, and my butt started to ring. One glance at the screen showed that it was an LA number. At that moment the alcohol in my blood drained out into oblivion and I picked up that call like a ninja.
It was the owner of a restaurant that I had applied to via email on the morning of, and he asked me to come in for an interview the day after. Everything went really fast after that, and after a hour-and-a-half rendezvous with highway 5 and a short interview later…
I’ve been working at The Restaurant for a little over a week now, and things are going pretty well. I experienced my first “we-got-slammed” moment AND survived it, made friends with the first aid kit, and have the boiling station mastered. The culinary profession is very similar to the veterinary profession (I used to be a veterinary assistant before going into marketing), and it’s very fun and draining all at the same time.
There’s some hiccups, but that’s to be expected. Here’s to more adventures coming along!