Keepin' It Dirty

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My advice

On Oct 30, 2007, at 8:48 AM, Dustin Gurley wrote:

Hey, I have a student who wants to be a chef. He worked his way up to
line cook at Bella Cucina in Sunriver. The kid is highly motivated and
pretty smart. I'm interested in your opinion on cooking as a career.
I've read recently that there is a glut of chefs that graduated from
cooking school that can't find jobs. What do you think? Is cooking
school necessary? If so, what are some good ones? Is it a hard
profession to make $$$?

Also, if the kid wants his own restaurant, what should he do? What does
it take to be a Kababa man!?

Thanks - Dustin 322-xxxx


Hey Dustin

A lot of good questions and hopefully I can come up with some good answers. It sounds like he has the motivation but not the resources to to go to a really good cooking school. So my advice would be to begin researching some scholarship programs at some of the top cooking schools in the country. I have worked with a lot of self trained chefs and a lot of culinary graduates. The really successful ones are the ones that were motivated to learn on their own, but also got some, if not a lot of schooling and accreditation. (like me) It's true that their are a lot of culinary grads that cannot find a job that requires much skill. BUT, that does not mean that chefs with knowledge, ambition and general smarts will have trouble. The glutton of chefs is because their are soooo many culinary schools these days. My recommendation is to go to a good school and don't fuck around with a local program, unless your ambition is to stick around. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with that either. But if he is truly ambitious as you say this is my advice.

Go to the library or bookstore and start reading books written by chefs. And I don't mean cookbooks either. My recommended authors are Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain, Alain Ducasse, Jacque Pepin and Daniel Bouloud. If you think you are going to become a successful chef by reading cookbooks, you won't last past your first paycheck without falling in line and becoming just like everyone else. Reading books written by chefs gives you a new appreciation about reading cookbooks you never knew existed.

Next. get the fuck out of Bend. But do it with a plan. Have some money, get a job on-line then move there. Don't just go somewhere and find a job, do some homework. Make contacts first. Let them know you're coming. Not in an arrogant way but if you bother someone enough and then show up at their door, they are going to take notice and you will get a job. It might be the shittiest job in the best restaurant in town, But you will have done 90% of the work of becoming successful in the future by landing that shitty job.

Oh, did i mention read? If you say you like cooking then you should know terms that are not common household cooking phrases. You should know how to use gelatin or truss a chicken, filet a 30lb fish and then make fume from the bones. Even if you've never done it, you should still know how. All of these things can be learned from reading. And if you don't have a lot of $$$ then find the books at the library, find them used online. Reading is what makes a good chef a great one. (Think about that)

To quickly answer your other questions, ...

Being a cook is really hard shitty work that you get to do on evenings and holidays. you get to work with drug addicts and alcoholics and self loathing persons of all ages and races. Being a chef means you get to manage those people and try to get them to work cohesively. Making menus and nightly specials is about 1% of your professional life.

the best advice someone gave to me and has kept me on the track to success was this...
"do not hang out with the people you work with". I would love to elaborate on this but I do not have the energy for it. But in a quick summary it means this. Be better than those drug addicts, alcoholics and self loathing persons. Don't be one of them. And that was the hardest thing to do at the time. but is the best career move I ever made.
I would have a beer every once in awhile or go out on someone's birthday, but i was always trying to do more and challenge my mind and the others around me. Trying to elevate those around me by example and not succumbing to the pressures of group mentality.

If this kid wants to meet i would be able to find some time to talk with him and answer some more questions and try to steer him in a direction or give him some short cuts to some hard to find answers. He must stand out from the crowd if you are trying to get me involved so i would be willing to help. I know you wouldn't be asking for some regular dip-shit. I hope this was informative and helpful.

Hey by the way, are you going to Bummer Lake? I want to go on Saturday and explore Fort Rock on the way down. Maybe Mercer will drive to meet us instead of exploring near there. What do you think?



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