Archive | May, 2011

Working up the ladder

3 May

A lot of people enjoy cooking as a hobby, they consider it to be something they enjoy doing on their free time, but what would it be like as a profession? Being in a restaurant kitchen instead of your own kitchen? Is there any difference? Could you  make it in the food industry? I’m going to show you the path my dad took to make it in the food industry.

I interviewed my dad who is a professional chef and has worked many different types of jobs in the food industry, from cooking in a restaurant to catering events, and everything in between. He made his way into the restaurant industry at the young age of 18, at the time he lived in Michigan. He started off as a dishwasher, what exactly did he think of this job? Well to quote him, he said “It sucks big ‘ol donkey dick!  But really, it is the hardest job in the kitchen and the most important job.  If there are no clean pots and dishes, the kitchen is helpless and cooks usually will not do pots or dishes!”  The thing he hated the most about being a dishwasher was the fact that the dishwasher gets all the blame when things are behind and usually get a lousy pay unless in a unionized job.

At the age of 19 he moved to Vermont and also moved up in the industry, he became a bartender. Out of all the jobs he worked, he found bartending to be the most interesting, because you get to meet and socialize with new and old acquaintances while serving drinks and having to deal with all the drunks telling their life stories.  He loved hearing all the sad, some horrific and some great stories he was told nightly. He also said that “On a busy night don’t let anyone learn your name, because it can be dangerous when drunks get violent.” He worked as a bartender until he was 21, then he quit his job as a bartender and left Vermont to live in Montreal.  After he moved to Montreal he worked in numerous restaurants, eventually he got into the catering business where he made food for private functions, he specialized in food art and decorations. He said that catering can be a blast because you get to work all kinds of different events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, cocktail parties, Christmas parties etc… When working parties a lot of times you are invited to stay and party afterwards.

Another change in career led him into the cafeteria business at Shankers Incorporated. He didn’t enjoy this job very much he referred to it as being “not much fun”.  Cafeteria cooking has a lot of deadlines, with tons of food to make in order to fill up all the spaces in the steam table a lot of bad Cooks will make all frozen or deep fried stuff to make their job easier. My dad doesn’t believe in going the easy way and making food which is unhealthy.  Not long after, he changed careers again and worked as a banquet chef at the Quality hotel. What the Banquet chef does is make the banquet meals under the guidance of both sous chef and the executive chef.

My dad believes that cooking should be fun and he believes that it is…most of the time, he says:

“the food industry can be a blast!  Joking and laughing all the time, except when personalities clash, which can be often amongst cooks, too many egos in the kitchen, but people get over things and fun will be had again until the next clash of the morons.”

He is currently working in a cafeteria of a well known University in Montreal and he doesn’t particularly like it.  He says “it’s no fun at all.  Everyone watches everyone else and laughter is rare.  The stress level is high and tensions can be cut with a knife!  It is produce, produce, produce.” Although there are downfalls to the job there are also plus sides as well, “It is unionized and pays very well with health benefits and an eventual pension if you can take the bull shit from staff and management.

Although he works at a school cafeteria, once the school semester is over he leaves for Maine to work at a summer camp, called “Camp Laurel.”  He said that Camp Laurel is by far his favorite place to work he says: “Work!  Hahahaha!  Working vacation is more like it!”  He also said that “Each job I had, other than dishwasher, I eventually disliked, but later in time I missed the work and the people.  Dishwashing just sucks big ‘ol….” Clearly he did not enjoy dishwashing, but you have to start somewhere!

I’ll leave you with this:

“Most cooks have had culinary training.  I did not.  I started at the bottom, for which I have great respect for dishwashers, and worked my way up. I have studied cook books, I have watched cooking shows and learned very quickly in the work place.  I changed jobs often for better pay and to learn more.  I have an international repertoire, which so many cooks do not.  I truly enjoy cooking.  Again so many just look at it as a job, but in reality food is art, food is life, share them both with a glass of your favorite wine!” – Michael VanZant

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