How to Get a Job as a Restaurant Cook
Michael J. Beriau, the executive chef at the White Cliffs Country Club in Plymouth, Mass., has a wealth of pointers for prospective cooks. First, he suggests spending at least a year working in a kitchen (as an assistant or perhaps on cleanup) to get to know the working environment and grow accustomed to the hours. Then, spend another year working as a cook in that same kitchen. Next, go to culinary school: “They also need to have great communication skills, great computer skills and it helps to have a bachelor’s degree in restaurant administration,” he says. “That could launch them ahead of other candidates [with job prospects], maybe by even 12 years.”
The hiring process varies, but Beriau says the first thing he looks for in a potential hire is a well-written résumé for someone who has worked at least two years in the same position. Then, that person might receive a sit-down interview, and if that goes well, a call back for a two-hour practical interview during which he or she will need to prepare both a chicken and fish dish. “I’m not looking for them to knock the dish out the park,” he explains. “I want to find out if the food harmonizes with each other. Does the sauce go well with the dish. We’re also watching over them to judge their preparation skills, their sanitation skills and their temperament.”
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What is the Job Like?
Movies and basic cable have glamorized cooking. While it’s most certainly a profession with great sights and smells, the kitchen itself is a stressful place. Hot, crowded and fast-paced, kitchens are also filled with sharp utensils and sometimes slippery floors. Cooks chop, broil, roast and blanch at a dizzying pace to meet the needs of hungry patrons, and they must do so in a safe, hygienic manner. Because of this, tempers may flare and emotions run high. Beriau stresses that cooks should have a pleasant demeanor and an adaptable spirit.
Beriau also says the work schedule can be an adjustment. “Growing accustomed to the environment is the biggest and hardest obstacle for young people,” he notes. “Most of them haven’t experienced working Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday nights. It can be a big sacrifice at first to receive invitations from friends to hang out on weekends and have to tell them, ‘I have to work.’” Some line cooks might work part time, but very few head cooks have part-time schedules. Early mornings, late evenings and holidays are par for the course.
Last updated by Jada A. Graves.