Last February I wrote, “Practical Tips on Finding and Securing Employment” for teaching students how to get a culinary job. We are rapidly approaching the end of the school year and your students are getting ready for job searching in the culinary and hospitality worlds. This article focuses on teaching your students how to make sure they keep the jobs they find. Here are 11 key points to give to your students:
Be on time. Depending on which survey you read, 90 to 97 percent of firings occur because of failing to arrive on time, not showing up at all and/or leaving early. Timeliness and attendance are so important because the schedule of a culinary facility (be it front or back of the house) is based on everyone being there and everyone being on time. The kitchen will be behind all day if you come in 15 minutes late in the morning.
Yes, chef. When the boss asks you to do something, ask yourself three questions: “Is it illegal? Is it immoral? Is it dangerous?” If the answer to all three is NO, then there are only two responses: “Yes, Chef” or “Thank you, Chef.” If you don’t know how to do what he or she is asking, don’t say “I can’t do that.” Instead, say, “Yes, Chef. Could you please show me how you would like it done?”
Have a good attitude. No chef or manager wants to fight with you all day or listen to other people complain about your attitude. Every chef knows a kitchen is a stressful place and there will be times when you are on edge or rough. However, you will do best with a smile and a willingness to work hard. Always make an effort to get along with others.
Dedication to quality and quantity. You must be willing to work hard to turn out large amounts of food and to work even harder to make sure the food is of high quality.
Eagerness to learn. Don’t argue with the chef when he/she tries to teach you something. You might think you know how to do it, but you probably don’t know how to do it in the manner that chef wants. If you don’t know how to do something when asked, don’t fake it because that wastes money and time.
Understand the basics. Instruct students to look back at the 50 Minute Classroom culinary cheat sheet I published, “At a Glance Refresher.“
Do what the chef says, not what you think the chef wants. This should be obvious, but you won’t believe how often it is violated. Listen to what the chef says and do that: no more, no less, nothing different. If you are uncertain, respectfully ask.
“My bad” is not an option. Chefs can’t sell excuses. Apologies don’t pay the bills. You need to understand this cruel reality. When it is time for you to be paid, you want a paycheck and not the boss shrugging his/her shoulders saying, “My bad.” When the chef asks you to turn out something on time, that is what is expected. Excuses will not make up for the fact you did it wrong. If you make a mistake, say, “Sorry, Chef,” and fix the mistake.
Watch your food costs. A riddle: “What do you call a chef who doesn’t watch his/her food costs? Unemployed.” For a chef to keep food costs low, everyone needs to work efficiently in the kitchen. Watch your food costs. Ask for help if you don’t know how to do something. Don’t burn product.
Don’t steal food, time or money. If you worked in a jewelry store you wouldn’t put a diamond ring in your pocket. That would be stealing. Making food and taking it home or giving it to friends without permission is the same thing. When you are texting, surfing the Web or on your cell phone, you are not working—you are stealing time.
Remember what you must do on the job. You will never see it in a job description. It will never be described on Craig’s List, LinkedIn or ZipRecruiter. Your job description is really very simple: make the boss look good. Everything you do at work should be done with this in mind.
Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE, has been a culinary instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 17 years.