The other day, we had a culinary extern come in to stage. He looked freakishly a lot like Morgan, the fellow I used to share my cramped station with. It was funny. When I saw this guy, I was thinking to myself, “What the?!!~ Did Morgan miss us so much that he came back?” I guess this Morgan lookalike is aspiring to become a culinary professional and eager to gain hands-on experience to see where the path leads him.
Many of these individuals come in enthusiastic, ready to soak up every vital information thrown at them, and willing to do all of grunt work that others don’t want to do (aka the “bitch’s job” as I’ve heard people call it). Grunt work may include tasks such as peeling the potatoes, cutting up a billion acetate liners for the pastry chef, sweeping the floors because everyone else has “more important things” to do, or plastic wrapping items until your hands go numb.
While the regular kitchen members go through the motions of their regular routines, ….the extern kind of seems to float around without having a definite place in the order of things in the kitchen. During a mad rush, everyone else is hustling and bustling to keep the flow of things going. They know what they are supposed to do. And it’s not like the extern can just jump in there and do anything because they have not been trained to work the line or make the desserts.. And after he/she has finished doing a task of the bitch’s work and in need of more (but the chefs are too busy at this time to find more things for them to do…so they will just have to wait), they are most likely going to be standing around and observing the other chefs….watching their every move, learning different plating styles, learning how the kitchen they’re in, runs.
I’ve seen that most students choose to do their externship at a place they’d like to eventually get hired at. And there are others that just want to gain experience somewhere but may not necessarily work there, and move on after they’ve completed their hours.
Super-busy kitchens don’t have time to keep an eye on newbies 24-7. And the kitchen can be a fairly dangerous place to work in. Burns, knife cuts, slip and falls, pulling muscles seem to come with the territory. For someone who hasn’t become familiarized with the professional kitchen, they can be very susceptible to the common injuries. Employers don’t want to take liability for these nonpaid stages/externs when they get hurt.
Some chefs just don’t like to be bothered with teaching inexperienced young aspiring chefs. Since they don’t really know how to do anything, they can “get in the way” than being helpful.
Apparently, this freebie had more years of experience than me, including in some high-end places. So I figured that he can probably teach me a thing or two. But umm…either he was lying about his experience or his work experience in the kitchen consisted of something else other than cooking.
And I didn’t even get to the part where he made me want to pull out all my hair. This guy told me he had experience with baking/desserts. I figured that making brownies would be a pretty simple task. It was stupid of me to just assume that this guy who I’ve never even seen before that day had the basic baking methods down. I was on the other side of the kitchen, busy preparing a jillion other items, and he kept coming to me every five minutes to ask for directions. I thought to myself, should I not have given him that task? But it’s just brownies. How badly can someone fuck up brownies, especially with someone with this guy’s experience?
I was about to lose my mind. I still had a lot of things to do, and on top of that I probably had to redo the brownies and deal with cleaning up the explosion. I took out the brownies, which kept oozing and oozing nonstop as I was taking them out of the oven. I turned off the oven to let it cool a bit before attempting to clean up the huge mess.
Anyways, at my current job, we get externs/stages here and there every once in a while. Whenever they come around, I beg my boss to not send any my way. I mean, much kudos for these guys wanting to learn…they gotta learn somewhere (just not with me lol). They should be learning from people that enjoy teaching/training other people. As for me, when I work, I just want to do my stuff, finish, then go home. I don’t really want to chit chat with anyone while I work or have my flow interrupted. That is just me.