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Aug 12, 2007 02:29 PM

How can a non-experienced kid (like myself) find a cook position that doesn't entail too much garbage and/or dishwashing work?

Alright, here's my story:

24 year old dude who moved back to LA about two days ago. I was going to law school (UCLA--go Bruins!), but decided and was able to defer my admission for a year. In the meantime, I'm here readjusting after six years on the east coast, and would love any position that could develop my culinary abilities. Line cook? Prep dude? Anything?

a) I have no restaurant experience whatsoever. I've become a decent (at least in my opinion) home cook, but have no idea what life would be like behind a rest kitchen. Based on some friends who've line cooked at decent places (Citronelle in DC), it sounds like a pain in the ass, very stressful, and something entailing a lot of toil, dedication, and stress. In other words, something I'd be very interested in, or (at the least) could try out for a few months to a year.

b) I'm pretty much broke. One of the reasons I deferred was b/c I have a fair amount of debt to pay off, and wouldn't want to incur any extra given my law school loans and incur any further cost of living expenses, in addition to some bills that I already have to pay.

Indeed, I need a job, and while I'm pretty confident I could find a desk job out here fairly quickly, I'd rather cook, and for many hours. It obv wouldn't pay as well, but it'd be interesting, and since I'd be squatting at relatives', I could still contribute whatever I make (and, given how much I'm willing to toil based on past jobs that entailed 80+ hr workweeks) towards bills and a piggy-bank for when I actually do attend school.

Such also excludes the option of my attending culinary school. Perhaps once I'm able to afford something? Who knows.

Regardless, here's my question (and gratitude for whoever's made it this far in reading my long-winded post) to anybody who could provide any advice, as it'd be very very very much appreciated:

Is there any way for me to do a walk-in at particular restaurants? It obviously doesn't have to be a "caliber" type of restaurant, but rather something where I'm not doing dishes and tossing out the garbage all the time, and where I could gain some basic experience. I'm pretty quick, and learn easily, and (as mentioned) think I have some basics down in terms of culinary abilities; my palate is certainly there (I've eaten at some pretty decent places --- Bernardin, Gavroche, Morimoto, WD50 --- but concede that dining is a wholly different world than cooking!). Who knows. Should I go through my LA Zagat guide and just wander the streets of SoCal to see if any chef is willing to take me in? Should I look for particular hole-in-the-walls, or cafeterias, or anything to offer my services? I am clueless as how to approach this...

Phew...finished my schpiel. As mentioned above, if any of you could provide me any advice, it'd be very much appreciated. I love Chow, and while I'm not familiar with the LA posters, I've been an avid follower of the board postings for some time. Either way, my faith is in your hands. Help!!!

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    1. you really don't need to go to culinary school to get a starting job. But don't expect to make any serious money. Beginning positions pay just about enough to pay the bills and not much more. It sucks but that's the business as restaurants are a hard business to own and they have to save money however they can. If you don't want to be a dishwasher your best bet is to stick to family owned types of business that are looking for friendly and hardworking staff who won't be needing to know how to do fancier upscale meals. I've worked as a pastry chef for a number of years and I got my first job by sheer luck and timing. they were desperate so I got a decent start. Good luck and apply to loads of places and hopefully you too will get lucky

      1. Try the Food and Bev job listings on Cragslist. Some of the restaurants that advertise for 'experienced line cook' might be open to someone who's eager and learns fast:

        1 Reply
        1. re: mojoeater

          The best spot, period, is Craig's list.
          brand new restaurant in Hollywood looking for a complete staff, corner Hollywood & Hudson, called Lift 86, with Steve Adelman and Shane Brophy as owners.
          It is listed on the Saturday, August 11 roster of jobs, under bistro, gourmet, etc.

        2. I am not exactly the person to ask, but here is my gut feeling on how people gets breaks like what you are looking for.

          Start frequenting restaurants that you like. To save money, sit at the bar and perhaps just order an appetizer or beer, etc. but talk to the staff, get a feel for the place, etc. I would say the more passionate you are about the place, the better. Go on a slow night and see if you can talk to the chef. Tell him/her your story. Emphasize reliability, freedom from substance abuse, minimal/no ego, desire to learn and again, reliability.

          If they can't help you, they probably know someone desparate enough to take you.

          Also - call a few culinary arts faculty members at the local community college. They constantly get calls for entry level cooks.

          Another option is a catering company. Hell, when I was serving and bartending for caterers they sometimes got so desparate I was making the appetizers and salads and more. Caterers also seem to be more open to home cook, self-taught type cooks.

          Worst-case scenario, get a job in the front-of-house and network like hell, prove yourself and something might open up. In the meantime you'll be making money (more than back of house likely).

          Good luck!

          1. PAX,
            First, good luck.
   some point, no matter where you are on the toem pole, you'll have to throw out some trash or do some just happens...a dishwasher get sick, the trash dude doesn't show up...the show must go on and everyone should be willing to pitch in no matter what to keep the ship, if you're not too worried about getting your pretty little hands willing to doi it all...if you show up and say that you don't want to do dishes, they'll think that you feel above it and wont fit in w/the team...just tell em how badly you want to be apart of the food...prep, wash, whateve.
            The space where Bistro Verdu use to be is getting ready to open and there was a sign needing everything from cook, pastry chef, servers, and's a small space so everyone will probably be helping with anything...the young men who are opening it may just be inpressed w/your enthusiasm so good luck and give it a by and find out the info.
            You can look up for the address and go from there...Bistro verdu has nothing to do with the old spot so don't bother them.
            Good luck.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tatertotsrock

              Here is the alcohol beverage control's(abc's) website for the liquor license for the new owners of the former space of Bistro Verdu in the Montrose area or North Glendale if you will. This way you know ahead of time the names of those who you might be interviewing with. Thanks tatertotsrock for your input on the timing of the new place. Yet another place to visit!!!