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Working in a kitchen for a weekend?

My friend is the sous chef at arguably the most upscale restaurant in Toronto. He knows I love food, and will do alot of crazy things for food, but I have almost no professional training whatsoever, but I do cook, I even beat him in a cooking throwdown once. Anyways, he offered me a position (unpaid) to work in his kitchen for the weekend; or almost any other kitchen in Toronto if I didn't want to work for him.

A part of me thinks it'll be fun, and a story to tell later. But at the same time, I wonder if I'll be dicing carrots all day, or cleaning out the oil. Also I am afraid with no training, I might embarass him, or even ruin someone's dinner.

Still, it sounds interesting. What do you think of the idea?

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  1. DO IT.

    You aren't going to be cleaning out the traps.

    There's only so much carrot that one restaurant can go through a day-it won't take you that long.

    You're not going to embarrass yourself. Not unless you are incompetent. No training=/=incompetent. You're probably going to be fine.

    It's the most upscale restaurant in TO- do you really think they're going to put you in a position where you'll be able to ruin someone's dinner??

    My boss invites lots of stagieres into the kitchen. Indeed, it's how I got the job... But anyway, most of these people have extremely limited experience, and no one has ever been a PITA except one who was truly incompetent. We all wanted to stab her. Yes, we do tend to give stagieres the boring jobs, e.g. trimming chanterelles and pulling oxtail meat from whole oxtails, but the faster you get it done, the sooner you can move on to something else.

    Besides, it's just a weekend: everything seems fun when done for a weekend.

    1. If someone gives you a chance at this...DO IT MORE THAN ONCE! This is some of the best experience any serious home chef without restuarant training could get. Prep is great, and even dishwasher experience is valuable...cause those guys will teach you how to clip off 30% of the time you spend doing dishes. Tell me that doesn't add up...

      This said, you're likely not qualified to jump into a mission-critical station, so just know that. You will not be plating food, you will not be sous.

      If I was putting a friend with skills into my kitchen, I would make you a floater. Doing menial tasks, observing, then also jumping into the line if you can hang.

      1. Take him up on the offer. Don't expect to be on the line making any ones dinner but I seriously doubt you will be cleaning oil or washing dishes. Expect to be a prep cooks helper or just trail your friend.
        Over the years I have taken a few people into my kitchen for a day.
        They all had a great time.
        I hope you come back and let us know how it went.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Fritter

          I would love to have the opportunity. Like you said, if anything it will make a great story.

        2. Why don't you ask him what you'll be doing in his kitchen? Weekend is a busy time and you don't want to be getting in everyone's way.

          1. I would jump at it.

            I would love to see how they can construct in 20 minutes what it takes me 2 hours to make.

            1. Go for it!

              The staff will know your level of skill. Only a masochist would ask you to do the more unseemly tasks. Volunteer labor typically doesn't get abused but I would expect to do some of the more menial tasks like chopping veggies. Let's face it, they're not going to put you in the critical path.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Scagnetti

                i think you mean "sadist," not "masochist." or maybe you do mean "masochist"-- because if the untrained person creates a huge mess, the masochist may have to suffer while cleaning/fixing it up ;-P

              2. I did something similiar a few years ago, and I really enjoyed myself. I found the pace, the energy, the kind of ballet in the kitchen to be very exciting. And it made me realize that I really DON'T want to work in a professional kitchen. But, I'd be happy to help out from time to time......

                1. Hopefully you won't be "stoned in Toronto" if you go.
                  Save that for after service. ;)

                  1. I agree with other posters - do it! If you have reservations, tell your friend "oh, wow, that sounds great! I've never worked in a professional kitchen before - what sorts of things do you think I'd be doing?" I wouldn't expect a hard and fast list, but he'd at least be able to say "oh, well, we'd probably have you help with prepping x, or whatever."

                    1. That sounds like a really cool opportunity to see how the pros do things... if you hate it, it's only for one weekend. And if you like it and are any good at it, you could probably do it again and really pick up some skills.

                      1. i've had friends/family members "help out" in our kitchen. . . and. . . it usually doesn't take long before they realize they are not the cooks they thought they were! ;)

                        sil offered to come in and help prep veggies. dh asked her to start by rough-chopping carrots for soup. i shit you not-- it took her over an hour to process a 6 qt cambro of rough-chopped carrots, and she had blisters at the end! LOL! she decided she'd stick with dinner for the fam after that. . .

                        expect some veggie prep-- and if your knife skills suck, tell your friend in advance. you may get to do some assembly or dressings or some such, but don't be snooty if your tasks include hauling trash or peeling potatoes or cleaning out the fish-scaling sink-- guess what, these jobs need to be done. keep your eyes open and your mouth shut and take it all in. be sure that no low-ranking kitchen workers are stuck with the crap jobs (like those above) so that you can play marie antoinette-- that annoys people who have been working hard for a living in kitchen jobs/careers to feed their families-- so maybe offer to help with a yucky job, and be gracious about it-- you'll make points.

                        if you ignore *everything* else in my post because you think i am bitchy, please don't dismiss this: please be safe in a pro kitchen. walk with the tip of your knife down. look where you are going-- sounds dumb to say, but i've seen dumb accidents. notice that kitchen workers are working in close quarters with knives and boiling water and 400 degree pans. learn to say "behind you" "to your left with a hot pan" "hot soup thru" etc. carry kettles and boxes and sheet pans away from your body so you can watch your feet/footing. don't try to chop faster than you actually can, safely. concentrate on what you are chopping-- if you get distracted or someone speaks to you, put your knife down before you respond or look. have fun but be safe-- don't get hurt or hurt someone else.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: soupkitten

                          I'm echoing all that soupkitten has to say, including the safety advice. Also, don't carry knives in any other way than held firmly in your hand -- no balancing them on chopping boards. And if a knife falls to the floor, let it fall. It goes for almost anything in a professional kitchen, if you're holding something in your hands, hold on to it firmly. It sucks to have to redo a batch of vegetables because the first ones ended up on the floor.

                          Personally, I don't cut myself as often as I give myself burns, so as Douglas Adams would say, it helps to know where your towel is. Remember that a gas stove is open flame and handle it accordingly.

                          That being said, go for it. Ask lots of questions, whenever you get the chance. Keep the plating area (or whatever English-speaking pros call the working surface where food is plated) clear of debris. Learn to keep out of the way. And make sure you have good, comfortable, non-slip shoes with closed toes, as odds are that you won't be sitting down until the end of the shift.

                        2. Oh, that sounds totally fun! Yes, I think you'll get stuck with some of the scutwork, but it would be worth peeling enough potatoes and carrots to feed an army regiment to see in person what happens behind the scenes at a top-of-the-line restaurant kitchen! But the safety tips listed in this thread are enormously important in a lot of kitchens, from haute to hamburger, so please bear them in mind if you do take a run at this. I really hope you do!

                          1 Reply
                          1. Do it - and report back! Who cares what tasks you do if you keep your eyes open? If you learn even one thing wouldn't it be worth it?