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Learning From Restaurant Work?

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I'm a college student and for the past year I've gotten very into cooking. I don't know if restaurants look for this type of thing, but would there be a need for someone to come and do prep work once or twice a week at a restaurant (maybe the weekends when its busier?)? I look at it as a learning experience, practicing knife skills, learning how to prep new items I've never worked with before, how a professional kitchen works, maybe even catch some tips from the chefs. I have no problem doing the dirty work as long as I'm learning something while I'm doing it.

Keeping in mind that I have no desire to make this a career, but would love to grow as a cook, would it be worth my time to look for something like this?

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  1. Yes, there are jobs like that out there, sometimes they call them kitchen help or prep. cook...etc, it is depend on the type or scale of hotels or restaurants or banquets or catering companys or members clubs...etc, you just need to go around or call around or search for job posts
    If the company is big enough, they would rather hire prep. cook or person(which pay lower) than a cook. And you can learn more in the industry than going to any of the cooking class(I think)
    Cooking school is good but expensive

    1. Absolutely I work once a week for free at a restaurant for over a year now.

      2 Replies
      1. re: tldmatrix

        Sweet blog, how did you get involved with the restaurant? Did you have a connection or make phone calls or send letters?

        1. re: schoenfelderp

          i just sent them an email showing my passion for food and asked if i could intern there and they said yes.

      2. believe it or not, i learned quite a bit whilst working as a hostess in a great restaurant a few nights a week. once a week i was lucky to sit with the owners when their wine rep visited and they discussed ideas, pairings, etc. i even learned a lot during "staff meal" - eating it and talking about menus/offerings to come.

        1. My elderly mother works prep in a kitchen. She should be retired but can't stand just sitting around the house. So she asked the owners at her favorite places if she could help and they said yes. She goes in at 5 or 6am and chops veggies, preps soups, etc. Doesn't make much but enjoys the work.

          1. It will give you a lot of confidence, besides what you learn. They'll probably pay you minimum, but do it for free if need be. There's nothing else that compares if you're into cooking.

            1. My first job after college was in a restaurant kitchen. It absolutely can accomplish what you want. I worked at a restaurant with some pretty great chefs who, even though they knew I was temporary, were eager to share skills and knowledge. My knife skills alone were transformed by my time there, but I also learned how to make good soups, various sauces (it was a French restaurant), a few basic desserts (the pastry chef came in once a week for the real stuff, though I learned things like how to make creme brulee, etc.), as well as the prep for an array of dishes. And I wasn't even the prep cook - I was hired as a dishwasher, but unless the meal rushes were on, I was also doing prep work and cleaning. The great thing about this place also was that when they had the wine reps come in, they let all of us join in with the waitstaff, so I even picked up some basics about wine. The chefs also took the time to let me listen in while they spoke with meat and produce suppliers when they stopped by each day. And this place was nuts about sourcing mushrooms, so I learned a lot in that regard as well. As ToxicJungle mentioned, if you are in the right place, you can learn a lot about the industry. And at coll mentioned, it's a real confidence builder.

              1. Great way to start to see if you want a carrer in the biz. I worked 4 hours a day for about 2 months in a Chinese place to learn tecnique while I was a sous chef in a place across the street. Did it at a pizza joint in NY for a short while to learn how to work dough. Worked for nothing except meals. Worked in the biz for 35 years, retired now. Wish I had done it in an ethnic bakery but never did.