A stage is an old french thing. The basis is that of a working interview. This is something that is mandatory for any higher end culinary job, back of house or front. There are a good amount of reasons for this.
Joining the line in a restaurant is very similar to joining the army. You depend on your coworkers and, more importantly when you are new, they depend on you. I’ve worked in many kitchens where if any station gets in the weeds (buried in tickets), it is everyones fault. You are a team, a group, a collective. If anything fails it is your fault.
The Chef will let you know, and usually he does it very loudly.
So staging is important. The crew and the Chef needs to see where you are at, and where you think you are at. They need to figure out what your attitude is, if you’re a hot head, or if you don’t care. They’re going to push you, at least a little bit, and if they don’t than they definitely want you to push yourself. It’s important on a stage to make people notice you, in the nicest most respectful way possible.
Remember, on a stage you are a guest in someone else’s house.
I love to stage. I’ve staged at over 20 different restaurants, and I plan to stage at many, many more. Staging is very liberating for me, I love that you can walk into someone else’s life, and get a quick snapshot of such a huge part of their life. Remember, Chef’s tend to work anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week.
The stage is really great for both parties. The stagie can see if they want to work there, if the food excites them, if the people get along with them, if they can see themselves in this space.
The Chef/Cookers can see if you have what it takes to work here, if you have the necessary skills for this kitchen and if you can learn and grow with the kitchen. There is a laundry list of things they are looking for but for me, the most important is if you are willing and able to learn, you get along with the other cooks, and if you can follow direction.
This is key for hiring staff. It sets standards and gives the rest of the cooks ownership.
And it is so much fun.