The word Stage comes from the french word stagiaire (sta‧gi‧ai‧re). Stagiaire means trainee, or intern. In france, Stage is interchangeable with commis or volontaire. One of those means guest Chef, and the other means volunteer.

If you are in culinary school, or exiting high school, and you plan to cook in a high level kitchen, then you need to know what this means, what it means for you, and what it means to your potential employer.

Staging is an interesting concept. You go into someone else’s place of business, and you help them out for a day. This is the best job interview I think there is. It makes a lot of sense in a field that is so determined by your knowledge base, cleanliness and skill.

That’s not all that restaurants are looking for. If you have no idea what you’re doing in a kitchen, the Chef’s will pick up on that pretty fast. Don’t pretend you know things you don’t. Kitchens are dangerous. There is a lot of fire, and a lot of sharp metal. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself, or someone else. Be Humble.

No one will yell at you for not knowing, and if they do, you’re in the wrong place. Walk out of allinea and find a working restaurant where you can learn before you’re Top Chef.

There are rules.

I  have Staged a lot. In many different states, and many different cities. One thing is always the same.

You are a guest.

Act like one.  Do not come into someone else’s house with an attitude. Don’t tell them how to do things. Be quiet, do your chores and ask if you don’t know things.  Do not scoff because you have to peel a case of gooseberries. Everyone know’s that this chore fucking sucks. That is why you are doing it. You are literally the help.

Keep a positive attitude. Remember, you are not paid. You don’t have to be here. There are plenty of other places that will have you. But if you want this one then put your head down and act like you need this, like you want this.  It’s important that you want to be here, because there is a good chance that you will be underpaid and overworked. That’s how this industry is. If you don’t want to be here, no one else wants you here either.

Work clean. Leave everything cleaner than when you started, when you start your stage, find the cleaning things. keep them with you, and push to make everyone’s life better.

Keep your focus and don’t work too fast. You are new here. You will not be fast. Unless you have spent the last twenty years chopping onions, go slow. Ask entirely too many questions about your tasks, It’s ok to be a little annoying to make sure that the Chef is getting exactly what they want.  If someone gives you a project, show it to them after you’ve done a little. Better to lose a small amount then everything they bought for the day.

Don’t try to talk to everyone right away. Get a little comfortable and show them that you respect their space, they will talk to you eventually. If they don’t, that’s fine. Sometimes a restaurant isn’t your style. Sometimes it isn’t the right fit, and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid of not getting a job, just do your best to leave a good impression and to work hard.

Always ask the cooks if they need help. If you run out of things to do, go find a cook and make their life easier. Make sure to ask though, don’t just grab what they are in the middle of. Treat them like someone who might train you one day and be entirely too respectful.

If you cut yourself, own it. You’re somewhere new, you’re nervous, you feel like everything you’re doing is being critiqued (rightly) and you cut yourself. You are in a kitchen, and this does happen. Your reaction to how you cut yourself is important.  Do you break down and need to leave? not a great move. Do you suck it up, get it fixed and move on with the stage? There’s a chance they won’t even remember that. Don’t be afraid of your mistakes, just learn how to fix them.

There are a lot of reasons to stage. To get a job, to meet people, to learn something new. Staging is one of my great loves about my profession. It keeps you humble.

Always be Humble.

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