Posted on June 13, 2019
Food is more than just something you eat to survive. Food can be an expression of art, a joyful journey of creation, and a wonder of science. These qualities may be what attracted you to the restaurant industry in the first place. If you want to enter the culinary world though, you will need to brush up on your French. Most of the terms you will use in this industry have a French origin, from food names to cooking techniques. The same applies to positions in a restaurant kitchen. It is important to know what they are so you can understand how a kitchen is staffed, decide which post you would like to have, and make a career plan that will get you there.
What Is a Kitchen Brigade?
La brigade de cuisine, or “kitchen brigade” in English, is the hierarchical system in a restaurant kitchen is used to organize and rank positions, maintain order, improve communication, and reduce wasted time and resources.
The term was coined by legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier, who used his military background to improve the operations and organization of a kitchen. The system was created in the late 19th century and maintains a chain of command amongst the chefs, much like in the army.
Chef de Cuisine
At the top of the kitchen food chain is the head or executive chef, known as “chef de cuisine” in French. This person manages the entire kitchen. Head chefs usually create the menu and design the culinary vision. They ensure everything is cooked correctly and may refine the presentation of completed dishes before they go out to customers. Executive chefs engage in some of the business aspects of the restaurant, too, such as choosing suppliers and managing inventory.
To have this career, you will need a four-year degree from a culinary school, along with superior cooking skills and experience in management. It helps to have a unique style, as well. You can reach this title through interning and networking, starting your way from the bottom and working your way up, or opening up your own restaurant. No matter which route you choose, it will take much time and effort.
Below the head is the sous chef, who is the direct supervisor over the lower positions and takes over when the head chef is gone. The sous chef is involved in planning and cooking while still participating in managerial tasks, such as ensuring order and speed. Some places may not have a sous chef, whereas others may have multiple. This job does not require a degree, though having at least an associate’s opens more opportunities for you.
Chef de Partie
Under the original structure, food preparation and cooking were divided into specific jobs, which made for numerous distinct positions and stations, such as the following:
- Boulanger for baking
- Friturier for deep frying
- Garde manger for preparing cold foods
- Grillardin for grilling
- Legumier for cooking vegetables
- Poissonier for handling seafood dishes
- Potager for making soups
- Saucier for making sauces and sautéing food
The overall term for these cooks was “chefs de partie,” and they oversaw their stations and the people who assisted them. Many of these assignments still remain, though there is more likely to be crossover between roles depending on the size and formality of the restaurant. In many establishments, usually casual ones, line cooks fulfill one or more of these responsibilities.
The chef de partie that is most common among all restaurants is the pastry chef, or pâtissier. As the name implies, this chef makes pastries and other desserts. Specialties include chocolate (chocolatier) and candy/confections (confiseur). He or she may also double as the baker. A two-year diploma or four-year degree is available for becoming a pastry chef. The training still includes basic culinary skills and knowledge even if you never plan on cooking savory dishes.
Other Chef Positions and Job Descriptions
In larger establishments, below the chefs de partie are lower-ranked cooks who help at the station. These people are commis chefs who often are enrolled students or new graduates from culinary school. Restaurants that serve specialty foods, such as sushi, may have a demi chef. In other places, the demi chef is the assistant to the chef de partie.
At the bottom of the chain of command are apprentices or kitchen porters. These people lack formal education in the kitchen and complete mundane food-preparation tasks as well as cleaning.
Some restaurants also have non-cooking roles, which an individual may fulfill or which may be assigned to a chef. The expeditor ensures dishes are made quickly and orders go out together to the same table. The caller is the liaison between the front and back, calling out orders and which to work on first.
Now that you can answer, “What is a kitchen brigade?”, you are guaranteed to find something among the numerous options that fits your talents and interests. To get started on reaching your culinary dreams, check out our programs at Oregon Culinary Institute, or check out some of our notable graduates in Chef de Cuisine, Sous Chef, and Chef de Partie positions.
Posted on May 15, 2019
When you work in the culinary arts field, you belong to a profession that ranks among the highest in job satisfaction. Though being a chef is hard work, like most creatives, chefs typically choose their career field based on what they love to do and are most passionate about. Chefs are also very well paid. In fact, a six-figure-salary is not unusual for those who work at top-grossing restaurants or for celebrities.
However, not everyone wants to slave away in a kitchen forever. Even so, to branch into neighboring fields, you will need more than culinary management skills. You may also need experience in hospitality management or a hospitality management degree.
Depending on where you study in the world, or the school you attend, culinary arts and hospitality management may be taught together. Alternatively, the degrees may sometimes share a department head, but are otherwise separated.
What is Hospitality Management?
So, what is hospitality management in more specific terms? It is a field of study and practice that involves the management of a resort, hotel, casino chain, or even a restaurant. A hospitality manager’s primary role is to oversee all the administrative tasks of these businesses.
In short, they serve very much the same functions of a CEO, but have the skill sets necessary to navigate the specific idiosyncrasies of the hospitality business. Here are some of the responsibilities that may fall under hospitality management:
- Recruiting and training new employees
- Setting room prices
- Coordinating front office-activities
- Planning and managing events on-site
- Handling customer complaints
What are Some Hospitality Management Careers?
Naturally, just as not all who work in medicine are medical doctors, not all who work in hospitality management are hospitality managers. Here are some of the many hospitality management careers that are available:
- Cruise ship director
- Events manager
- Hotel manager
- Catering manager
- Restaurant manager
You may notice that the last three examples on this list are directly related to the culinary arts. This is because food plays a very important role in hospitality.
How Well Does Hospitality Management Complement a Culinary Career?
Now that you see the close relations between the culinary and hospitality fields, you may have a much better understanding of how one complements the other. Here are some more specific benefits of combining work experience and educational qualifications from both fields to boost your career.
No matter how much you love something, there comes a time when you may need a break. This may be due to health reasons or personal preferences. The problem with a culinary arts degree is that it teaches a very specific skill set related almost exclusively to what goes on in the kitchen. Holding a hospitality degree can complement your culinary qualifications and give you room for lateral movement.
Opportunities for Promotion
If you have already maxed out at the highest level in the culinary arts field, you may be wondering what’s next. What can an executive chef move on to in a hotel or on a cruise ship?
With proven hospitality management qualifications, it’s possible for an executive chef to make the jump to branch manager of a hotel or regional manager of a chain of hotels in a specific area, such as the Caribbean. Cruise lines are also always on the hunt for top-performing managers who have the skills necessary to coordinate the complex activities and hospitality operations involved in running a cruise ship smoothly.
Opportunities for Entrepreneurship
Almost every chef dreams of eventually owning their own high-grossing restaurant. However, some chefs dream even bigger. These are the chefs who plan to build a boutique hotel or start an events management business that also caters.
Hospitality management provides you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only set off on your own, but to build a successful business with its own unique selling-point while doing so.
How Can You Gain Qualifications in Hospitality Management?
Now that you know how well hospitality management can complement a culinary arts degree, the next step is obtaining that new qualification. Here are just a few paths you can take to do so:
- Obtain a diploma, associate’s degree or higher in hospitality management.
- Complete a professional certification in hospitality management.
- Apply for other jobs in hospitality management to expand your knowledge. Because the culinary arts is a close cousin, you may get the job even without direct hospitality management experience.
- Seek out a mentor.
- Partner with a hospitality manager to launch your own business.
Choosing the Right School
Are you thinking of taking the plunge and going back to school? At Oregon Culinary Institute we offer both an AOS degree focused on culinary hospitality management and a diploma in the culinary arts.
For more information about our programs, tuition costs and how to apply to our institute, contact us today. We look forward to providing you with the educational qualifications and practical experience you need to jump-start your career in hospitality and the culinary arts.
Posted on April 10, 2019
A gastro- cocktail bar that is one of the first of its kind, Botanist Bar PDX offers a unique experience, great cocktails, and delicious small plates in Portland’s Pearl District.
Botanist hosts one-of-a-kind special events every week. On Wednesdays, you can experience a 4 course experimental food night with a different dinner menu every week. Tuesday is experimental drink night, with a 4 drink menu that includes a mystery drink— if you guess all 4 ingredients in it you win a betting pool starting at $50.
Behind this vision are two Oregon Culinary Institute alumni.
Taylor Figueroa is the Co-Owner/Partner at Botanist Bar. He graduated from OCI in 2012 with a Culinary Management Degree. Derek Boaz is Chef de Cuisine at Botanist, where his role includes helping come up with the food that appears on the menu. He is also a 2012 OCI grad with a Culinary Management Degree.
We sat down with Taylor and Derek to talk about their experience at Oregon Culinary Institute and to learn more about Botanist Bar PDX.
What brought you to OCI? / Why did you choose OCI?
Taylor: Taylor made his culinary school decision after going to the Le Cordon Bleu restaurant and finding that the food was just not good. He then tried OCI’s student-run restaurant and it was so much better. Taylor says he “I always wanted to be a chef,” and chose Portland specifically for school.
Derek: Derek first went to a 4-year school where he got a literature degree, though he decided didn’t want a masters or to work for the government. To Derek, “cooking felt like an adventure” and after school, he was living in Salem trying to get a job in a restaurant in Portland— getting callbacks for restaurant jobs but no offers as he did not have any culinary school experience. Going to Oregon Culinary Institute was a good way to move to Portland and network in the culinary industry so he could work at the restaurants he wanted to be at.
What were your goals coming into the program? Have those changed?
Taylor: His goals were to first be head chef by 25, then to own his own place by 30.
After OCI, Taylor was head chef by 21 at Vault 244 and then went on to become an owner at his bar Botanist at 25. He did the management program which taught him the back end of culinary management, so he learned how to do numbers, costing, recipe making, etc. where most people just learned to cook.
Derek: His goal was to line himself up with kitchens that required culinary school. He thought he knew how to cook before OCI but learned he had no clue how to cook in a top professional kitchen until OCI. The culinary program helped him learn the language of the culinary world. His goal was to push what he already knew and how to communicate with those who knew better.
How would you describe your overall experience at OCI?
Taylor: “It was so great I wanted to take T-2 (term-2) twice.” The teachers were amazing (he talks to chef instructors) and helpful, supporting him throughout his whole time at OCI.
Derek: “F#@%ing wild.” Derek kept busy during his time at culinary school with 2 jobs in Salem, at urban farmer (4 days a week), and as a sorority house as a cook on weekends. One memory that stands out to Derek: “Chef Wilkie took me outside and told to consider my food after I made something ridiculous. I would stay up at night thinking about it. It was a conversation in passing that was a monumental turning point at OCI and something I consider to this day when making food. I can hear Chef Vidaya saying ‘That’s too much cinnamon’.” What he describes as a Jiminy Cricket experience, they were happy to help me be humble and shepherd my career instead of cultivating it. Letting him choose the path he wanted.
What is unique about the curriculum and how did that affect you after graduation?
Taylor: It’s really cool that OCI starts with the basics, and quickly evolves while making sure you understand the fundamentals like cooking rice and all the different grains— most people don’t know that kind of stuff off the top of their heads.
Derek: With so many moments when you have to use teamwork, he developed a group. Ten years later OCI grads are still helping each other, and he is still in contact with his classmates. Building relationships and networking, OCI set you up for that.
What is the environment like in the kitchen? In the classroom?
Taylor: In the kitchen it’s intense— the chef instructors push you, they make you work hard, and it’s nice. It’s not casual. In the class room they try to incorporate everything you learn into a food knowledge which is really fun, it made it more interesting to me. I hate writing but when the assignment is writing a blog post about what you just made in the kitchen I thought “Oh I can do that,” it makes it more familiar with what you want to learn about instead of just dry knowledge.
Derek: There are higher standards in OCI kitchen T1 and T2 than almost anywhere he’s ever worked except Gotham in New York which had standards (each station was carpeted and they had to prove a point on how clean the restaurant is). During Term 1 (T1) he remembers getting grilled about keeping his space clean and organized. Keep clean, keep in your space. It set me up to be able to work small, work clean so that he can work really well in small spaces. His current workspace is in a “one butt kitchen with two butts,” and OCI prepared him to be able to work in a space that size. As for the classroom experience, he had an expectation for OCI of what college courses were like from his 4-year college experience. It was jarring to have classes that were highly relational and collaborative. He describes 4-year college as “self-serious” which is very different than his experience at OCI. He could feel the ties in his field and amplify his experience.
What was the most useful thing you learned?
Taylor: Always better yourself. The knowledge of you are always having to work harder to do better. Don’t just try to beat everyone around you, you have to beat your own goals and challenge yourself, try to beat yourself. If you did it in five minutes today do it in four minutes tomorrow. His favorite quote from Chef Brophy was “no smiling in the kitchen it makes the food taste funny”. It took him a month after culinary school to understand it was a joke.
Derek: Networking yourself to the absolute maximum. I’ve gotten to meet and do cool things for incredible people just because I was friendly and ready to talk without any expectation. You don’t dislike food, you are challenged by it. Derek is so far removed from the idea of hating a specific food, and he attributes that to OCI. You have to know what food tastes like, you can’t have personal opinion when you are cooking for other people you have to have a professional one to make the most incredible food experience. Given a brand new respect for ingredients that challenge him. His favorite Chef Brophy quote was “Any job will go faster if you don’t do it so slow.”
What was your experience like working in the OCI restaurant? Did you feel it provided real-world culinary practice?
Taylor: Working in the OCI restaurant was the greatest because he had a class where people would call in all the time, which made it just like the real world. Constantly understaffed and having to do 2 people's jobs and still do a great job.
Derek: He was in a unique class (this is the only time this has ever been done) that went to T3 before T2. Because of the size of the class, a handful of students with restaurant experience were selected to go to Term 3 (restaurant) before Term 2. “It was a steep learning curve, by week 3 hit our stride. Diving head first into restaurant service. All of us had worked in kitchens before but never as structured and classic as the OCI restaurant.” Since then looking back it looks like a fantasy land because of the limited menu, structure, and support. There is a reduced number of curve balls which is good for learning.
What was it like working with the chef instructors?
Taylor: It was great to have as many chef instructors as we did. Everyone’s personality was helpful, from tough to believing. Chef Bikram would still get your hopes up where Chef Brophy was harder on us.
Derek: “I have a Facebook memory of me every year that pops up wearing oven-mitts and a welding mask trying to cook, to avoid touching the food to taste it in a Chef Brophy’s class. I’m thankful for all the experiences both good in bad that I had in my direct relationships with all the chefs, I felt the class sizes were great for building 1-1 relationships with the chefs.” The faculty bring varying and degrees of professionalism, background, and education to the OCI team, making it easier to work for all types of personalities that run kitchens in the culinary industry.
How do you feel OCI prepared you to enter the culinary industry?
Taylor: “I didn’t have kitchen experience before OCI, it felt like on par with other people in professional kitchens even though I had less experience. Lack of experience made me try harder because I had something to prove and I had school to rep.”
Derek: “It’s hard to say because I was working at the nines hotel and urban farmer while going to school so I felt like I was applying what I was learning every single day to my work. The externship program was really helpful to my classmates and was convenient for me to just continue on where I was working. It made my transition to professional kitchens seamless.”
About Botanist Bar PDX
Tell us about your cocktail bar!
Taylor: “Botanist at first was a mention of a friend of a friend that I worked around in Corvallis. He was the cocktail program manager at a bar that was a competitor, so I knew of Robbie, who is one of my partners, last year. I met him through a mutual friend Ian, who is now our front house manager. They offered me the job as chef, after looking at their business plan and sharing ideas a couple weeks/months after looking at the operation side they offered partner because of knowledge of back of house.” Now Taylor is the general manager and equal owner of Botanist, doing all the paperwork as well as working with food.
Botanist is one of the first gastro-cocktail bars. Most cocktail bars focus on cocktail program, Botanist focuses on the cocktail program and then incorporating food into it, using items 2 different ways in cocktails and food. It’s the same amount of effort— all the care that goes into crafting cocktails goes into the food as well. Neither one outshines the other.
Derek: Derek is new to Botanist, helping create menu items with care and creativity. He was working as an executive chef at a brewery and sat down with Taylor who talking about Botanist and he was offered a chef position.
“The common foundation we have from OCI has made it seamless to step into the kitchen with him again. The style of food at Botanist is very straight forward, well-crafted but not frivolous. It’s been really easy to distill the heart of it and put own spin on it. There is this incredible collaborative mindset that is indicative of the future of food services where chefs are as involved in food as cocktails. We have apple chutney in a pork dish which is paired with the big apple cocktail. Investment to find commonality between cocktail and food programs. Finding moments in the menu to offer a special cocktail for their experimental menu nights. It is all like several cogs turning all at once.”
Best and worst thing about running your own place?
Taylor: “The best part is knowing it’s for myself. There was a patio event and I slept at the bar to watch the tents for the event, was there for 48 hours straight. I would never have done that if it wasn’t my thousand dollar deposit on those tents. It’s nice to know that everything I am doing is investing in my own future. The worst part is probably the exact same thing, it’s my problem to fix when things go wrong. It’s fun, built a good team, push employees to do better. It’s cool to share your knowledge.”
What is your favorite thing on your menu?
Taylor: “My goal is to do 3 things I want to do and 1 thing I am testing out to put own the menu. Sometimes all the things are really good and I will work them into the menu later. At the experimental dinner nights, the menu comes with comment boxes for customers to share their thoughts. It’s fun to read the comments and be like “F you, you’re wrong!” Or “Wow that’s a really great idea.” It’s our own Yelp. We sell tickets on Eventbrite or customers can come in, either way you pay in advance, which allows us to know how much food to order and prepare. Each experimental dinner night includes 4 courses that are based around a theme. Corn, rabbit, salads, olives, etc. The next time someone comes in who has made a comment I will let them know that was a genius idea. Creating our own local fan base. We are selling out.”
Derek: “Each experimental dinner night we are trying to make the moment special.”
What is your advice to people looking to break into the culinary world?
Taylor: Set your goals high, it’s a great thing to be into and you have to really want to do it to make it. Be committed, you can do it but it’s not for the weak of heart. You just have to make sure it’s something you really want to do.
Derek: Before you invest yourself in this wild world of rock and roll and sweet food you have to come to terms with yourself that this job will physically destroy you. It’s gonna be rock and roll all the time, late nights, meeting people you would have never met before, incredible food, flavor, alcohol, great opportunities at great cost. In love with the physical pain and the rewards you get.
What does the day-to-day look like?
Taylor: “It’s a long day, you wake up to a bunch of texts and emails (ignore half of them and say I’ll get to it later but never do), teach employees how to do jobs in meetings, jump in the kitchen and kickass, clean it up and do it again. It’s a big learning curve in patience. Clean up all of Derek’s dishes because he likes to use every single one I own.”
Derek: “Day to day for me is insane. In addition to being Chef de Cuisine at Botanist which is 12hrs day 5 days a week, I also run my own catering company Events by Derek Boaz. I am a freelance photographer so I have a couple contracts with breweries in Salem and do headshots for friends, engagement photos and all that. I’m also on contract with wineries in the area to run their quarterly wine dinners and clubs. I also partners with a vegan and do 5 pop-ups a year called "A vegan and a butcher walk into a bar.” I run a food cart called Oregon SMoregon. I run a blog called NW Pizza quest.
My every day is stacked, managing Instagram (5 different handles), working on websites, writing menus for tasting events, taking a lot of notes on his little yellow notepad. Work at Botanist is half an hour of fiddling around with menu and ideas, then jam straight into fire and knives and then cleaning up and catching the last max home.
My skin crawls if I am sitting still. Part of being a professional chef is being a food photographer, being a father, managing events, creating networking partnerships between people, and cooking at the restaurant. You can’t not work for what you want in 2019.”
Final thoughts or advice for prospective students
Taylor: Set your goals high!
Derek: Don’t consider a job working the line in a restaurant as the only opportunity in food coming out of culinary school. Food is so crazy multi-faceted, your culinary school degree is much more applicable than just a line cooking job it’s a matter of taking a hold of it and running. Make your own moment.
Experience Botanist Bar PDX
Interested in checking out the hard work and creativity that Taylor and Derek put into Botanist?
Botanist Bar is located in Portland’s Pearl District. You can find them on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and Instagram.
For an experimental dinner or drink night, tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite, through Facebook, or on their website (prices change per menu). They plan on opening a patio this summer which Taylor says will be Portland’s best patio.
To learn more about pursuing Culinary Arts at Oregon Culinary Institute, talk with an admissions officer today!
Posted on March 28, 2019
Imagine your dream of opening your own pastry shop finally becoming a reality.
Maybe you’re ready to make the first move, but you have no idea how to start a bakery business. Your passion for sweets can become a successful operation if you take the process one thing at a time.
Consider these seven steps to get your business off the ground.
1. Define Your Identity
There’s more than one type of pastry business you can open. Before doing anything else, determine which of the following concepts you’d like your business to follow:
- Food truck
- Counter service
- Specialty bakery
- Online business
The route you take may change as well. You might choose to start a small online business or open a food truck with the intention of someday moving into your own storefront. It’s a good idea to have these goals mapped out early, so you have an endpoint to move toward.
This is also a good time to think about the types of baked goods you’ll offer. Starting drafts of your menu early in the process may be key in defining your brand’s identity.
If you pursue a Baking & Pastry education, you can use that time to experiment with different styles and gain experience that you can apply to your own bakery after graduation.
2. Procure Startup Capital
A detailed bakery business plan can help you outline the amount of financing you’ll need to get the business started. Do research in the industry to gain accurate insight into the pricing of equipment and materials. Factor in labor and overhead costs and brainstorm the ways you plan to offset all of these expenses.
With an informed figure in mind, you can pursue financing through investors or small business loans. Either way, you can’t move forward until you have the money to take the next steps.
3. Choose a Bakery Location
If you’re setting up an online business, you may think it’s okay to skip this step, but don’t dismiss it too quickly. Operating your bakery out of your home can quickly become an overwhelming situation. It’s smart to rent a commercial kitchen where you can prepare your items before sending them to customers. This gives you access to high-end equipment that could speed up the production process.
For other types of businesses, find the perfect storefront by factoring in things like foot traffic, potential competitors, and the type of demographics in the area. Make sure the space will work for your concept; it doesn’t hurt to bring in a contractor to price out any improvements you’d like to make before you sign the contract.
4. Purchase Baking Equipment and Supplies
Once you have your space prepared, it’s time to outfit it with all the equipment needed to start a bakery. Regardless of your recipes, you’ll need some basic fixtures and supplies:
- Commercial mixers
- Sheet pan racks
- Baking supplies
At this stage, it’s also good to start procuring vendors for the ingredients you’ll need to make your creations. Calculate how much it will cost to prepare one item, so you can price it to your customers accurately. Businesses with poor profit margins lose money quickly.
5. Staff Your Baking Business
To figure out your staffing model, start by deciding how many hours your business will be open each day. Then, define the roles you need fulfilled. How many bakers will you need prepping food? How many cashiers should be out front at one time?
If you’re going to hire a manager to help you run the day-to-day operations, make sure it’s someone with experience in the baking industry. Spend time training your new staff and make sure everyone knows their job prior to opening day.
6. Create an Online Presence
At the very least, start with a basic website that outlines what your business is about and where to find you. Make use of popular social media sources, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Many customers search for restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries online before visiting in person. This way they can read reviews, preview the menu and decide if it sounds appealing.
A social media presence also gives you the opportunity to communicate directly with customers. You can address and resolve complaints to protect your reputation. At the same time, you can offer coupons and special deals to get people in the door.
7. Keep Selling
No matter how successful your business may seem, you should never stop selling. Always keep an eye out for ways of reaching new customers, while holding on to those you already have with top notch customer service and quality baked goods. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ideas for new recipes or revenue streams. A bold approach like this keeps your audience interested.
Despite all of this hard work, sometimes the hardest part of opening your business is perfecting the product. If you’re a baking novice or you wish to strengthen your skills, the Oregon Culinary Institute can help you get the training you need to wow people with your desserts and pastries. Dedicated programs allow you to focus on the concepts you feel passionate about. Request your information packet today.
Posted on March 26, 2019
For all its sophistication and creative flair, at its core, culinary arts is a practical field. Learning requires culinary skills practice and working in the field requires hands-on experience. Because of this, after graduation, many students find themselves battling with requirements for two years or more experience for an entry-level position in a restaurant. The problem is, if you’ve only just graduated, where would that experience come from?
This dilemma is not unique to the culinary arts. In fact, graduates from other fields, such as business or tech, face the same problem. One of the best culinary school techniques that solves this problem is allowing students to gain real-life experience at a campus-operated business. In short, some culinary art schools have created a culinary student restaurant. If you’re interested in applying to a culinary arts program, here are just some of the many reasons you should enroll in a school that offers a student-operated restaurant.
Learn to Be a Team Player
Often times, classroom learning requires making an entire meal or dish on your own. However, this isn’t how it works in larger kitchens, especially for busy, high-end restaurants. Every person serves a specific role and you must all work together to ensure all objectives are completed on time. In a commercial kitchen, working efficiently as a team keeps food quality high and delivery delays low. It’s also important to remember that servers and other workers form part of this team, too.
Some instructors are hard to please. Customers can often be far worse. There is always that one customer who may send the dish back a few times because something was too salty or too sweet or the steak was too dry for medium rare. It is important to gain the opportunity to withstand rejection and criticism while still learning, so you are well-prepared for picky eaters in the real world.
Work Under Pressure
In a classroom setting, you may have a specific time to finish a meal or dish. This certainly feels like high-pressure, especially in the beginning. However, in the real world, when the waiter is calling out multiple dishes and coming back every few minutes to add more orders and ask the status on the former — that is real pressure. Every successful chef needs to know how to work through peak demand times, whether he’s working at a popular food truck or a five-star restaurant.
Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
The best time to identify your strengths and weaknesses is when time is limited. What dishes can you whip up the fastest? What dishes do you struggle with? What two dishes do you get confused about if the waiter calls them out too close together? What recipes do you struggle to remember when the pressure is on? By identifying these in a real-world setting, you can remedy these in a classroom with the help of your instructor.
Make Supervised Mistakes
It’s human nature to prefer that your mistakes go unseen. However, when you’re learning, the sooner an instructor spots the error, the sooner the instructor can point you down the right path. Supervised mistakes are also easier to correct. What if you don’t spot the mistake yourself? Thus, having an instructor present helps to ensure quality control. This can make criticism a quick correction, instead of a sick or angry customer. At a student-run restaurant, you’ll get valuable on-the-job feedback before entering the culinary industry on your own.
Easier to Land a Job
Gaining all this experience at school before you land a job makes you a much more attractive candidate to an employer. If the restaurant your school creates is particularly well-known or well-respected, then even better. Not only can you put the time working at the restaurant on your resume, but provided you gave that working experience your best shot, you may also receive a letter of recommendation from your instructor.
Choosing the Right Culinary Arts Program
Your ability to truly realize all the benefits listed above will either be helped or hindered by the quality of the culinary program you enroll in.
Oregon Culinary Institute is the only culinary school that is locally owned and operated in Portland. One of the features we are most proud of at OCI is our student-run, fine-dining restaurant.
Before applying for the school, why not drop by the restaurant and see firsthand how well our students are doing? Then, if you like what you see — or taste — contact us for more information on how to get started.