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Haddon Heights, New Jersey, United States

Saturday, April 4, 2009


What seems like too many years ago, a person that I consider to be a mentor, told me "as soon as you start to work for money, instead of education, your career has ended and your job has begun".

When I think about why he would say that to me or anyone else, it has to be taken in context. I was finishing up my apprenticeship at the Greenbrier Hotel and getting ready to leave. A point ahead of where many culinary school graduates find themselves but facing the same decisions. What I needed to do, was balance my desires to express myself by taking a job as a sous chef or chef in a small restaurant where I would have to teach myself and others, or a line cook in a larger more well known place where I would learn from others. 

Too often, when a young person is at school, their heads are filled with "you're the next Bobby Flay or Thomas Keller" and they very well may be. But those great chefs didn't get there with their first job out of school. Read their books they'll tell you. For a person of 23 or 24 to take the job as sous chef or chef at a place right out of school - they will only hurt themselves in the long run. That's not to say there aren't exceptions to this or that they won't do a good job. But by and far most of them find a never ending circle of bad jobs with worse bosses that they can't seem to get out of. The money is too good or needed to much, the keys to a restaurant that isn't yours is too appealing, and the late nights at the bar too fun to give up--- or talk yourself into giving up.

"as soon as you start to work for money instead of education your career has ended and your job has begun"

I agree with that thought, live by it, and preach it to my staff. But at this point in my life I've come to the conclusion that my mentor was wrong. Your career ends when you stop striving to learn, and only the individual can control that. 

I find myself after 25 years in the business learning all over again, feeling like a freshman at college. There are so many new ways of looking at what we do and how we do what we do that if you really care about your career (your life) you can't help but try to learn. 

Over the next few months I will be posting about the things I'm learning but I thought I would start by thanking the people that make it possible for me to learn. I'm not going back to school of the traditional since but in the modern way. The Internet.

I read a lot of cookbooks and blogs, and recently it has been nothing but blogs. These people that write them are the new breed of chef, the ones that care more about the craft and are willing to share it.  I have noticed a new trend, it may have been started or at least pushed by Michael Laiskonis, of not only talking about what they are doing but posting recipes about it.

Thank You...

When you can't go out and purchase all the latest stuff needed to produce all these recipes from a cookbook. You can pick and choose which ones you do work on by a chef's first hand, up to the moment account of the recipe on their blog. They explain there thoughts, their process, their mistakes and you learn, from their mistakes and the yours.

When I learn how to use the back office system a little better I will start a blog roll of all the blogs I'm reading but for right now I thought I would just list a few.

Chadzilla -- excellent writing from a hotel chef's daily experiences
Workbook -- Michael Laiskonis pastry chef at Le Bernardin
Cannelle et Vanille -- great pastry chef with a great eye for the camera
Playing With Fire and Water -- a freelance chef in Connecticut

These are just a few but... But thank you all. 

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