How to Start a Career in the Food Industry

I’ve been working in the food industry for more than three years now, and have seen first hand how easy it can be to find a good kitchen job. At the same time, there are mistakes that can be made if one is not aware of how the food industry operates.  Fortunately, it is much easier than you probably think to find a reliable kitchen job.

Kitchens have a notoriously high turnover rate, which is both good and bad, depending on your situation.  If your situation happens to be a young adult or teenager looking for kitchen jobs near you, a high turnover rate is unquestionably good.  The first step to getting a kitchen job is actually going to be taken online.  I suggest going to Youtube and learning how to cut a few vegetables before you start your job search.  You don’t have to have amazing speed or dexterity with the knife, but you won’t look like a fool either when the chef hands you an onion to see what you can do.

Once you have brushed up on your knife skills, and have some level of proficiency at it, the next step I’d take is casing out the restaurants you want to work for.  Don’t worry about job boards or websites just yet, as most kitchens are always hiring in some capacity.  While casing out your surroundings for restaurants you’d be willing to work at, consider a few factors first.  Working for a smaller business will almost definitely be a better experience than working in a large chain restaurant.  At a chain, things can get militaristic, and the number of applications can detract from your chance of landing the job.  Locally owned restaurants can have their own problems, but you will generally have less stringent guidelines at a locally owned restaurant.

Once you’ve put together your list of restaurants you want to work at, put some thought into what kind of kitchen job you want.  Do you want to be a server?  A cook? Or maybe you would rather be a barista at a local café.  Either way, the plan will remain the same.  Unfortunately, the food industry is a hierarchy, meaning in order to get to the top, or even the middle, you have to start from the bottom.  If you want to be a cook or even a chef, this means applying for dishwashing jobs.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  This first step to becoming a world-class chef could very well be washing dishes.  If you would rather be a server, try finding a bussing job.

The best way to apply for jobs in a kitchen is to do it in person.  Come into the restaurant between 2:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M., when business is usually slow, and ask to speak to the manager.  Have your resume ready and be prepared to come back if no one is available to talk to you.  Persistence is key when finding a kitchen job.

Once you have your entry-level job, either as a busser or dishwasher, put your head down and work.  I cannot stress enough how bad most dishwashers and bussers are.  Show your new employers that you aren’t afraid to work and that you’re reliable whenever issued a task.  Find things that need to be done and do them.  Don’t stand around when it’s slow; instead, show your boss that you can take the initiative and handle the ancillary tasks that no one else wants to handle.  Keep up the good work while also making it known that you want to move up and take on more responsibility.  When your new boss tries to teach you something, don’t tell him or her you already know that, or you were just thinking the same thing.  Listen to what they have to say and do it their way.  Chefs and General Managers are looking for employees who are willing to learn, so make sure that is the impression you are leaving.

By following these instructions, finding a kitchen job is an obtainable goal that can net you a solid job in the process.  One last piece of advice I have is to avoid culinary school, at least at first.  If your dream is to become a chef, going to Culinary School may seem like a given.  It’s not.  My current head chef has never attended culinary school and is by far the best chef I’ve worked under.  Culinary school can have valuable insights into cooking and creating new and exciting dishes.  However, it will also leave you without the necessary experience to work in a kitchen.  In my experience, my Head Chef would rather hire someone with kitchen experience than someone that just graduated Culinary School, simply because the cook fresh out of Culinary School will struggle to keep up with the pace of a busy restaurant.  After one year working in a kitchen, you will already be a more desirable employee than the culinary student.


I hope this article was helpful.  Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

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Hello, my name is Bryan Vargas.  I am a budding blogger, trying to carve out my niche and prove my college education was worth every penny.  I live in Seattle with my girlfriend, working as a lead line-cook and a freelance writer.  My interests include sports, movies, television, and literature.  Hit the follow button for original content from someone who is always willing to admit he could be wrong.

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