Thursday, November 13, 2008

The inevitability of restaurant/culinsary school networking

"This is what sucks about taking a few years off and then coming back. I don't know anybody and you all know who half the people are in all your classes"

~me to my group partner Steve (during Bakery/Deli Management)

Its a little known fact that if you spend long enough in the restaurant industry that eventually you find yourself hanging out more and more with other restaurant employees. Not just the ones you work with but you find yourself meeting intentionally or un-intentionally other restaurant employees. Either due to the proximity of their restaurant to yours (I.E. back when I was at the Lansing Carrabba's, the Outback next door was a popular post work hang out), or due to the incestous nature of the business (which I'm about to get to in the next sentence). Eventually if you drink the kool-aid and decide you have the lack of sanity to work the rest of the life in the business, these other restaurant workers (especially the ones who also decide to become lifers) pretty much become your lifeblood. I don't know how many instances I've read, either in memoirs of some of the chef's I like, or from hearing from others, where someone has become a chef or sous chef and instantly called everyone they know to get them to work for them. Or vice versa. They are also prone to pass on opportunities, give references, etc etc. You get the picture.

Its much the same way here in Culinary School. Most people (aka not me) start off in the bakery class or Skill Development or Bakery/Deli Management, meet a bunch of people in the class, then switch, have another lab, have some of the same people in their class and some different. And so on. By the end of their first year or so, they're pretty much on their way to knowing half the department. Which works out great as far as networking goes. Between fellow students AND techers its pretty easy to get hooked up with a job upon graduation which works out pretty well.

On the flip side, theres also the dirty realization (at both school and in the professional world) that all your faults or any controveries are also going to be passed around. For instance, my drinking buddy/unofficial wingman Jonny used to be a server at Carrabba's until he got caught screwing with the checks. He would give people their checks at the full amount, they would pay, and if they paid with cash, he would split the checks taking off any coffee's/soft drinks close the non-drink half and have the money go for that, then later he's get an manager to "delete his screw-up" and then keep the money (yes people, one of my best friends was essentially a con artist) After he got fired he applied to Logans and sure enough they called Carrabba's and he didn't get the job. Another example is someone who I currently have (or had) a class with. They have slowly built up the reputation of coming to class in various stages of intoxication and even at times drank some of the alcohol in the walk in. In came to a head yesterday when during our banquet our teacher sent them home. Her problem was so common knowledge that when me and another class mate were talking about it in the locker room today that someone walked in and know exactly who we were talking about.

I think this phenomenon in general is one of those things that is a universal thing to all industries. Only I think that due to the turnover rate and the availiability of opportunities its amped up a bit for the food industry. Its one of those things like our facination with potty humor, and the crazy hours, and our habit of dropping less than polite words and the pressure, that you almost have to get used to. And if not, then you probably don't belong in restaurants. Not trying to be a dick, but thats the way it is.

And like always, this was one of those musings that started off with a thought in my head (aka the conversation in the locker room) and blew up to the blog you're reading now. Fun times

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