Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wow. Didn't see that coming

I have now lost two restaurant jobs because of my lack of experience. Long story short I went into work at Wildfire on Wednesday. Chef Ray pulled me aside and pretty much said he had to let me go. I guess they got a bit over zealous in hiring and due to my lack of experience they didn't want to always have to stop to instruct me. Ray actually said he tried to talk them into keeping me, but Chef Jim (Who's actually the executive chef, Ray was the Executive Sous Chef) told him to let me go.

Its a bummer. Especially since I didn't even have time to screw anything up this time. heh. Even though I didn't see it coming, I'm not fully surprised. There was actually a little voice in the back of my head telling me to look out for it. But I had hope this time would be different. IF anything I'm bummed at not getting the opportunity to work under some knowledgeable chefs.

But I'll live, I've worked in this business long enough to know you can't take things personally and that you just have to pick yourself up, wipe yourself off and then continue on. Everybody who I've talked to in depthly about this who's familiar with the business has said its happened to them. And Chef Dunn even went on to say that occasionally Chef's ego's get too inflated and they forget that once upon a time they were the guy with no experience needing someone to teach and mentor them.

Which brings me to my next point. As a bit of a result of this I came to appreciate even more those people in the industry who I admire. No, not the Bourdain's and the Symon's of the world (who I still do admire). But the ones like Chef Dunn, and Chef Whitman, and my often mentioned online friend Chef Steve out in NYC. The ones who are there willing to give advice and will let me bounce thoughts of them. In an industry that is all about having a mentors and/or people to look up to, those are the type of people who you don't want to take for granted.

And on a brighter note with all this. I may have actually put the wheels in motion for a possibile internship after I graduate. But thats all i'm going to say about it until I get more of my ducks in a row and deal with all the odds and ends it would entail to get things figured out.

Monday, September 14, 2009


So I think I know whats its like to have a job you love. Or maybe its just the fact that I don't really want to work in a retirement home anymore. (no offense to anyone from the Square who may see this, but it's always been my goal to get back to working in restaurants.)

Seriously, I'm bummed out that I don't get to work at the Grille again till Wednesday.

I sent an email to Chef Ray giving him my school schedule (and the one day a week i'm still working at the Square) so he would know my exact availability and more or less said I'm willing to come in whenever he needs me if I'm not at school or work.

While I am totally aware of the fact that I may not become the next big Rockstar chef, I'm totally at a point where I want to just learn as much as I can and just work as much as possible. Like I said the other day, I'm not trying to make too much a big of deal that I'm working for someone who used to work for Thomas Keller. It would be too easy for someone in a similar predicament to get a big head about it. But this is one of those moments I'm staying humble about and appreciating for the experience it brings.

I'm all for using opportunities like this and for knowing someone like my online-friend Steve Mendoza who is now the Executive Chef at Lac Chicas Locas to gain more opportunities in the future. Its also something that I can't take for granted. Once again I'm now thankful that I have a mentor/friend in Steve and will hopefully have a mentor in Chef Ray who are both humble and willing to help and give advice.

A far step up from previous places I've worked (*cough*Graydon's*cough*)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Holy Shit moment #1 + the new job

This past week I've had a couple Holy Shit moments. This covers the first one and since it has to do with the new job I can tie the two together.

Work at the Grille has been okay so far. I haven't really done much. I mean, we're not open yet so in retrospect there's not much prep work that needs to be done. Scratch that. This past Tuesday was a practice day for both servers and cooks so some food got cooked, Wednesday was "Friends and Family night" then we had VIP events Thursday and Friday. So yeah food did get cooked, but not in the quantities that they will get cooked once the Grille opens. So even though I did go in, there wasn't much to do by the time I got there. Which brings up a scary flashback to Graydon's of me exasperatedly standing around being told to find something to do and not knowing what.

The bright side of that is Chef Ray totally picked up that I have a bit of a deer in headlights complex with being there. I mean I made it clear I haven't worked in a restaurant in about 3 years. Likewise he also realized that for about 3 days he had me come in when there's been nothing to do and I think he did feel kind of bad. So he promises I'll get more hours when we get busier.

Otherwise the people I work with seem to be pretty nice. Ironically despite being a prep cook I've mostly worked nights and have started to get to know the night time guys. Although I think my normal hours are supposed to be mornings on the weekends and then one night a week. So its going to be a bummer not getting to work with them as much (although I'm sure the daytime crew is pretty cool too.) So yeah, that's that.

The holy shit moment came when we were having a little kitchen meeting before working on my first day. Both Chef Jim (the executive chef) and Chef Ray (who I thought was the Executive chef, but I guess isn't) were both talking about what places they worked and their history and what not. But anyway, Chef Jim has mostly done corporate chef jobs but has more prominently done work at the McCormick Place and the Sears Tower at Chicago. According to him, nothing beats doing a 3 banquets for like a million people in 24 hours. Chef Ray, has previously worked up at Tapawingo in the Northern part of Michigan. But here's the kicker, in the past he's also worked at Trio under Grant Achatz and at the French Laundry. Seriously, it can't get more epic than that. I mean despite what you think about the restaurants, those are like two of the most highly acclaimed chef's in the country. And my boss used to work for them.

At first I had a bit of a breakdown. I mean, here I am, a person who to all extents and purposes isn't very experienced. And I got a job at what if probably going to be Grand Rapids next best restaurant. But then it hit me something that was said at orientation. That we were hired just as much for our personalities as we were for our experience. So if Chef Ray saw potential in me, then who am I to doubt it. I have my chance, now I just have to work my ass off so I don't fuck it up.

Cheers to that.