I am a speedy typist and an excel-spreadsheet guru. I’ve been dressing in pencil skirts and stilettos all of my working life. I have rarely broken out in a sweat as I prepped accounts from the comfort of my swivel chair. It is fair to say that I am considerably less acquainted with the likes of combi ovens, 8-ring gas hobs and gas salamanders. What’s a gas salamander?! You might agree that it was understandable for me to be a tad nervous as my first ever chef trial loomed. How was I going to survive a day completely out of my comfort zone in the foreign world of a commercial kitchen, the very antithesis of what I know? Here I share with you some tips I gleaned from my first kitchen trial experience. If you are an enthusiastic but an amateur cook like me and you’re about to do a chef trial, take note of these top tips;
- What should I wear? It is best to ask in advance if there is a formal dress code, as each restaurant kitchen is different, be it cafe or fine dining style cuisine. Wherever your trial is, at the very least your hair should be neatly tied back and secured with a head band or hat. Non-stick shoes and an apron are also a given.
- What should I bring? Bring a pen, sharpie and small notepad that fits in your apron. A lighter is also handy to flame up the hob. (I was rather mortified when I had to keep reaching into the sous-chef’s back pocket for the lighter during my trial.) Ask if you should bring your own knives, although generally this isn’t required.
- Wash your hands the minute you enter the kitchen. Although this one seems really obvious, kitchen jitters may get the better of you. Don’t forget to do this often.
- Do your research. Eat in the restaurant. Study their menu. Read the reviews. Use social media to help you understand the business – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram!
- Ask questions while you work but don’t stop chopping those onions when you are listening to the answer.
- Time yourself. It is a good idea to understand how long a particular task should take you. Ask how long it is expected to make the chocolate cake or dice the 100 aubergines. This will help you stay focussed and have something to work towards. Don’t worry if you don’t do it in the assigned time as you can work on that the next time. At least you are showing initiative.
- Be honest about your experience. What is the point in saying you have a tonne of experience when you don’t? You are just putting yourself under unnecessary pressure trying to live up to an unachievable standard. If you have no experience, tell them. Everyone has to start somewhere and you might just get lucky. A lot of it is about your attitude.
- Have eyes in the back of your head. Try to take in as much as possible about what is going on around you. Where are the chopping boards, cling film and storage containers kept? How is the fridge laid out? How are dishes plated up? (Separate tip; If you are successful in your trial, ask if you can take photos of the menu items to help you plate up correctly. This avoids asking the same question about how something is done, repetitively.)
- It is a two-way street. The trial is as much about the fit for you, as it is for them. Figure out if you would like to work there. Can you picture yourself working here, will you fit in and do you agree with their policies? A kitchen can be a confined space in the dungeons of a building so if you think you will be wishing for the arrival of the delivery man everyday and don’t think you will see eye-to-eye with the staff, move on.
- Enjoy it! Whether you are successful or not, you will have definitely learnt something in your trial. Don’t dwell on any mistakes you make. We are all human after all. So embrace the experience, relax and have fun!
P.S. If you can think of any other useful tips, please comment below- I am still learning myself! Peas and Thank you!