Thursday, May 12, 2005

Will work for food...

In England they call them C.V.'s, and in America they are resume's. Both are your entire career reduced to one sheet of paper.

In sending out my resume recently, I have had the hardest time reducing my years of kitchen experience into a handfull of words. How do you show a hopeful employer your capabilities with words.

The real interview for most kitchens is a physical trial. At The Fat Duck these trials are often a week long. But to get a trial you need a resume.

So lets start with the first line. My name. Confident there.

Line two. My address, well, um, I work in seattle, my stuff lives in Bellevue with my boyfriend, and I physically live in England.

Objective....."to work for you"

Strenghths..... How do you tell someone how good you are while remaining humble at the same time. You have to show them that you are strong and capable so they want to hire you. But tooting your own horn often just sounds arrogant. It's a fine line.

Things like,
Capable of multitasking and correctly timing work in a highly productive manner
Able to mentally organize a dinner service for maximum efficency

All these statements mean is that you know how to work in a kitchen and do a good job at it. Taking a physical skill and restricting it to a few words seems to diminish it. Kitchen work doesn't really translate well. It's much better just to be able to show people.

Experience. Easy peasy. Just the names of the restaurants and bakeries you worked in.

Position. Well, cook, (sometimes baker, and now stagiere). But comming out of a small kitchen presents a challenge. When you are one of 4 people in the kitchen, the term cook embodies so much. In my small kitchen I was a cook, but I also did all the pastry, managed the cheese tray, organized all the kitchens prep work, worked the pantry station, the garnish station, the amuse busche station, helped on all the other stations if needed, trained new employees, maintained all the inventory, etc, etc, etc... It's differnet from a large kitchen where your roll is clearly defined. You work garnish. You are a commis chef. You work meat prep. Your responsibility is written on a list. In no way should these statements hint at one being better than the other. They are both equally respectable, just very different.

Education.....this brings up an often asked question...culinary school, is it important? Well, that depends on the company hiring you. Some companies only want people with a culinary degree. But for the most part, I would say no. School doesn't matter. The real education that matters in the kitchen comes from working in kitchens. In fact, culinary school doesnt prepare you for working in a kitchen. If you are driven enough you will be on your way to the top no matter what. Most of the top chef's did not go to culinary school. Most people you meet in kitchens did not go to culinary school. Many of the people you will go to culinary school will not work in restaurants. But culinary school does give you a broad scope of the world of cooking, and should give you a sound base in methodology and basics like stocks and sauces. And i do like to be able to put culinary school, AND baking and pastry school on my resume. A double threat!!

Special projects I saw this in a resume format on my computer. I don't know if it actually something you need. But you get to put all the really fun things you do. Like I worked on a cookbook, had some writing published in the guardian (thanks Leo), did some special dinners for the people of tasting menu, and keep a food related blog. I suppose you could use any competitions, charity dinners, catering, cheese making classes, a cookie booth at the farmers market (a secret dream of mine).

Hobbies This section was suggested by both Paul from ireland, and Mary from manchester. They were emphatic that you need to show that you are not one dimentional. That employers need to see how well rounded you are. So lets see, Dana's hobbies....knitting, Scrabble, road trips, reading, bird watching, music, hiking, biking, jogging, spinning class, dinners with my friends, going to the farmers market with becca, making cookies with my sister, poetry with Russell..... All this starts to sound like a personal add. Is an employer going to say, "oh, thank god, we finally found a knitting cook. Our search is over!!! Bring the grandma in!!!"

So our resume is complete. We send it in and hope for the best. But what happens when it is in a stack with all the others. What makes one more desirable than the other???

What are chef's looking for when they read a resume. I can guarentee the first thing they look for is the amount of time you spent in your last job. They want to see 2 years minimum. They have to know that if they are going to invest in you, that you are capable of commitment.

They also want a very straitforward aproach to your presentation. Clean sentances that mean what they say. No filler. The last thing they want is to get to the end of a sentance and have to go back to the begining to understand it's meaning. They will likely just move on.

They are also getting a feel for the person. I have been told by a few chef's that humility is a quality that should be evident.

One chef I talked to a while ago had two resume's. One was in a black folder and put together beautifully like a portfolio. The other was a hand written piece of note book paper. He said that he was actually surprised, but he prefered the notebook paper. The content was right on. it was humble, concise, clear, and full of good experience. This cook was extremely lucky that this chef didn't take the presentation as an insult and throw it away with out looking.

While the moral of that story isn't that it's ok to send in sloppy resumes, but that the content of your resume is the most important part. You can package yourself up with bows and ribbons, but it's still you underneath, so make sure you represent yourself well.

I guess a resume is kinda just like a personal add. It just represents your professional life rather than your love like.


Anonymous Chefrico said...

Also important is that the resume gets you the interview, after that, it's all on you. I've had fantastic resumes come in, lots of the right kind of experience, clean look, clear writing, and they killed themselves in the interview. Like the first date that quickly becomes the only date.

May 12, 2005 6:32 PM  
Anonymous diane said...

hi dana another thing is that you have to spell sentence correctly....i am at your moms and am trading a car for a massage your blog

May 13, 2005 7:21 PM  
Blogger ashley said...

Great job on your talk on culinary school. I have a culinary school secrets blog if you wanna swing by my place!

September 12, 2005 9:11 PM  
Blogger abigail said...

I really enjoy your content on culinary school and will be back very frequently! I actually have my own culinary school secrets blog with all kinds of secret stuff in it. You're welcome to come by!

September 13, 2005 12:20 AM  

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