Your lifelong dream is to become a chef in your own restaurant but first, how do you break into the food industry as an entry-level cook? While there is no guaranteed way to land your first job, there are a few tips to help make your job search easier.
1. Research Thoroughly
Start your job search by researching the types of restaurants you want to work for. Look into their hiring processes, the types of dishes they serve, their overall culture and the staff that they hire. Visit their restaurant as a guest to get the full experience. If you know people who have worked there, ask about their experience.
2. Check Out Open Kitchens
One of the most important things you can do is go to as many restaurants as possible and see if you can get a look into their kitchens. Some restaurants have open kitchens for you to explore the inner workings of their restaurant. This is important, as it will give you a glimpse of what it will be like to work in their kitchen.
3. Make Friends in the Industry
Get to know other chefs and find out how they got started. The best advice comes from those who are already where you want to be, so look for those people who are open to answering your questions and giving advice. Most industry folk are open to this and know that they got to where they’re at because of others who have helped them along the way.
4. Network with Peers
Connecting with other industry professionals is a great way to get your name out there. Even if a chef doesn’t have a position open now, they may know someone who does. Have business cards made that can easily be passed on, just in case they know of someone who’s looking for a cook. The more people who have your information, the more likely it is that you’ll get a call.
5. Be Humble
Be willing to take any position offered to you, especially if you’re new to the industry. You may not be offered a job right away, so be patient. Once you have some experience working in a professional kitchen, you’ll be more attractive to future employers.
6. Ask for an Entry-Level Cook Job
Don’t be afraid to ask for the job, even if a restaurant doesn’t appear to be hiring. You never know who’s starting to look, or will be soon. Restaurant staff often turn over frequently, so getting your name into the hands of the hiring manager can’t hurt. Even if the restaurant isn’t hiring, they might know someone who is.
7. Set the “Stage”
You may be asked to do a stage in order to gain more experience before you can work in a paid position. If offered this opportunity, accept it. The more experience you have in different kitchen environments, the more appealing you’ll be to employers and the more opportunity you’ll have to grow your skills.
8. Let People Know You’re Looking
Obviously you can’t get a job if no one knows you’re looking, but just telling a handful of people isn’t enough. Be aggressive about it. Tell your hair stylist, coffee barista or anyone you feel comfortable sharing it with.
9. Broadcast on Social Media
There’s no better way to get your work out there than by sharing it on social media. Don’t be afraid to post photos of your dishes on social media with a brief mention of your job hunt. Show off your cooking skills with how-to videos or post photos on Instagram, then tag it with the recipe or a brief description of your inspiration and your contact info.
10. Look for a Mentor
Any career becomes easier to achieve if you can find a mentor who’s already made it in your desired field. Make friends with someone who’s working your dream job, and take notes. You never know what industry secrets you’ll uncover.
Keep at It
The most important thing to do is never give up. If being a cook is really your dream, keep trying until you land that kitchen job. Even if you start at the bottom, you’ll eventually work your way up. If the traditional path doesn’t appeal to you, there are also some unique culinary careers to consider.
About the Expert
Stacy Sato is the founder of ChopsJobs, an online employment portal providing resources for restaurant owners and restaurant employees to connect on available food service positions in Southern California.