There’s something about the service industry that people don’t appreciate unless you’ve been there. Restaurant jobs, just like retail, seem to be in a league of their own when compared to corporate cubicles and freelance gigs.
Personally, with my experience as a dishwasher, a prep cook, and a line cook, kitchen experience can teach you a lot of things you wouldn’t learn until later in life. And in light of this, I believe students (and people alike) should take a kitchen job as early as possible.
It’s easy to push aside a kitchen gig by saying it’s a dead-end job — for the most part, it is. I’m not here to sugarcoat the restaurant industry by saying it’s a walk in the park, because it’ll kick your ass.
Most cooks work long hours with minimal to no breaks, and standing all day doesn’t do wonders for your legs or back either. The kitchen environment is often hot, with ovens and stoves and flat tops turned up to the point where perspiration is inevitable — you either sweat from the heat or from the tireless workout. But, if the working conditions sound horrible, why do I encourage it so much?
Within the industry as a whole there’s a collective, mutual understanding of what it takes to get the job done. You gotta learn how to hustle, how to be efficient, how to be a concise communicator, how to use a knife properly, how to put away your ego, but most importantly, how to enjoy your time doing it all.
If you’re meeting someone new and find out they have kitchen experience, you instantly know they have a certain set of hirable and likable qualities and skills, including the ability to kick ass on the line — odds are you’ll have a similar sense of humour, too.
The kitchen is where I grew up. The high school version of me never got involved in clubs and such, nor did I never do anything outside of my comfort zone to warrant any noticeable change in character. But ever since I got hired in the kitchen it’s become a part of my identity.
The kitchen taught me how to learn from mistakes and not take myself (or said mistakes) too seriously. I learned how to get along with a wide range of (sometimes difficult) people, despite everybody having their own unique, flavourful, and seasoned personality. There’s so many more things I could list and talk about (believe me, I could go on for hours), but in summation, I truly believe I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I never worked in a kitchen.
This is why I think everybody should work in a kitchen at least once in their life — it changes you. I can’t say it changes everybody for the better, but I think it makes people more interesting, to keep things vague. There’s a tribute to Anthony Bourdain, written by Jen Clarke in the Memphis Flyer, that contains a quote that every kitchen worker can relate to. Rather than include the whole thing, I’ll end things here with a snippet:
“The work is thankless and fun and messy, and the world would be a kinder place if more people tried it. With all due respect to my former professors, I’ve long believed I gained more knowledge in kitchens, bars, and dining rooms than any college could even hold.”