Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More on learning and loyalty

I have mentioned before that the kitchen I'm doing my apprenticeship in right now is my first professional kitchen gig. I figured when it comes to professional cooking I'm an empty vessel and there's so much learning to be done that I could be in any kitchen. In the last couple of days I started thinking my assumptions might be faulty.

Because of my circumstances I am choosing, at least for now, not to commute for a kitchen job. A good chef friend of mine thinks I am limiting myself by being unwilling to commute. He said I have high-end restaurants to the south (downtown T.O) and resorts to the north (he must be talking about Barrie area), but not a whole lot around where I am. Sure, there are restaurants he said, but what will you be learning in those kitchens? I tell myself he just doesn't know York Region that well and that surely I can find a good kitchen once I am ready to move along. Which brings me to the topic of loyalty.

My current employer will hook me up with, and cover the cost of, culinary school. I will be studying Basic this winter and Advanced the next. So how can I, after two years, go "so long suckers, thanks for schooling me, now that I know some stuff and I can get someone else to hire me I'm moving on to greener pastures?" Most cooks/chefs seem to agree on the advice they give me (independent of each other): "oh, you have to think of yourself" and "in this industry you can't think that way because the more you move around the more valuable you are" (yah, to someone else?). Really? Is there no loyalty in the kitchen? Are we, the staff, really there to just snoop on the kitchen's best practices, pocket some tricks and apply them elsewhere? If that's the case, I think I just found my biggest challenge, because I am generally a stayer. Since I joined the labour market, more than a decade ago, I've really only had two jobs. My former employer had me for seven years, and I left only because I was itching to cook, otherwise I would have likely retired from there. And no, it is not because I am afraid of change. If you know me then you know that couldn't be farthest from the truth. It's just that I'm of the belief that the grass really isn't greener. But could it be that when it comes to kitchens I've been looking in the wrong yard?

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