The stage. A guide.

Question of the week/fill in the blanks: on a stage, you should ___. On a stage you should not ___. What makes a good stagiere?
amigadehelado@linecooka stage should pay attention, ask questions, taste things. Get out of the way when neccessary. Don't set stage hours by a "clock"
Tanukipdx@linecook once had a stage grab my favorite yanagiba ($$$$Japanese slicer) and cut themselves a piece of bread w/it. end of stage.
Tanukipdx@linecook a good stage silently&invisibly gets stuff done...like a little mise en place fairy. a bad stage snacks on people's mise
Benjamin_Parks@linecookOn a stage you quietly take notes You should not start telling your glory stories of all the other restaurants you have worked in.
tournant@linecook -should//STFU, do what we tell yo, stay out of the way...should not//show off your skull n knives tattoo, hit on servers
adoxograph@linecook on a stage you should absorb and remember the best and worst of what you see, esp little details
adoxograph@linecookon a stage you should not ever say to yourself well, I'm not getting paid so I don't have to (clean, be on time, fill the blank)
PrixFixeOnline@linecookYou should work your arse off, you should not stand around after finishing a task. Always ask chef for next task, speed is a must.
jrnavlag@linecook U should work and learn. U should not let the pay or lack of it be your drive.  Do your research.  Then shut up about it.
ingridc@linecookYou should shut up, be nice, listen and follow directions. You should not touch a cook's mise unless asked. Or get mouthy, ever.
ingridc@linecook p.s.-last wk's stage told chef he wants to trail our killer pasta man Javi.. so he could show him how to make it right #dieinafire
randomplacement@linecook a good stage contributes to the team and fits in with the team
randomplacement@linecook work and learn, run your mouth
Gchef703@linecook What makes a good stagiere? Hard-Working, Humble, Passionate person who Loves food and is willing to do anything to learn!
you should not Be a Pre Madonna!!! Should not be late, ask for days
off, breaks or a special jacket to show off to your friends

Gchef703@linecook you should Be a Sponge Listen! Learn! and ask a million questions even if they are stupid questions. ask em!

You're about to explode.  There's too far too much blood and oxygen coursing through your veins, and your eyes your pupils are so dialated that they would catch the attention of any police officer you came across.  You just finished your stage, and it went so beautifully that you're too wound up to eat, or drink, or even talk about it.  This is one of those perfectly fleeting moments, so you just sit there on the bus, missing your stop, so you can soak it all up.  You start Tuesday as the new fish cook.  Unless:

You blew it.  It seemed like your stage was going ok, but right around the end of the first turn the sous told you that you could take off.  You considered protesting, but instead you decided to change, have a smoke and get a bite to eat.  Sitting down at the bar, you order your food and a drink, and sometime later the chef tells you that you're welcome back anytime...but no job is discussed.  And you dont ask about one.  Your stage is over, and you wasted it.  So how did this happen?

You went into the restaurant between lunch and dinner service dressed appropriately, resume and knives in hand.  For a week you've been reading the menu on-line, and bringing yourself up to speed on the background of the chef and the restaurant itself.  After your chat with the chef, you let him know that you're ready to stage that evening if he would like.  He tells you to come back Friday instead.  On Friday you show up early, smiling and introducing yourself to any staff that you come across.  You take your knives and a spoon out of your kit that you slimmed down a bit, and settle in with any prep work that they'll give you--herb picking, cutting bread, citrus supremes.  You work quietly and cleanly, with eyes and ears open so you dont miss a thing.  Unless:

You drop into the restaurant as you walk by, and approach the chef who is expediting a fairly busy lunch service.  He doesn't have time to talk to you right now, but tells you to come back that evening at 4 for a stage.  You tell him that you have tickets to a show, but could you come in tomorrow?  He asks for a resume.  You dont have it with you.  When you do show up for your stage, the chef asks you why you want to work in his restaurant; what is it about this place, this food, that turns you on?  You stumble through some bullshit answers.  He smirks at you.  Unpacking your kit you pull out 6 knives, a spatula, tongs, and a handful of spoons.  The sous steps in next to you.
"Um.  What's all that shit for?"
Working through your prep, you dont shut up--about your last job, your opinions on how things should be done, and who you think should win top chef.  No one really responds to you, but you go on anyways. 

The chef had told you that he needed a fish cook, so this is the station that you stick with through prep, line-up, and into service.  During line up you politely ask if you can taste mise, and as you taste dishes you take notes, and try to memorize the station set-up.  Just before service you sweep the station and wipe down everything for the cook.  You ask the chef if he wants you anywhere else during service, but he says no.  During service you pull plates, and garnish, but generally try to stay out of the way and observe.  Eventually the pace starts to build a bit, and the cook catches your eye.
"Alright.  We're going on 7 fish and 6 scallops.  We'll go together, ok?  You take the scallop dish."
An hour later you're cooking all of the proteins on your own, with the fish cook plating and garnishing for you.  When the sous asks how it's all going for you, you tell him you love it, and want to close the station that night.  There will be no end of shift meal or drink for you.  Just a cold family meal, a watery iced tea, and a nod of approval from the brigade.  Unless:

You bounce around the kitchen getting all up in everyones shit, but not really absorbing anything.  You taste without asking, and more than once you criticize the food.  During one of your rants about how you used to do it at your last job, the grill cook catches looks at you and growls "Well that's so fucking interesting."  Most of your evening is spent leaning against the ice machine, and when you do step in, you're so fucking slow wiping plates and garnishing that the sous knocks the chervil out of your hand and shouts "JUST FUCKING SEND IT!"  You cook zero orders, and when you sit down to eat at the bar, you order an expensive cocktail, and dont tip.  You.  Fucking.  Blew.  It.

There is nothing like a stage in any other field of work.  Sure, athletes have tryouts, and actors have auditions.  A stage is both.  It lasts many hours, is physically and mentally draining, and everyone is already expecting you to fail before you even begin.  It's the culinary equivalent of  getting jumped into a gang.  You get one chance to get it right, and being thrust into an unfamiliar, borderline hostile environment guarantees that if you don't fail outright, you are at very least probably going to make a stupid mistake.

And at the end of your stage, it's all of this pressure that makes succeeding all the more sweet.  To have cooked well, and won over the cooks that let you into their home is a special thing.  It's a re-affirming rite of passage, and a fleeting feeling you only get to enjoy every once in a while.  Don't let your stage just pass on by.

  • that's not bechamel.
  • holy shit!  I updated finally!
  • podcasts are coming back.  no really.  they are.
  • get some rest.
  • burrito
  • stepping into an open grease trap means youll probably need new shoes.
  • that's pasta water.  not a deep fryer.
  • fish & farm seems like its becoming the new industry night off spot

Quotes and Conversations.

Me, to Gerardo:  Hey dude.  Tell your partner if he mouths off to me again, im gonna tie him up.
Eddie:  Shhiiiiiiieeeeeett.  You wish!  You wish you could enter the dungeon!

(I pinch Eddie's nipple.)
Eddie:  Hey dude!  Not the nipples!
Me:  Oh, im gonna get the nipples.
Eddie:  (pause)  I'm...ticklish.

Me:  You can call him a pussy if you want to.
Eddie:  I don't want to call him a pussy.  That would be the pot calling the kettle black.

Me:  Eddie.  Want me to give you a hand massage?
Eddie:  No.
Me:  With my balls?
Eddie:  That's not a massage.

Goose:  Those new light fixtures are bad.  The block looks good now.
Me:  Yeah dude, they're nice.
Eddie:  And they reduce light pollution.
Me:  Fuck off Ed Begley Jr.
Goose:  Get the fuck outta here with that shit.
Eddie:  Did you know I can ruin any conversation?

"I'm a human snuggie.  You wrap me around you and watch t.v.  I come in different colors.  But mostly white."
-Corey.  Human snuggie.

Gerardo:  Can I borrow your skimmer thingy?
Merrell:  It's called a spider.
Gerardo:  I know a guy named spider.

Me:  Elton John has hairless balls?  What?
Goose and Dega:  I have hairless balls!
Me:  I hate you guys.

Me:  Would you bone down with a guy that wears a lot of gold jewelry?
Dega:  How much gold jewelry?
Me:  A lot.
Dega:  Hell yeah.  Mr. T?
Me:  You'd bone down with Mr. T?

Me:  Wouldn't that be cool?  If you had a hinge on your balls?  You could move them like this.
Goose:  Yeah.  But then you'd have to grease them.  You wouldn't want squeaky balls.

Merrell:  My stomach is getting flat.  See?
(Gerardo is watching the conversation.)
Merrell:  This doesn't concern you Gerardo.
Gerardo:  I was watching you touch yourself.

"I evaluate every stripper on a case by case basis."

Eddie:  You missed out.  I brought candy yesterday.
Corey:  What are you?  A pervert?  Halloween's over bro.

Eddie:  I think old people are cute.  I saw some old people going into Good Vibrations...
Corey:  Stop.  Stop.  Sentences should not include old people and Good Vibrations.

(Jamie is feeling my abs.)
Jamie:  You should feel his abs.  It's impressive. 
Merrell:  I'd rather feel yours.  (Jamie walks away)
Merrell:  Was that weird?

(Merrell walks into the corner of the stove.)
Me:  Did you just jab your pussy with the oven?
Merrell:  Yes.  Even though I don't have balls, it still hurts.
Me:  Graceful.  You're a real pageant queen.
Merrell:  I'm a fuckin lady.

from top:  sautee, line up, al, a gift from ryan farr, mer-mer's balls, where am i vol. 6, fuck you in your ear, super bowl, you figure it out


don't touch my knife said...

triumphant return!
great post.
perfect stagier? "head down/mouth shut" thats the advice I took from "Crust in the kitchen"'s blog about 9 monthes ago when i walked into my current kitchen pleading the chef let me mince garlic and peel shallots. I said nothing but oui and non chef for the first month or so and was soon after awarded a spot on the line for dinner service.
cant wait for podcasts.

Unknown said...

Whoever the bad trail was that you were describing, I want to kick him in the nuts.

Unknown said...

Dude so happy you are back! And...Your so skinny!?

makingmybones said...

Great post, Chef. I'll be starting an exciting stage soon in italy and have to continually explain to friends why it wont be a vacation. A stage is an opportunity to learn, sharpen your skills, and prove your worth to others and yourself.

Keep up the good work

3*Ziel said...

WOW! Perfect timing, I have a stage coming up soon at a 3* that I am so fucking nervous about. This made me relax a bit and take a step back. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Best. Blog. Ever. And timely. Found this by looking up "how to stage" on google and it really helped put things into perspective going into a stage yesterday. I've done a few now, but it's always nice to rehash and refresh the feelings and ideologies behind doing what we do, to avoid going into automatic mode. Hopefully, this blog goes on a while longer. Even if it doesn't, i've already gained alot, mostly a sense of belonging, by reading the existing posts. thank you.

George Biron said...

Ginger neds to re read the posts.

Brilliant return.

Unknown said...

thanks for this post! I'm looking for an extern right now and just got offered a saturday night stage at a 3 star in nyc, which is needles to say, my first choice. I'm wicked nervous about not screwing it up, and this post has done a lot to calm my nerves about it! Thanks Chef!

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Andy said...

This is an awesome blog, I googled "line cook" looking for something interesting and I found your blog. I am working in a kitchen at my culinary school now. This is all really interesting. I spend all of my time outside of class reading and learning more about food. I own 10 books that I am reading right now. I feel so overwhelmed that I don't know what to do first so I am doing it all at once. I am doing a stage soon, and I have never done one. This is really helpful to read about it before I have to do it. I am trying to learn as much as possible, so thanks for contributing. I have a blog on here too about food.

Unknown said...

Update soon dude....miss reading this blog....

don't touch my knife said...

are we just to assume this blog is 86'd? I'd really hate to see it go so abruptly.

Paradigme said...

Rad. Love it.

Unknown said...

Miss your blog- but congratulations on the nice feature in 7x7!